Festival Tours in Nepal
Festival tours in Nepal are very interesting to understand diverse culture and custom of Nepalese people. As there are hundreds of diverse festival in Nepal. That's why Nepal has been called as 'the land of festivals' that are a living part of cultural heritage. The religious festivals of Nepal follow the lunar calendar. But the national festivals have fixed dates. Some interesting festivals of Nepal and tour itinerary are listed below.
Buddha Jayanti (Baishakh Poornima): Buddha Jayanti is a festival to celebrate the birthday of Lord Gautam Buddha whose original name is Sidhartha Gautam. Buddha Jayanti falls on Baishakh Sukla Purnima (full moon day), the day Lord Buddha was born and passed away.
As Nepal is the birth place of the Lord Buddha, this festival is very important for Nepali people, especially for Buddhist community throughout the country. Buddha Jayanti is the triple anniversary of Buddh’s birth, enlightenment and death. Lumbini, the birth place of Buddha, Namo Buddha are the main places to visit in Buddha Jayanti outside of the Kathmandu Valley. In Kathmandu Valley, Swoyambhunath and Buddhanath are main the attractive places to observe Buddha Jayanti festival. Please find Buddha Jayanti tour itinerary below.
Maha Shivaratri: Shivaratri festival belongs to Lord Shiva, the supreme god of Hindu who is equally known as Shambhu, Bhole, Mahadev, Shanker, Kailash, Pashupatinath and so on. It falls in the Nepali month of Falgun (in between February-March). Shivaratri is one of the most important festivals of Hindu people in Nepal and India. On this day, thousands of people visit Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu which is believed to be the origin of Lord Shiva. Followers of Lord Shiva from Nepal and India come to Pashupatinath temple to worship Lord Shiva. Many Sadhus (yogi) from India and different parts of Nepal come to Pashupatinath temple to celebrate Shivaratri festival. It is quite interesting to see those Sadhus on this day as most of them are half naked and few of them are totally unclothed in Pashupatinath temple. Use of marijuana and cannabis is illegal in Nepal but in Shivaratri it is offered to Shiva and his followers openly. We can see many Sadhus having marijuana in Pashupatinath on this festival. Shivaratri is celebrated in all Shiva temples all over Nepal. Please find Maha Shivaratri tour itinerary below.
Gai Jatra (cow festival): Gai literally means a cow and Jatra is a procession. Gai Jatra falls in the Nepali month of Bhadra (in between July-August). This festival is celebrated with dancing, singing, and comedy that cause mirth and laugh. Gai Jatra festival is most popular in Newar people throughout the country. Newar people who had death in their families in the last year organize Gai Jatra procession led by a cow. In the cities where there were no cows, young boys dressed up and decorated themselves as cow used to substitut the cows. Nowadays leading Gai Jatra procession by young kids dressed up in a funny way has begun a tradition. Families, relatives, and friends of the host family participate in the Gai Jatra celebration.
The first part of Gai Jatra celebration is sad as the host family and their relatives cry in memory of dead person. But after the Jatra (procession) comes back to host family, the second part of the festival includes different funny songs, dances, jokes and mockery until the late afternoon. Thus, Gai Jatra is a festival of both grief and joy that facilitates to make people to accept the death as a reality of life. The modern Gai Jatra includes both the traditional celebration and various comedy shows and dramas in the streets and theatre house, also broadcasted by the television and radios. Please find Gai Jatra tour itinerary below.
Teej : Teej is the main festival of Hindu women. Women take fast the entire day on Teej. The married women pray for long life of their husband and happy conjugal life. Unmarried women also take fast and pray to find a good husband. Teej festival is associated with the goddess Parbati and her husband Lord Shiva. As per Hindu mythology, Parbati went through rigorous fasting and meditated hard to get Lord Shiva as her husband. Shiva got pleased with her devotion and married her. Parbati is also known as a mother of the universe like Amba and Ambika, meaning a mother. By choosing a life partner herself and breaking the arrange marriage practice, Parbati presented her as a symbol of feminine power.
After the tough fast the entire day, women worship Lord Shiva and Parbati at night. They wear red clothes and decorate themselves with different ornaments and bangles. Women dance and sing Teej songs to mark Teej as women's special festival. They express pain and discrimination faced by them through the songs. A big crowd of people, mostly women, gather in all Shiva and Parbati temples throughout Nepal to celebrate Teej. In some places with no temple, women meet in their friend's home or public places to sing and dance which is a most important aspect of Teej celebration. Teej celebration in Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu is very special. Thousands of people, mostly women and girls, gather in Pashupatinath temple. Women and girls wait for hours in queues to approach to the main temple of Lord Shiva in Pashupatinath. Please find Teej tour itinerary below.
Krishna Janmastami: Krishna Janmastami festival is a birthday celebration of the Lord Krishna which is celebrated by Hindu people in all parts of Nepal. This festival falls in the Nepali month of Bhadra (in between July-August). Many Hindu women and men take fast and celebrate Krishna's Birthday in Hindu temples and their own home on this festival. Thousands of people gather at Krishna temple in Patan, Kathmandu to worship Lord Krishna on this day. Radha, the girl friend of Lord Krishna, is equally loved and worshiped on this day. Please see Krishna Janmastami tour itinerary below.
Maghi: Maghi festival is celebrated by all Nepali people. It is a biggest festival and new year of Tharu indigenous peoples in Nepal. Tharu people in Dang, Banke, Bardiya, Kailali and Kanchanpur districts of mid-western Nepal largely celebrate Maghi festival. This is also the main festival of Magar indigenous community in Nepal. Maghi is also known as Makar Sankranti, the festival of Sun God that falls on the first day of 10th month of Nepali calendar (mid of January). People believe that from the day of Maghi, the cold days slightly turn into warm days.
Taking bath in the holy river known as Makar Snan (bath) and offering the river water to Sun is the most holy thing to do in Makar Sankranti. That is why this festival is celebrated at the edge of holy rivers, mainly Triveni (where three rivers meet), Shankhamul & Bagmati in Kathmandu, Dolalghat, Baraha Kshetra, Trishuli, Trivenighat in Panauti, Kankai in Jhapa and Ridi Gandaki in Gulmi. Hindu people from India also come to Devghat and other holy rivers to take the holy bath in Makar Sankranti.
Maghi festival is celebrated by different communities in Nepal on their own way. Food and culture in Maghi festival varies from community to community but taking holy bath in the holy rivers is in common among all communities. Colorful Maghi Fairs in holy rivers are very interesting to participate and learn about Maghi festival. Please see Maghi tour itinerary below.
Swasthani Brata Katha: Swasthani is a Hindu goddess who is believed to be the blessing goddess to her devotees. Swasthani Brata (fasting) Katha (a story) is a month-long celebration. Swasthani Brata Katha is a series of stories described by Lord Kumar, the elder son of Lord Shiva and goddess Parbati. The story concentrated on Lord Shiva and goddess Satidevi and Parbati, the wives of Shiva. In the every single chapter of story, Kumar tells a story on the formation of universe upon the request of a Saint named Agasthi Muni.
Swasthani Brata Katha begins on full moon day in the Nepali month of Poush till next full moon day. People have their own way to read out Swasthani. Some people, mostly women, take a month long fast and only a meal a day. They read out Swasthani in the afternoon every day. Some just read out the story either in the early morning or in the evening without taking fast.
On the last day of Swasthani festival, people do special PUJA (worship) individually or in a group at their home or in the holy rivers and temples. The food, fruits, flowers and incense to be offered to Swasthani goddess has to be 108 in number. Salinadi (River) in Sankhu, Kathmandu has a significant impotence of this festival as it is mentioned in the Swasthani Brata Katha as a holy river. It was the river where the goddess Swasthani blessed her supreme devotee called 'Chandrawati' who with the blessing of Swasthani got rid of her sorrow and problems and got a new healthy and happy life. People come to Salinadi and visit nearby Swasthani temple in Sankhu at least once during a month-long celebration. This place is visited by thousands of people on the first and last day of Swasthani Brata Katha. Please see Swasthani tour itinerary below.
Some other major Nepali festivals:
Nava Varsha (New Year): Nava means new and Varsa means year in Nepali language. The Nepalese New Year falls on the first day of Nepali month of Baishakh (second week of April).
Red Machchhendranath Rath Jatra : This is the biggest socio-cultural festival of Patan. This festival falls in May-June. The main deity named as Red Machchhendranath is kept inside the wheeled chariot and dragged through the city of Patan.
Dumje: This festival is celebrated by the Serpa in July.
Indra Jatra: This festival belongs to the god Indra, the god of rain. This festival falls in August–September. In this festival the chariot of goddess Kumari gets to pass through the main streets of Kathmandu.
Dashain or Durga Puja: Dashai is the biggest festival of Nepali people. Dashain is a ten-day festival, celebrated entire the country in September-October. People worship the nine different incarnations of goddess Durga in Dashain.
Tihar ( Deepawali): This is the festival of brother and sister. Lights are illuminated at night in Tihar that is celebrated for five days in October-November.
National Democracy Day: This day is celebrated to respect the people’s revolution from 1950-51 for democracy. This falls on 7 Phalgun, the Nepali month, which is usually February 18.
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