Major Festivals

During January/February

Festival of lights at Boudhanath
Boudhanath stupa, a sacred Budhist shrine, located in a short distance Northeast of Kathmandu is a World Heritage Site. This ancient stupa symbolizing "Nirvana" - the state of no suffering - was built in by. In its honor the festival of lights is celebrated on a full moon night in around February.

Sri or Basanta PanchamiSri Panhami
The day of Sri or Basanta Panchami is dedicated to Saraswoti, goddess of learning.Devotees, specially students visit the shrine of goddess Saraswati at Swoyambhunath to offer their respects.

On Sundays and Thursdays, starting from December till this day, people visit the Saraswoti shrine located East from Bhaktapur on the hill Manimandap.According to the legend Bodhisatwa Manjushri stayed at this place when the valley was a lake. The day also marks the approach of Spring.

During February/March

Losar
Tibetan new year, Losar is celebrated during this period. In Kathmandu celebrations take place at Boudhanath. Then the dome of the Boudhanath stupa is freshly painted white and sprinkled with yellow colour. The environment is profuse with festive activities - lamas, the Budhist priests chanting in procession, people with incense sticks circumbulating the stupa and throwing barley flour,tsampa in the air. Evening is rejoiced by Tibetans dancing and lighting lamps in the monasteries. People from far away hills visit the shrine on this day.

Shiva Ratri- the night of Lord Shiva
Lord Shiva, Hindu Asceticone of the Hindu holy trinity holds highest reverence along with Lord Visnu and Lord Brahma from the Hindus. Shiva Ratri is the night celebrated in his honor. On the day of Shivaratri,starting from dawn till late at night, thousands of pilgrims and followers of Hinduism visit Pashupatinath, the sacred shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva built by the side of holy river Bagmati.The night marks the appearance of Lord Shiva at this spot.

Holy - the festival of colors
Perhaps the most rejoiced Hindu festival by the young, Holi indeed is a jovial festivity of colors. Holi is celebrated with throwing of red vermilion powder to friends and near ones. On this day being offered red tika on one's forehead is a sign of respect. The festival itself is named after the asura princess Holi, the sister of asura king Hiranyakasyapu.
 

During March/April

Pahachare/Ghodajatra
A day before Pahachare or Ghodajatra, the idols of goddesses Bhadrakali and Kankeswori are placed in chariots and paraded in the streets of Tyeudha and Asan, the core area of Kathmandu city. On the festival day the parade ground of Tundikhel is filled with sportive activities.

Chaitra Dashain and Seto (white) Machhindranath
Both the festivals Chaitra Dashain and that of Seto Machhindranath take place at around the same time. Dashain celebrated in honor of Goddess Durga around early October is the most important festival for the Nepalis. Similarly, Chaitra Dashain celebrated in honor of Goddess Durga takes place exactly six months prior to Dashain. Sacrifices of male animals are made at midnight of eighth day of Dashain whereas on Chaitra Dashain sacrifies are made at midday.

Chaitra Dashain marks the start of rath(chariot)festival, specifically the chariot festival of God Seto Machhindranath, the lord of compassion. The shrine of Seto Machhindranath is located inside the courtyard of Janabahal, at the heart of Kathmandu city. On the first day of Seto Machhindranath festival the image of the god is placed in a special chariot. Built with cane and timber the main body of the chariot is very tall. The huge wooden wheels of the chariot measure up to 6 feet in diameter. It is pulled around the main streets of proper Kathmandu for four days.

During April/May

Bisket Jatra
'Bisyau' jatra meaning the festival celebrated in the memory of slaying of serpents. In the passage of time the term changed from 'Bisyau' to Bisket jatra. The festival is celebrated at Bhaktapur, a medieval town from 12th century, still maintained in the same manner and only 13km East of Kathmandu.

Since the Bisket begins in the last days of the Nepalese year and ends in the beginning days of the new year it is regarded as the New year festival as well. During the seven days of the festival chariots of God Bhairava and Goddess Bhadrakali are pulled with lot of merriment within the town limits. At a place called Lyasinkhel a lyasin or a tall pole is erected with two long embroidered cloths hanging from it. These cloths represent two evil serpents who in the past had troubled the royal family by mysteriouly killing every suitor to the princess at night. Ultimately a brave prince with the blessings of Goddess Bhadrakali came along and killed them even as they appeared from the nostrils of the sleeping princess and began to enlarge themselves. Thus, to show the townspeople the cause of previuos suitors' death they were hung from the pole and at present the cloths represent them.

Budha Jayanti - Lord Budha's birth
Some 2,565 years ago Lord Gautama Budha was born a crown prince on a full moon day at Lumbini, a village in the South-western part of Nepal. His search for the ways of reaching the state of non-suffering lead him to attain enlightenment in his mid-thirties on the same full moon's day. On his eightieth year he passed away, once again on the same full moon's day. Thus, this particular full moon's which usually lies in late April is celebrated as Budha Jayanti - the day of Lord Gautama Budha. The day is celebrated by the Budhists and Hindus alike at Swayambhunath stupa.

During May/June

Rato Machhindranath Jatra
Rato(red) Machhindranath Jatra(festival) is one of the major cultural event in the town of Patan. The festival lasts for a month. 'Bungdyo' or Rato Machhindranath is the deity of rains and has shrines at Patan and Bungmati, a village due to South of Patan - where the deity spends three months of a year.

The chariot built of cane and timber is similar to that of Seto Machhindranath but taller. It is constructed at and pulled from Pulhowk. The chariot meanders through the streets of Patan to reach Jawalakhel ultimately. Here, on the day of Bhot Jatra a dress of diamonds, believed to belong to King of Nagas is shown to the public.

Every 12th year the chariot of Rato Machhindranath is pulled from Patan to Bungmati. As 1991 was the last time it was pulled the event will occur again in 2003.

During July

Dumji
Dumji is the festival celebrated by the Sherpas. The day is enjoyed by the Sherpas in Solukhumbhu, Helambu and Kathmandu by dancing.

During July/August

Janai Purnima(Full moon day)
A Hindu festival, Janai Purnima, occurs on a full moon day. In the morning, pious brahmins bathe in holy Bagmati and Visnumati rivers and change their janai(sacred thread) which they wear across their bodies. Hindus visit the five storied temple of Kumbeswor in Patan and pay respect to Kumbeswor, Lord Shiva. In addition they bathe in the pond closeby, the water of which is believed to come from Gosainunda, the holy lake dedicated to Lord Shiva. Shiva linga, the symbol of Lord Shiva in Kumbeswor temple is made of gold ang silver, on this special day it is brought outside for everyone to view.

Mataya
Mara tried to disturb Sakyamuni Budha from attaining Nirvana, enlightenment in many ways,but did not succeed. Mataya is the Budhist festival celebrated in honour of the victory of Sakyamuni Budha over Mara. In the town of Patan, the festival is enjoyed by lighting lights in innumerous shrines of Lord Budha.

Nagpanchami
Naga is regarded as a mythical serpent representing water. Therefore, the belief is lakes, ponds and other waterbodies are inhabited by Nagas. Whenever there is a drought special worshipping of Nagas are performed in order to get rains. On Nagpanchami, the day dedicated to Nagas every Hindu household worships Nagas. In the morning, after purifying the house and themselves, fasting the householders paste the pictures of Nagas by the doorways and do puja.

On this day people visit at Taudaha, the lake inhabited by Karkot Naga-the king of the Nagas. A festival occurs at Changu Narayan, the oldest temple in the valley dedicated to Lord Visnu, the protector.

Gai Jatra - the cow festival
Gai Jatra Hindus believe that the gates of Yamlok, the domain of Yamraj-the God of death-open only once a year,on the day of Gai Jatra. It is pertinent that after people die their departed souls reach Yamlok. The belief is that the passage to the gateway is very tough. Therefore, to ease the passage of the souls the families pray that cows are there to bring those souls to the gate of Yamlok. Symbollically in Kathmandu the families of the lost members organize cow procession either by leading decorated cows or boys decorated as cows through the streets and offer milk and sweets to the cows and the boys.

The festival is highly entertaining in the town of Bhaktapur. Here, procession after procession people following the symbolic cows dance to the traditional Gai Jatra music, which is enlivening.

Krishnajanmasthami - birthday of Lord Krishna
Krishna MandirLord Visnu reincarnates himself whenever he has to eradicate evil from Earth. Lord Krishna is his eighth reincarnation. His date of birth as Lord Krishna lies on the seventh night of lunar fortnight usually in late August. His birth on Earth was meant to vanquish his uncle the evil king Kansha and his evil cousin Shishupala. In the great Mahabharata war he sided with the righteous Pandava brothers in order to deafeat the amoral Kauravas.

On Krishnajanmasthani Hindus pay their respect to Lord Krishna at his shrine Krishna Mandir in the town of Patan.

During September

Indra Jatra - festival of the King of the Gods
Indra Jatra is dedicated to Lord Indra, king of the Gods. As the legend goes Indra to appease his mother had come to Earth to collect the parijat flowers. While gathering the flowers he was caught by the locals of Kathmandu and kept captive. His mother worried by the long departure of his son came to search him. Hence, the people of Kathmandu learned of the true identities of the mother and the son. In their honor the king and the people rejoiced for a week.

The festival which lasts for eight days has many facets. 'Dus avatar' the depiction of ten reincarnations of Lord Visnu is shown at the old part of Kathamndu. The chariots of the living goddess Kumari, Lord Bhairava and Lord Ganesh are pulled in the streets of proper Kathamndu. Dances are performed by the demon Lankhe and the deities Sawa Bhaku. Excitement follows 'Tanang kisi's (Indra elephant who had come to look for him) abrupt rushes in the streets.

During October/November

Dashain - the festival commemorating the victory of good over evil
Dashain is the most important of all the Hindu festivals. It lasts for fifteen days during which religious rituals are performed, homes purified, new clothes worn and feasts enjoyed. It is the time for the family to be together and rejoice. The first and the last three days of the festival are considered the most auspicious days and the later five days are spent by visiting the relatives.

The festival is celebrated in the honor of Lord Rama - the seventh reincarnation of Lord Visnu and Goddess Durga - an emanation of Goddess Parvati who symbolizes power. In the ancient times Lord Rama killed the evil king Ravana and Goddess Durga killed another evil king Mahisasura. Both the incidents were symbolic to the victory of good over evil, thus protection to mankind.

Tihar - festival of lights:
Tihar is popularly known as the festival of lights. During the five evenings and nights of Tihar the houses and the temples are bright with oilwick and candle lights. During the first two days the crows and the dogs are worshipped. Crows are believed to be messengers, therefore, one always expects them to bring good news and the dogs are believed to be the gatekeepers of Yamlok, the domain where one's soul goes after death. The third day 'Laxmipuja' is dedicated to Goddess of wealth, Laxmi symbolized by a cow.Thus, on that day offerings of food anf worshipping is done to the cow. The doorways and windows of every home are opened and lighted candles or oilwicks are placed to welcome Goddess Laxmi. On the fourth day, 'Mha puja' one's body is cleansed and worshipped for good health. On the fifth day, the last day sisters worship their brothers for longevity and on return brothers offer them presents.