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            Festival in Nepal

A wonderful country decorated by colorful and lively festivals, Nepal is indeed a happening country. A home to more than 40 ethnic groups each with own and distinct culture, Nepal has got festivals year-round. Various traditional festivals coming in the year 2006 are mentioned below.

A wonderful country decorated by colorful and lively festivals, Nepal is indeed a happening country. A home to more than 40 ethnic groups each with own and distinct culture, Nepal has got festivals year-round. Various traditional festivals coming in the year 2006 are mentioned below.

Jama Nhawan
Sweta (white) Machhindranath, the Buddhist deity of compassion, is enshrined in the temple courtyard of Jana Bahal in central Kathmandu. He is locally known as Jana Baha-dyo. In the evening of the eighth day of the bright lunar fortnight, the image of Jana Baha-dyo is placed on a platform in the temple courtyard and holy water containing butter, honey, milk, curd and sugar is poured over it amidst elaborate rituals. The bath water is collected by the attending priest and sprinkled over the devotees as blessings.

Other ceremonies continue for a week. The image is put in the sun after the ritual wash and then repainted meticulously to give it a fresh look. The God of compassion is then donned with new silken robes. Almost smothered under the devotees’ floral offerings, he is taken back to his shrine on the last day of the festival.

Maghe Sankranti (14 Jan)
Each first days of the Nepali month is referred as ‘sankranti’. Thus Maghe Sankranti is the first day of the month of Magh. This day is considered as a holy day for it is the end of the ill-omen month of Poush in which all the festivals are forbidden. The day is also referred as Makar Sankranti. The festival is observed throughout the country. People take holy bath in the rivers. The festival witnesses special celebration at the Devghat river confluence, near the Royal Chitwan National Park, where the Trishuli and Kali Gandaki rivers meet. There, fasting devotees gather to take holy dips in the water and pay obeisance to Lord Shiva and other Hindu deities. The special foods eaten on this day are Ghee, molasses (Chaku), Sesame seedcakes (Tilaura) and yam. All these foods are the producers of heat in the body which is very much appropriate for the cold month of Magh.

Lhosar (30 Jan)
This is the day celebrated to commemorate the beginning of the New Year for various castes including Gurung, Tamang, Lama and various other Himalayan people. As a part of the festival Buddhist monks hold prayer meetings in specially decorated monasteries. Worshippers pray to Lord Buddha visiting various Stupas. The people raise holy flags atop their homes. This festival is observed in a grand way. Greetings are exchanged among the relatives and friends. The first day of the bright lunar fortnight is also as occasion for the people to come together singing, dancing, dressing up and feasting. Lots of people flock towards Boudhanath in Kathmandu to celebrate the festival.

Shree Panchami (2 Feb)
Shree Panchami, also Known as Basanta panchami marks the advent of spring. The day is dedicated to the Hindu Goddess Saraswoti, the goddess of Art and wisdom. The goddess is also worshipped by the Buddhists as Manjushree.All the temples of goddess Saraswoti is crowded by the worshippers; especially the students.The most joyous observances take place near Swoyambhu, at the Saraswoti temple courtyard to the west of large stupa. Also a grand ceremony is held at the Hanuman Dhoka Palace in the presence of His Majesty the King.

Maha Shiva Ratri (26 Feb)
Maha Shiva Ratri or the night of almighty Shiva is one of the most important festivals dedicated to lord shiva. Lord Shiva is one of the Hinduism’s “supreme trinity”, along with Brahma the Creator and Bishnu the Preserver. Shiva is regarded as the God of destruction.Many of the pilgrims from throughout the country as well as from India come to celebrate the night in Pashupatinath. At the evening time bonfire is lit at many places. It is believed that those who warm themselves free themselves from the sins or disease.

Holi (14 Mar)
Fagu Purnima, popularly known as Holi is the festival of colors celebrated to mark the demise of demoness Holika by the hands of Vishnu. The festival is celebrated across the country for eight days. Revelers mark the occasion by smearing colored powder and throwing colored water at each other.In Kathmandu, a ceremonial pole decorated with strips of colored cloth is raised in front of the Kumari Chhen at the Durbar Square to announce the beginning of the festivals. On the full moon day of the festivities, bands of revelers roam the city throwing color at any one seen.

Also on this day, Jyapu farmers of Kathmandu leave a feast of rice in the middle of the Tundikhel parade ground for the giant Gurumapa. It is said that the giant used to terrorize city-dwellers by snatching away their children and was persuaded to give up his ways with the promise of a yearly banquet.

Toranlha
Toranlha is celebrated among the Thakali community (who is concentrated on the trade and trek route to the north of Pokhara) by venerating one’s father. The festival is observed for three days with full moon of Falgun falling in the middle. While the main offering is made by the women, the men also hold archery contests. All three days are marked by merry-making and getting together with kith and kin.

Nala Karunamaya Jatra
One of the most important shrines dedicated to the Buddhist deity Karunamaya or Lokeswor is situated in Nala, 29 km east of Kathmandu. This medieval Newar village is situated to the north of Banepa on the way to Dhulikhel, the famed hill resort and Himalaya viewing spot. A white-faced idol wearing robes and a crown, Karunamaya is believed to be the Guru of Goddess Chandeswori, a manifestation of the Hindu Goddess Durga, located in the nearby village.

The festival of Nala Karunamaya runs for three days during which the deity’s idol is given a bath and repainted. On the third day, a grand procession is held. The image is carried in a palanquin accompanied by musical bands to the temples of Chandeswori and then brought back to its temple.

Pahan Charhe
Pahan Charhe is one of the biggest festivals for the native inhabitants of the Kathmandu valley. Being an exclusive day of pisach (ghostly spirits), worship is offered to Luku Maha dyo, an elusive manifestation of the Hindu deity Lord Shiva. The festival marks the defeat of evil spirits and people invite their relatives and friends to join merry-making. The streets are filled with families on their way to visit relatives. There is also a seasonal song which is played during Pahan Charhe.

In another part of the festival, Goddess Neta-maru Ajima, a representation of female force, is adored at her shrine in Neta, to the north of Kathmandu Durbar Square. On the night, Sacred masked dances are performed here. Palanquins of three mother goddesses are brought to the market square of Asan for a grand finale ceremony, known as the “meeting of the goddesses”.

Ghoda Jatra (29 Mar)
Ghoda jatra or the horse festival consists of colorful pageantry dominated be horse races at Tundikhel, the parade ground at the city center, previously known as the largest parade ground in Asia. Legend has it that the thundering hooves of the horses keep the unabsolved spirit of Tundi, a ferorious demon, buried under that ground. In recent years, parachuting, aerobatics, bicycle races and similar other sports have been included to add to the thrills and stunts of the traditional horse races. Their Majesties the King and the Queen as well as various state dignitaries and members of diplomatic corps attend Ghoda Jatra at the Royal Nepal Army Pavilion.

In Patan, a horse is made to drink liquor and the town’s people chase the intoxicated animal through the streets amidst much cheering and clapping. On the same day large number of the people in Patan goes to the big ground at Balkumari to eat and drink with family and friends.

Ram Nawami (6 April)
Ram Nawami is the birth anniversary of Lord Ram-the protagonist of the great Hindu epic Ramayan. This day sees flocks of devotees crowding Ram shrines throughout the country. The most spectacular event can be seen in Janakpur, a historic city in southeastern Nepal, which is named after Ram’s father-in-Law, King Janak. Various episodes from Ram’s life are enacted in the Janaki temple complex. Marble images of Lord Ram, his consort Sita and other deities are brought out of their shrines and taken around the city in a colorful procession.

Chaite Dashain (7 April)
Chaite Dashain is smaller version of Dashain festival, the most popular Hindu festival in Nepal which is celebrated for several days in October. It is marked by animal sacrifices to the Goddess Bhagwati at various temples. The army also performs goat and buffalo sacrifices in front of the regimental colors at the courtyard near Kathmandu Durbar Square, starting early in the morning.

Jana Baha Dyo Jatra
The shrine of Janabaha dyo or sweta (white) Machhindranath is situated in a courtyard in central Kathmandu. Besides the deity’s sacred bathing ceremony in December, the chariot festival is the most important event of the year and it is spread over three days. The image of deity is put in a tall creaking chariot and dragged in stretches through the streets of Kathmandu accompanied by musical bands. The procession starts at Durbar Marg late in the afternoon and winds through the market squares of Bhotahity, Ason (day one), Indra chowk, Durbar square(day two) and Chikan Mugal to the end at Lagan,towards the southern end of the old city (day three). When the chariot stops for the night at the specified locality, devotees gather to worship the deity and light butter-lamps.

Balaju Mela or Lhuti Punhi (13 Apr)
The full moon day of April, Lhuti Punhi, is important for both Hindus and Buddhists. Devotees celebrate the festival by visiting Balaju (or Lhuti), which lies 3 km north of downtown Kathmandu to take holy baths under the 22 dragon-headed stone water spouts and pay homage to the reclining image of the Hindu deity Budhanilkantha. People also climb the nearby Jamacho hill to worship the Buddhist stupa located at the top.

The hill is held sacred because ages ago, when the Kathmandu valley was a lake, it was from this summit the the Bipaswa Buddha had cast a lotus seed into the water which blossomed into the flaming holy lotus over which the Swoyambhu stupa now stands.

Nava Barsha (14 April)
This is the official New Year’s Day. The official Bikram era followed in Nepal is accredited to King Bikramaditya who started this solar calendar some two millenniums ago. The New Year 2063 corresponds to 2006-7 AD. The New Year’s Day is an official holiday in Nepal. On this day, devotees throng the Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu to take a dip in the holy Bagmati River. Pilgrims also visit other religious spots and spend the day picnicking. No picnic spots are free from the merry making noises of the picnickers on this day. It is a day to seek blessings from the family and other elders as well.

Bisket Jatra (14 April)
Bisket Jatra is Bhaktapur’s greatest festival and goes on for nine days. The festivity starts off with a raucous tug of war at the city centre between two neighbourhoods trying to drag the triple-roofed chariot of Bhairavnath to their own side. A ceremonial pole called yosin is erected on the city out skirts. The two strips of cloth unfurled from the top represent a pair of dead snakes in whose memory the festival has been installed. “Bi” in Nepali means snake and “sika” stands for death, hence the Bisika or Biska or Bisket festival. It is a very colorful festival where three chariots dedicated to Lord Durga, Ganesha and Kumari circle Bhaktapur city. Masked dances are organized and many local feasts are held. People from Patan and Kathmandu also observe this festival at Bhaktapur.

Matri Aunshi (27 April)
Matri Aunshi, often known as “Aamako Mukh Herne”, is Mother’s Day in the Nepalese calendar. Children pay homage to their mothers offering sweets, gifts and delicious foods. Those who have lost their mothers, visit Mata Tirtha where they bathe plus pray for the eternal peace of their mother’s soul. Thus a huge crowd is seen at Mata Tirtha taking holy bath to bestow their respect to their heavenly mothers.

Buddha Jayanti (13 May)
This is the day marked to remember the preaching of Lord Buddha who was born, enlightened and also left the world on this very day. Buddhism is the second most popular religion in Nepal. The day is celebrated throughout the valley. Swoyambhunath and Boudhanath stupas are prepared several days in advance for this day. Monasteries are cleaned, statues polished and new flags waft in the breeze. Many people in the Kathmandu valley put a new flag on their roofs on this day. In Patan, many people take part in a rpocession which circles the city with the big statue of Buddha. People also exhibit the Buddha's photos outside many of the House. On this day people go to the stupas before dawn, go around them and give offerings to the Buddha's images.

Guru Poornima (11 July)
Guru Poornima is a full moon (Poornima) day dedicated to teachers (Guru) in the month of June or July. In Hinduism, teachers are respected second after the gods and it is believed that a student who does not respect his/her teacher can never succeed in his/her life. On this day students pay homage to their teachers and receive blessings from them. On Guru Porrnima, the ashram known as Vyas of Maharishi Vyas (the sage who wrote the great Hindu epic Mahabharat) situated on the Kathmandu-Pokhara highway is also visited by Hindus. For Buddhists this is an auspicious day when Lord Buddha entered the womb of Queen Mayadevi and Buddhists celebrate this day as Dilla Punhi.

Ghantakarna (July 24)
This festival, also known as Gathemangal, is celebrated in the valley on the occasion of the death of a demon called Ghanta Karna. An effigy of Ghanta Karna is made and later in the evening burnt in evidence of his death. People wear special metal rings in this day.

Naag Panchami (July 30)
Naag Panchami is the day to worship the snakes. This is celebrated throughout the kingdom by putting photos of snake above the doors and worshipping it. A large number pilgrims can be seen in Naag Pokhari – in the east of Patan.

Janai Poornima/Rakshya Bandhan (Aug 9)
Janai is the sacred thread worn by Hindus. Among the Hindu men some castes like Brahmins, Chhetris and some of the castes in Newar community, after undergoing a ritual called Bratabandha, wear Janai around their body, which is sanctified with various chants, believed to protect oneself from any evil. On Janai Poornima, the festival dedicated to Lord Shiva, Hindus bathe in Ganga, a holy river, and then the men change their janai sacred threads. A Brahmin should then tie a thread around their right wrist. Women bathe in Ganga and tie this sacred thread on their left wrists. The major areas of celebration of this festival are Gosainkunda in the Himalayas and Kumbheshwar Mahadev temple in Patan where the sculpture of Lord Shiva is placed on a platform in the middle of the pond created by blocking the waterspouts. It is believed that the water that flows from the waterspouts of Kumbeshwar come directly from Gosainkunda.

Gai Jatra (Aug 10)
Gai Jatra is Hindu festival dedicated to the departed souls. The children of families who have lost a loved one that year, disguise themselves as cow and pay a visit to temples around the city where they are given food and offerings. In Hinduism cows are sacred, believed to be the symbol of the Goddess Laxmi, goddess of wealth. So, feeding cow is seen as auspicious. For others, this is a procession of cows followed by people wearing funny attires, mask dancers and others. It is celebrated around the Kathmandu Valley especially in Kathmandu’s city center, Patan and Bhaktapur. This festival came during the reign of King Jaya Prakash Malla, when the Queen lost her son and felt into the depths of mourning. In spite of the King’s rationale, that life and death are the course of nature; the Queen could not accept it and becomes weaker and more engaged in misery. To prove to his Queen that everyone suffers from a loss of a loved one, the King commanded his people to start a procession to worship Yamaraj, god of death, who would thus take care of the departed souls.

Mataya (Aug 11)
Matayaa is a day-long local festival in Patan held the day after Gaijatra. Devotees process to all the Buddhist sutpas in the city, tossing rice grains, flowers and lighting candles. As on the day of Gaijatra, some people wear funny attires on this day, and masked dancers participate throughout the procession.

Krishnashtami (Aug15)
Lord Krishna, who taught warrior Arjun the value of karma in the Bhagwat Gita, was born in the mid-night on the eighth day of the dark full moon of August. To celebrate the birthday of this much loved Hindu God, devotees flock to the Krishna Mandir at Patan Durbar Square on the preceeding day. There, men and women from far away gather around the 17th century temple and sit in vigil waiting for the mid night hour. Euphoric prayers and incanations fill the air, and small oil lamps are lit as a mark of felicitation and devotion to the Lord. Images of Lord Krishna are also carried around the city in a procession accompanied by joyous crowds of followers and musical bands.

Bhimsen Jatra
On this day, the image of business and prosperity, Bhimsen, is removed from his temple in Patan Durbar Square and carried around the city in a palanquin. Businessmen from Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Patan accompany the palanquin carrying burning incense and torches in their hands. A musical band playing special musical leads the procession which starts around 8 pm at the Durbar Square and passes through Sundhara, Okubahal, Ikhalakhu, Purnachandi, Nakabahi, Kumbheswor and finally back to the Durbar Square.

Panja-daan
Panja-daan or the auspicious rice offering festival is a Buddhist festival of charity. On this day, daily essentials like rice, paddy, beans, wheat, salt, broom, needle and thread-rope and raw sugar are offered to Buddhist monks and to the priestly castes in the Newar Buddhists. The festival honors the practice of monks going around begging alms from the laity besides emphasizing the duty of house holders to give to those who have abandoned worldly possessions. The faithful also gather at Swayambhu and major Buddhist courtyards around the valley to make donations.

Kushe Aunshi (Aug 23)
Kushe aunshi also known as Gokarna aunshi is the father's day. Sons and daughters offer ritual food, sweet, meats and other gifts to their fathers. The streets are a happy scene of married daughters making their way to their parents' houses with loads of delicacies. After offering the gifts, they touch the feet of their father with their foreheads in veneration. The ceremony is also known as 'babuko mukh herne din' meaning day of looking upon father's face.

Those who have lost their fathers visit Gokarna and other sacred places where they conduct puja and offer “Pinda” – food for the departed soul praying for his eternal peace. There they also perform anniversary rituals and make offerings to the Brahmin priests. It is believed that if a son offers Pinda at a holy pond of Gokarna having conducted puja, his departed father will eat it and find peace.

Haritalika/Teej (Aug 26)
The festival combines sumptuous feasts and tormenting fasts. On the first day of the three-day celebrations, groups of women, both married and unmarried, congregate at one place in their finest attires. Amidst laughter, songs and music, the grand feast begins. The merry making goes on till mid night, from which time onwards the women will undergo a 24-hour fast.

The next day sees these women, in their crimson saris, singing and dancing in the streets leading to Shiva shrines. The main activities revolve round the Pashupati temple in Kathmandu where the devotees, as a mark of total devotion to Shiva the destroyer, circumambulate the lingam, the phallic symbol of the almighty, offer him flowers, sweets and coins. The married ones pray for their husband's longevity, progress and prosperity, and those yet to tie the knot ask for good husband.

The third and the last day of the festival is called Rishi Panchami. On this day, the women who have undergone the agonizing fast pay homage to various deities situated on the banks of sacred rivers.

Chatha
Chatha is the day exclusively allocated to Lord Ganesh. Households here, as a rule, commence the day with the propitiation of Lord Ganesh. On the day of Chatha festival, the ceremony is extra special. Early in the morning, women with trays containing rice, vermillion, flowers and coins visit Ganesh shrines in their neighborhood and offer worship. Celebration of Chatha is mainly an outdoor affair. All the family members congregate in the family worship room to adore Ganesh with profuse offerings and oblations.

Indra Jatra
The fields have been planted, the monsoon is drawing to an end, and the season of harvest is coming up. Now is the time to be grateful to Indra, Lord of heaven, who gave the monsoon rains to the Kathmandu Valley farmers. In one of the most colorful festivals in the valley, residents carry out an eight-day celebration fit to flatter the King of heaven. This festival was commenced by King Jaya Prakash Malla in the medieval era to commemorate his victory over Patan. A temple of Lord Indra is situated in Kathmandu popularly known as Indra Chowk. A chariot procession carrying the images of Lord Indra, Lord Ganesh and Godess Kumari – the living goddess is carried around Kathmandu Durbar Square for a day that is observed by thousands of devotees including His Majesty the King and Queen.

Neel Barahai Pyakhan
Neel Barahi Pyakhan, Neel Barahi dance is a local festival of Bode, a place near to Thimi, 8km east of Kathmandu, dedicated to Neel Barahi, the incarnation of Goddess Durga, consort to Lord Shiva. It is a masked dance performed for four consecutive days during the month of August or September. Nineteen dancers represent the city guardians and a local orchestra plays traditional music. It is believed that this festival calls for peace and harmony between people. The temple of Neel Barahi is located in a jungle outside Bode.

Dashain (Sep 23- Oct 6)
Dashain is the biggest festival of Nepalese. It is a time for families to reunite and celebrate the victories of Goddess Durga over the demons Sur and Mahisasur and of Lord Ram over the demon Rawan. It is believed that on this day – Dashain, the tenth day of the war between God and demons, god had victory, winning justice upon injustice. This is the longest Nepalese festival going on for fifteen days. Temples of the goddess Durga are visited, and sacrifice of Goats, Cocks, Ducks and Buffalos are offered to the deity.

Tihar (Oct 20-24)
Another big festival of Hindus, Tihar also known as Deepawali is a festival of lights when Nepal is lit up with oil lamps, candles and electric lights. Tihar starts with Kaag tihar, when the crow is worshipped and offered food followed by Kukur tihar, the day when dogs are worshipped, then comes Laxmi Puja, the third and main day of Tihar when the goddess Laxmi, goddess of wealth and consort of Lord Vishnu is worshipped. From this day people decorate their houses with garlands, purify the entrance with red soil and cow dung, putting auspicious signs on the entrance of the house. Footsteps of goddess Laxmi are made with rice paste starting from the home entrance to the room where the image of the goddess is established symbolizing that the goddess has visited ones home. During the evening, after conducting a puja or ritual, oil lamps and candles are lit up to welcome the arrival of the goddess. Laxmi Puja is followed by Gobardhan puja when the cow and its dung are worshipped - Hindus believe cow dung to be sacred. This very fourth day is also the New Year's Day in the Nepal Era. To mark the New Year's Day, a long procession of vehicles circle around the Kathmandu valley all day long. This very day also happens to be Mha Puja meaning body-worship day in the Newar community. On this day the Newar people worship their body for their good health for the coming year. The last day of Tihar is Bhaitika – brother’s day when sisters put tika on their brothers and worship Yamaraj, god of death, praying for the long and healthy life of their brothers.

Chhath Parva (Oct 28)
One of the most important festivals for the people of Terai, Chhath is the festival to worship the sun. A large number of devotees are seen to be taking dip in the water of rivers or ponds on this day.

Bala Chaturdashi (Nov 19)
This simple festive day takes place in the ancient forest surrounding the Pashupatinath Temple. It is one of the oldest traditions of the valley. Families who have lost a loved one in the last year keep an all night vigil in the forest, lighting oil-lamps and singing songs. Following a ritual bath, people walk through the forest, scattering seven types of grains along the path and Over the Linga of Lord Shiva to give merit to their late kinsmen and to cleanse the sins of a mythological man called Bala who had transformed into a demon.

Bibah Panchami (Nov 25)
All the people in belonging to the Hidu religion know the story of the marriage of the Lord Ram and the Princess Sita, as told in the epic Ramayan. King Janak, Sita's father, proposed a test of strength for the suitors of his daughters: To string the great bow of Lord Shiva. Warriors, Kings and Chieftains came from afar, but no man could even lift the bow. Ram lifted the bow with ease and when he tried to string it, the bow shattered into pieces. Ram and Sita were married in Janakpur, which lies in the southern Nepal, and their marriage is celebrated to this day. Each year, idols of Ram and Sita are brought out in procession and their Hindu wedding ceremony is re-enacted during a week long religious fair. Bibah Panchami reflects the devotion of Hindus to Ram, perhaps the most sincere and just among the incarnation of Vishnu, and to Sita, the model of ideal Hindu woman.

Sweta (white) Machhindranath, the Buddhist deity of compassion, is enshrined in the temple courtyard of Jana Bahal in central Kathmandu. He is locally known as Jana Baha-dyo. In the evening of the eighth day of the bright lunar fortnight, the image of Jana Baha-dyo is placed on a platform in the temple courtyard and holy water containing butter, honey, milk, curd and sugar is poured over it amidst elaborate rituals. The bath water is collected by the attending priest and sprinkled over the devotees as blessings.

Other ceremonies continue for a week. The image is put in the sun after the ritual wash and then repainted meticulously to give it a fresh look. The God of compassion is then donned with new silken robes. Almost smothered under the devotees’ floral offerings, he is taken back to his shrine on the last day of the festival.

Maghe Sankranti (14 Jan)
Each first days of the Nepali month is referred as ‘sankranti’. Thus Maghe Sankranti is the first day of the month of Magh. This day is considered as a holy day for it is the end of the ill-omen month of Poush in which all the festivals are forbidden. The day is also referred as Makar Sankranti. The festival is observed throughout the country. People take holy bath in the rivers. The festival witnesses special celebration at the Devghat river confluence, near the Royal Chitwan National Park, where the Trishuli and Kali Gandaki rivers meet. There, fasting devotees gather to take holy dips in the water and pay obeisance to Lord Shiva and other Hindu deities. The special foods eaten on this day are Ghee, molasses (Chaku), Sesame seedcakes (Tilaura) and yam. All these foods are the producers of heat in the body which is very much appropriate for the cold month of Magh.

Lhosar (30 Jan)
This is the day celebrated to commemorate the beginning of the New Year for various castes including Gurung, Tamang, Lama and various other Himalayan people. As a part of the festival Buddhist monks hold prayer meetings in specially decorated monasteries. Worshippers pray to Lord Buddha visiting various Stupas. The people raise holy flags atop their homes. This festival is observed in a grand way. Greetings are exchanged among the relatives and friends. The first day of the bright lunar fortnight is also as occasion for the people to come together singing, dancing, dressing up and feasting. Lots of people flock towards Boudhanath in Kathmandu to celebrate the festival.

Shree Panchami (2 Feb)
Shree Panchami, also Known as Basanta panchami marks the advent of spring. The day is dedicated to the Hindu Goddess Saraswoti, the goddess of Art and wisdom. The goddess is also worshipped by the Buddhists as Manjushree.All the temples of goddess Saraswoti is crowded by the worshippers; especially the students.The most joyous observances take place near Swoyambhu, at the Saraswoti temple courtyard to the west of large stupa. Also a grand ceremony is held at the Hanuman Dhoka Palace in the presence of His Majesty the King.

Maha Shiva Ratri (26 Feb)
Maha Shiva Ratri or the night of almighty Shiva is one of the most important festivals dedicated to lord shiva. Lord Shiva is one of the Hinduism’s “supreme trinity”, along with Brahma the Creator and Bishnu the Preserver. Shiva is regarded as the God of destruction.Many of the pilgrims from throughout the country as well as from India come to celebrate the night in Pashupatinath. At the evening time bonfire is lit at many places. It is believed that those who warm themselves free themselves from the sins or disease.

Holi (14 Mar)
Fagu Purnima, popularly known as Holi is the festival of colors celebrated to mark the demise of demoness Holika by the hands of Vishnu. The festival is celebrated across the country for eight days. Revelers mark the occasion by smearing colored powder and throwing colored water at each other.In Kathmandu, a ceremonial pole decorated with strips of colored cloth is raised in front of the Kumari Chhen at the Durbar Square to announce the beginning of the festivals. On the full moon day of the festivities, bands of revelers roam the city throwing color at any one seen.

Also on this day, Jyapu farmers of Kathmandu leave a feast of rice in the middle of the Tundikhel parade ground for the giant Gurumapa. It is said that the giant used to terrorize city-dwellers by snatching away their children and was persuaded to give up his ways with the promise of a yearly banquet.

Toranlha
Toranlha is celebrated among the Thakali community (who is concentrated on the trade and trek route to the north of Pokhara) by venerating one’s father. The festival is observed for three days with full moon of Falgun falling in the middle. While the main offering is made by the women, the men also hold archery contests. All three days are marked by merry-making and getting together with kith and kin.

Nala Karunamaya Jatra
One of the most important shrines dedicated to the Buddhist deity Karunamaya or Lokeswor is situated in Nala, 29 km east of Kathmandu. This medieval Newar village is situated to the north of Banepa on the way to Dhulikhel, the famed hill resort and Himalaya viewing spot. A white-faced idol wearing robes and a crown, Karunamaya is believed to be the Guru of Goddess Chandeswori, a manifestation of the Hindu Goddess Durga, located in the nearby village.

The festival of Nala Karunamaya runs for three days during which the deity’s idol is given a bath and repainted. On the third day, a grand procession is held. The image is carried in a palanquin accompanied by musical bands to the temples of Chandeswori and then brought back to its temple.

Pahan Charhe
Pahan Charhe is one of the biggest festivals for the native inhabitants of the Kathmandu valley. Being an exclusive day of pisach (ghostly spirits), worship is offered to Luku Maha dyo, an elusive manifestation of the Hindu deity Lord Shiva. The festival marks the defeat of evil spirits and people invite their relatives and friends to join merry-making. The streets are filled with families on their way to visit relatives. There is also a seasonal song which is played during Pahan Charhe.

In another part of the festival, Goddess Neta-maru Ajima, a representation of female force, is adored at her shrine in Neta, to the north of Kathmandu Durbar Square. On the night, Sacred masked dances are performed here. Palanquins of three mother goddesses are brought to the market square of Asan for a grand finale ceremony, known as the “meeting of the goddesses”.

Ghoda Jatra (29 Mar)
Ghoda jatra or the horse festival consists of colorful pageantry dominated be horse races at Tundikhel, the parade ground at the city center, previously known as the largest parade ground in Asia. Legend has it that the thundering hooves of the horses keep the unabsolved spirit of Tundi, a ferorious demon, buried under that ground. In recent years, parachuting, aerobatics, bicycle races and similar other sports have been included to add to the thrills and stunts of the traditional horse races. Their Majesties the King and the Queen as well as various state dignitaries and members of diplomatic corps attend Ghoda Jatra at the Royal Nepal Army Pavilion.

In Patan, a horse is made to drink liquor and the town’s people chase the intoxicated animal through the streets amidst much cheering and clapping. On the same day large number of the people in Patan goes to the big ground at Balkumari to eat and drink with family and friends.

Ram Nawami (6 April)
Ram Nawami is the birth anniversary of Lord Ram-the protagonist of the great Hindu epic Ramayan. This day sees flocks of devotees crowding Ram shrines throughout the country. The most spectacular event can be seen in Janakpur, a historic city in southeastern Nepal, which is named after Ram’s father-in-Law, King Janak. Various episodes from Ram’s life are enacted in the Janaki temple complex. Marble images of Lord Ram, his consort Sita and other deities are brought out of their shrines and taken around the city in a colorful procession.

Chaite Dashain (7 April)
Chaite Dashain is smaller version of Dashain festival, the most popular Hindu festival in Nepal which is celebrated for several days in October. It is marked by animal sacrifices to the Goddess Bhagwati at various temples. The army also performs goat and buffalo sacrifices in front of the regimental colors at the courtyard near Kathmandu Durbar Square, starting early in the morning.

Jana Baha Dyo Jatra
The shrine of Janabaha dyo or sweta (white) Machhindranath is situated in a courtyard in central Kathmandu. Besides the deity’s sacred bathing ceremony in December, the chariot festival is the most important event of the year and it is spread over three days. The image of deity is put in a tall creaking chariot and dragged in stretches through the streets of Kathmandu accompanied by musical bands. The procession starts at Durbar Marg late in the afternoon and winds through the market squares of Bhotahity, Ason (day one), Indra chowk, Durbar square(day two) and Chikan Mugal to the end at Lagan,towards the southern end of the old city (day three). When the chariot stops for the night at the specified locality, devotees gather to worship the deity and light butter-lamps.

Balaju Mela or Lhuti Punhi (13 Apr)
The full moon day of April, Lhuti Punhi, is important for both Hindus and Buddhists. Devotees celebrate the festival by visiting Balaju (or Lhuti), which lies 3 km north of downtown Kathmandu to take holy baths under the 22 dragon-headed stone water spouts and pay homage to the reclining image of the Hindu deity Budhanilkantha. People also climb the nearby Jamacho hill to worship the Buddhist stupa located at the top.

The hill is held sacred because ages ago, when the Kathmandu valley was a lake, it was from this summit the the Bipaswa Buddha had cast a lotus seed into the water which blossomed into the flaming holy lotus over which the Swoyambhu stupa now stands.

Nava Barsha (14 April)
This is the official New Year’s Day. The official Bikram era followed in Nepal is accredited to King Bikramaditya who started this solar calendar some two millenniums ago. The New Year 2063 corresponds to 2006-7 AD. The New Year’s Day is an official holiday in Nepal. On this day, devotees throng the Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu to take a dip in the holy Bagmati River. Pilgrims also visit other religious spots and spend the day picnicking. No picnic spots are free from the merry making noises of the picnickers on this day. It is a day to seek blessings from the family and other elders as well.

Bisket Jatra (14 April)
Bisket Jatra is Bhaktapur’s greatest festival and goes on for nine days. The festivity starts off with a raucous tug of war at the city centre between two neighbourhoods trying to drag the triple-roofed chariot of Bhairavnath to their own side. A ceremonial pole called yosin is erected on the city out skirts. The two strips of cloth unfurled from the top represent a pair of dead snakes in whose memory the festival has been installed. “Bi” in Nepali means snake and “sika” stands for death, hence the Bisika or Biska or Bisket festival. It is a very colorful festival where three chariots dedicated to Lord Durga, Ganesha and Kumari circle Bhaktapur city. Masked dances are organized and many local feasts are held. People from Patan and Kathmandu also observe this festival at Bhaktapur.

Matri Aunshi (27 April)
Matri Aunshi, often known as “Aamako Mukh Herne”, is Mother’s Day in the Nepalese calendar. Children pay homage to their mothers offering sweets, gifts and delicious foods. Those who have lost their mothers, visit Mata Tirtha where they bathe plus pray for the eternal peace of their mother’s soul. Thus a huge crowd is seen at Mata Tirtha taking holy bath to bestow their respect to their heavenly mothers.

Buddha Jayanti (13 May)
This is the day marked to remember the preaching of Lord Buddha who was born, enlightened and also left the world on this very day. Buddhism is the second most popular religion in Nepal. The day is celebrated throughout the valley. Swoyambhunath and Boudhanath stupas are prepared several days in advance for this day. Monasteries are cleaned, statues polished and new flags waft in the breeze. Many people in the Kathmandu valley put a new flag on their roofs on this day. In Patan, many people take part in a rpocession which circles the city with the big statue of Buddha. People also exhibit the Buddha's photos outside many of the House. On this day people go to the stupas before dawn, go around them and give offerings to the Buddha's images.

Guru Poornima (11 July)
Guru Poornima is a full moon (Poornima) day dedicated to teachers (Guru) in the month of June or July. In Hinduism, teachers are respected second after the gods and it is believed that a student who does not respect his/her teacher can never succeed in his/her life. On this day students pay homage to their teachers and receive blessings from them. On Guru Porrnima, the ashram known as Vyas of Maharishi Vyas (the sage who wrote the great Hindu epic Mahabharat) situated on the Kathmandu-Pokhara highway is also visited by Hindus. For Buddhists this is an auspicious day when Lord Buddha entered the womb of Queen Mayadevi and Buddhists celebrate this day as Dilla Punhi.

Ghantakarna (July 24)
This festival, also known as Gathemangal, is celebrated in the valley on the occasion of the death of a demon called Ghanta Karna. An effigy of Ghanta Karna is made and later in the evening burnt in evidence of his death. People wear special metal rings in this day.

Naag Panchami (July 30)
Naag Panchami is the day to worship the snakes. This is celebrated throughout the kingdom by putting photos of snake above the doors and worshipping it. A large number pilgrims can be seen in Naag Pokhari – in the east of Patan.

Janai Poornima/Rakshya Bandhan (Aug 9)
Janai is the sacred thread worn by Hindus. Among the Hindu men some castes like Brahmins, Chhetris and some of the castes in Newar community, after undergoing a ritual called Bratabandha, wear Janai around their body, which is sanctified with various chants, believed to protect oneself from any evil. On Janai Poornima, the festival dedicated to Lord Shiva, Hindus bathe in Ganga, a holy river, and then the men change their janai sacred threads. A Brahmin should then tie a thread around their right wrist. Women bathe in Ganga and tie this sacred thread on their left wrists. The major areas of celebration of this festival are Gosainkunda in the Himalayas and Kumbheshwar Mahadev temple in Patan where the sculpture of Lord Shiva is placed on a platform in the middle of the pond created by blocking the waterspouts. It is believed that the water that flows from the waterspouts of Kumbeshwar come directly from Gosainkunda.

Gai Jatra (Aug 10)
Gai Jatra is Hindu festival dedicated to the departed souls. The children of families who have lost a loved one that year, disguise themselves as cow and pay a visit to temples around the city where they are given food and offerings. In Hinduism cows are sacred, believed to be the symbol of the Goddess Laxmi, goddess of wealth. So, feeding cow is seen as auspicious. For others, this is a procession of cows followed by people wearing funny attires, mask dancers and others. It is celebrated around the Kathmandu Valley especially in Kathmandu’s city center, Patan and Bhaktapur. This festival came during the reign of King Jaya Prakash Malla, when the Queen lost her son and felt into the depths of mourning. In spite of the King’s rationale, that life and death are the course of nature; the Queen could not accept it and becomes weaker and more engaged in misery. To prove to his Queen that everyone suffers from a loss of a loved one, the King commanded his people to start a procession to worship Yamaraj, god of death, who would thus take care of the departed souls.

Mataya (Aug 11)
Matayaa is a day-long local festival in Patan held the day after Gaijatra. Devotees process to all the Buddhist sutpas in the city, tossing rice grains, flowers and lighting candles. As on the day of Gaijatra, some people wear funny attires on this day, and masked dancers participate throughout the procession.

Krishnashtami (Aug15)
Lord Krishna, who taught warrior Arjun the value of karma in the Bhagwat Gita, was born in the mid-night on the eighth day of the dark full moon of August. To celebrate the birthday of this much loved Hindu God, devotees flock to the Krishna Mandir at Patan Durbar Square on the preceeding day. There, men and women from far away gather around the 17th century temple and sit in vigil waiting for the mid night hour. Euphoric prayers and incanations fill the air, and small oil lamps are lit as a mark of felicitation and devotion to the Lord. Images of Lord Krishna are also carried around the city in a procession accompanied by joyous crowds of followers and musical bands.

Bhimsen Jatra
On this day, the image of business and prosperity, Bhimsen, is removed from his temple in Patan Durbar Square and carried around the city in a palanquin. Businessmen from Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Patan accompany the palanquin carrying burning incense and torches in their hands. A musical band playing special musical leads the procession which starts around 8 pm at the Durbar Square and passes through Sundhara, Okubahal, Ikhalakhu, Purnachandi, Nakabahi, Kumbheswor and finally back to the Durbar Square.

Panja-daan
Panja-daan or the auspicious rice offering festival is a Buddhist festival of charity. On this day, daily essentials like rice, paddy, beans, wheat, salt, broom, needle and thread-rope and raw sugar are offered to Buddhist monks and to the priestly castes in the Newar Buddhists. The festival honors the practice of monks going around begging alms from the laity besides emphasizing the duty of house holders to give to those who have abandoned worldly possessions. The faithful also gather at Swayambhu and major Buddhist courtyards around the valley to make donations.

Kushe Aunshi (Aug 23)
Kushe aunshi also known as Gokarna aunshi is the father's day. Sons and daughters offer ritual food, sweet, meats and other gifts to their fathers. The streets are a happy scene of married daughters making their way to their parents' houses with loads of delicacies. After offering the gifts, they touch the feet of their father with their foreheads in veneration. The ceremony is also known as 'babuko mukh herne din' meaning day of looking upon father's face.

Those who have lost their fathers visit Gokarna and other sacred places where they conduct puja and offer “Pinda” – food for the departed soul praying for his eternal peace. There they also perform anniversary rituals and make offerings to the Brahmin priests. It is believed that if a son offers Pinda at a holy pond of Gokarna having conducted puja, his departed father will eat it and find peace.

Haritalika/Teej (Aug 26)
The festival combines sumptuous feasts and tormenting fasts. On the first day of the three-day celebrations, groups of women, both married and unmarried, congregate at one place in their finest attires. Amidst laughter, songs and music, the grand feast begins. The merry making goes on till mid night, from which time onwards the women will undergo a 24-hour fast.

The next day sees these women, in their crimson saris, singing and dancing in the streets leading to Shiva shrines. The main activities revolve round the Pashupati temple in Kathmandu where the devotees, as a mark of total devotion to Shiva the destroyer, circumambulate the lingam, the phallic symbol of the almighty, offer him flowers, sweets and coins. The married ones pray for their husband's longevity, progress and prosperity, and those yet to tie the knot ask for good husband.

The third and the last day of the festival is called Rishi Panchami. On this day, the women who have undergone the agonizing fast pay homage to various deities situated on the banks of sacred rivers.

Chatha
Chatha is the day exclusively allocated to Lord Ganesh. Households here, as a rule, commence the day with the propitiation of Lord Ganesh. On the day of Chatha festival, the ceremony is extra special. Early in the morning, women with trays containing rice, vermillion, flowers and coins visit Ganesh shrines in their neighborhood and offer worship. Celebration of Chatha is mainly an outdoor affair. All the family members congregate in the family worship room to adore Ganesh with profuse offerings and oblations.

Indra Jatra
The fields have been planted, the monsoon is drawing to an end, and the season of harvest is coming up. Now is the time to be grateful to Indra, Lord of heaven, who gave the monsoon rains to the Kathmandu Valley farmers. In one of the most colorful festivals in the valley, residents carry out an eight-day celebration fit to flatter the King of heaven. This festival was commenced by King Jaya Prakash Malla in the medieval era to commemorate his victory over Patan. A temple of Lord Indra is situated in Kathmandu popularly known as Indra Chowk. A chariot procession carrying the images of Lord Indra, Lord Ganesh and Godess Kumari – the living goddess is carried around Kathmandu Durbar Square for a day that is observed by thousands of devotees including His Majesty the King and Queen.

Neel Barahai Pyakhan
Neel Barahi Pyakhan, Neel Barahi dance is a local festival of Bode, a place near to Thimi, 8km east of Kathmandu, dedicated to Neel Barahi, the incarnation of Goddess Durga, consort to Lord Shiva. It is a masked dance performed for four consecutive days during the month of August or September. Nineteen dancers represent the city guardians and a local orchestra plays traditional music. It is believed that this festival calls for peace and harmony between people. The temple of Neel Barahi is located in a jungle outside Bode.

Dashain (Sep 23- Oct 6)
Dashain is the biggest festival of Nepalese. It is a time for families to reunite and celebrate the victories of Goddess Durga over the demons Sur and Mahisasur and of Lord Ram over the demon Rawan. It is believed that on this day – Dashain, the tenth day of the war between God and demons, god had victory, winning justice upon injustice. This is the longest Nepalese festival going on for fifteen days. Temples of the goddess Durga are visited, and sacrifice of Goats, Cocks, Ducks and Buffalos are offered to the deity.

Tihar (Oct 20-24)
Another big festival of Hindus, Tihar also known as Deepawali is a festival of lights when Nepal is lit up with oil lamps, candles and electric lights. Tihar starts with Kaag tihar, when the crow is worshipped and offered food followed by Kukur tihar, the day when dogs are worshipped, then comes Laxmi Puja, the third and main day of Tihar when the goddess Laxmi, goddess of wealth and consort of Lord Vishnu is worshipped. From this day people decorate their houses with garlands, purify the entrance with red soil and cow dung, putting auspicious signs on the entrance of the house. Footsteps of goddess Laxmi are made with rice paste starting from the home entrance to the room where the image of the goddess is established symbolizing that the goddess has visited ones home. During the evening, after conducting a puja or ritual, oil lamps and candles are lit up to welcome the arrival of the goddess. Laxmi Puja is followed by Gobardhan puja when the cow and its dung are worshipped - Hindus believe cow dung to be sacred. This very fourth day is also the New Year's Day in the Nepal Era. To mark the New Year's Day, a long procession of vehicles circle around the Kathmandu valley all day long. This very day also happens to be Mha Puja meaning body-worship day in the Newar community. On this day the Newar people worship their body for their good health for the coming year. The last day of Tihar is Bhaitika – brother’s day when sisters put tika on their brothers and worship Yamaraj, god of death, praying for the long and healthy life of their brothers.

Chhath Parva (Oct 28)
One of the most important festivals for the people of Terai, Chhath is the festival to worship the sun. A large number of devotees are seen to be taking dip in the water of rivers or ponds on this day.

Bala Chaturdashi (Nov 19)
This simple festive day takes place in the ancient forest surrounding the Pashupatinath Temple. It is one of the oldest traditions of the valley. Families who have lost a loved one in the last year keep an all night vigil in the forest, lighting oil-lamps and singing songs. Following a ritual bath, people walk through the forest, scattering seven types of grains along the path and Over the Linga of Lord Shiva to give merit to their late kinsmen and to cleanse the sins of a mythological man called Bala who had transformed into a demon.

Bibah Panchami (Nov 25)
All the people in belonging to the Hidu religion know the story of the marriage of the Lord Ram and the Princess Sita, as told in the epic Ramayan. King Janak, Sita's father, proposed a test of strength for the suitors of his daughters: To string the great bow of Lord Shiva. Warriors, Kings and Chieftains came from afar, but no man could even lift the bow. Ram lifted the bow with ease and when he tried to string it, the bow shattered into pieces. Ram and Sita were married in Janakpur, which lies in the southern Nepal, and their marriage is celebrated to this day. Each year, idols of Ram and Sita are brought out in procession and their Hindu wedding ceremony is re-enacted during a week long religious fair. Bibah Panchami reflects the devotion of Hindus to Ram, perhaps the most sincere and just among the incarnation of Vishnu, and to Sita, the model of ideal Hindu woman.

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