Festival and Fairs in Nepal

  • Hemanta Budhathoki
  • Last Updated on Jun 21, 2024

Table of Contents

Many famous festivals are celebrated in Nepal. As a predominantly Hindu and Buddhist nation, many of the festivals in Nepal are religious ones every of it has symbolized. It is a different experience of Nepal to explore historical and meaningful festivals in your Nepal visit. This kind of event can include with your any kind of trek tours in Nepal.  

Buddha Jayanti
Buddha Jayanti is the birthday of Lord Buddha. In Nepal, the birth-country of Buddha, it is celebrated on the full moon day (Purnima) of the month may (Vaisakh) of the Buddhist calendar. The day marks not just the birth of Shakyamuni Gautam Buddha but also the day of his Enlightenment and Mahaparinirvana. People, especially women, go to common Vihara to observe a rather longer-than-usual, full-length Buddhist sutra, as something like a service. The usual dress is pure white. Non-vegetarian food is normally avoided. Kheer, a sweet rice porridge is commonly served to recall the story of Sujata, a maiden who, in Gautama Buddha's life, offered the Buddha a bowl of milk porridge after he had given up the path of asceticism following six years of extreme austerity. This event was one major link in his enlightenment.

Matha Tirtha Aussi (mother’s day)
Mother’s Day in Nepal is also known as Mata Tirtha Ausi. Mother's day is observed on Baishak Krishna Ausi. People give presents like favorite food, clothing and various gifts to their mother on this day. we call this day the "Mother’s day" – “Aama ko Mukh Herne Din” (the literal meaning is “to see Mother’s face”). Mother's day in Nepal is a tradition rather than a festival of a particular group or community. 

This day is regarded as very auspicious. Those who have already lost his/her mother remember her giving Sida Daan to pandit (Sida is a holy mixture of rice grains and other pure food materials with clothes). Generally, people around Kathmandu visit Mata Tirtha (a holy place 9 Kilometers North West of Kathmandu) to perform “Sraddha” or “Pinda Daan” to their deceased mother. People in different parts of the country do the ritual at home or at a river or any other holy place nearby.

Shree Krishna Janmaaushthmi
Krishna Janmashtami in Nepali is a festival celebrating the birthday of Lord Krishna. This festival is also known as Krishnashtami, Saatam Aatham, Gokulashtami, Ashtami Rohini, Srikrishna Jayanti. Krishna Janmashtami is celebrated on Asthami tithi, the eighth day of the dark half or Krishna Paksha of the month of Bhadra in the Nepali calendar of Bikram Sambat. The festival falls in August- September of the English calendar. Krishna Jayanti is a celebration of the victory of good and Dharma over the devil and bad power. We celebrate this day to remember that when the pot of sin is filled, there is an end to the devil, God will come to rescue. Krishna Janmasthami reminds us of those stories of the battle between good and evil and tells us that the good always wins.

Krishna Janmashtami is celebrated all around the world by all Hindu, There is tradition to observe fasting till midnight. They enchant Slokas from the “Bhagwat Gita” and sing religious songs (Bhajans). The temples of Lord Krishna are decorated and bhajans and kirtan are sung or played. The Krishna Mandir in Patan Durbar Square, Narayanhiti Krishnamandir, and other temples of Lord Krishna are the centers for festivities in Krishna Janmashtami. 

Gai is cow and Jatra is Procession (Festival). Gai Jatra festival, the procession of cows, generally falls in the month of Bhadra, which correspond to English calendar months of August/September. The festival of cows is one of the most popular festivals in Nepal. It is said people in ancient time started worshiping Yamaraj,"the god of death" on this day. However, the modern form of celebration of Gai Jatra came into existence in the medieval period of Nepal during the reign of Malla Kings. The present form of Gai Jatra with humorous acts, parody, comedy and was started by then King of Kathmandu Pratap Malla. He made Rani Pokhari (Pond) in the heart of Kathmandu and build a temple in the middle of the same pond. Traditionally every family who had death in the family during the preceding year must participate in a procession through the streets of Kathmandu leading a cow. 

Janai Purnima (rakchhyabandan)
Janai Purnima is observed in the month of Shrawan. It is called Rakshya Bandhan as this festival observes the bond of purity and security.  This festival is celebrated by Hindus all over the world. Janai is a sacred thread, and Purnima is full moon day,  thus it is Janai festival in the full moon day of Shrawan month of Bikram Sambat calendar. Rakshya means "to protect" and bandhan is "tie" or "bond". Rakshya Bandhan is a bond or tie of protection. This thread is which is tied around the hand is called Doro. Some people even say Janai for Doro.

Janai is a cotton string worn across the chest by a Hindu male. This thread is only given to males during a long and impressive religious ceremony called Bratabandhan. Almost all the religion has a type of Bratabandhan, but known by different names. Bratabandhan is basically a formal process of accepting someone in the religion. in the Purnima morning, men usually go to rivers and ponds nearby, to take secret bath dipping himself thrice in the water. Men, then change their Janai. Break the old ones.  However, in cities, the family priest (Pandit / Purety) comes to the residence. The entire family gathers around pandit as he reads the importance and stories of the from a holy book (Patro) and performs a ceremony, which purifies the new thread, and places it about the men’s neck across the chest. In payment the priest is given foodstuffs and monies. The money is called Dakshina and other stuff is called Daan in Sanskrit.

Tiji Festival in Upper Mustang
Tiji is a fascinating annual three-day festival consisting of Tibetan rituals that celebrate the myth of a son who had to save the Mustang kingdom from destruction. The festival is indigenous to Lo-Manthang of Upper Mustang. "Tiji" the name is an abbreviation of the word "Tempa Chirim" which means "Prayer for World Peace". This festival commemorates the victory of Lord Buddha's incarnation Dorjee Sonnu over a demon called Man Tam Ru a vicious creature feeding on human beings and causing storms and droughts.

The Tiji festival usually takes place around mid-May and lasts for 3 days. The monks of Lo Manthang's "Choedhe" monastery perform ritual dances during the celebration. The harassment of Ma Tam Ru Ta (in a dance called "Tsa Chham" on the first day), the birth of Dorjee Sonnu as the demon's son (on the second day called "Nga Chham") and then attempt to return the demon to Lord Buddha's realm (on the third and final day) are enacted during the performances. The Tiji festival dances are all organized by the Choedhe Monastery, which belongs to the Sakya sect of Buddhism. The monastery is headed by a Rimpoche. About 65 monks from Lo Manthang, Nhenyul, and Chhosyer reside in this monastery. Nepal Highland Treks is operating trips to Upper Mustang during Tiji Festival.  

Teej And Rishi Panchami
Teej is a small red insect that comes out of the soil during the rainy season. It is said Teej got its name from the same red insect. That is why Teej is celebrated in red. Teej is celebrated on 3rd day of Bhadra Sukala Paksha (according to Nepali lunar calendar). It generally falls in late August or early September. Teej is traditionally dedicated to the Goddess Parvati,   remembering her union with Lord Shiva. It is a three-day-long celebration that combines splendid feasts as well as rigid fasting. Teej is a festival celebrated by Nepali women, for the long life of her husband and long and firm relationship between them until the death of this life and all the lives to come. Teej is observed for marital happiness, the well-being of spouse and children and purification of own body and soul. Teej is the most famous festival among Nepali women. 

The folk music and dances add more flavor to the traditional values of Teej. It is fascinating to see women, in “Red” dancing and singing on the street, going to the temple in the holy and fasting mood. Teej is also called Hari Talika Teej. This festival is celebrated by Nepali Hindu women all across the world. Teej also welcomes and celebrates the arrival of monsoon after a season of summer heat.

Indra Jatra
Indra is Lord of Rain and the king of Heaven. Jatra is the procession. Indra Jatra is the celebration of God Indra’s Day.  Indra Jatra is a festival of Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal.  Some believe Indra Jatra is thanking day to Lord Indra for the rain. According to others, the festival is celebrated in the honor of Bahirab, who is Shiva's manifestation and is believed to destroy evil. Indra Jatra begins every year from the day of the Bhadra Dwadasi to Ashwin Krishna Chaturdasi. It is an eight-day long festival. The festival begins with the carnival-like erection of The Linga (Yasingh), a ceremonial pole, accompanied by the rare display of the deity Akash Bhairab, represented by a massive mask spouting Jaad and Raksi (Nepali local liquors). The main attraction of the festival is the procession of chariots and masked dancers representing deities and demons. Indra is called Yanya in Newari. Jaad (Nepali local liquor) flows from the Bahirab statue, which is remarkable to look at in Hanuman Dhoka. 

Gaura Parva
The Gaura Parva is celebrated by the Hindu peoples of mid-western and far- western part of Nepal.it falls in the month of Bhadra according to Nepali calendar, and in the (Aug/Sept) according to English calendar. The main theme of this festival is to worship goddess Gaura so during this day many temples of the goddess get different rituals like prays and main is worship with Biruda. After finishing the worshiping at the temple those fasting women return home and bless their knees Biruda(is a mixture of five seeds of crops used for worshipping and blessing during the Gaura Festival.) It is supposed to give them long life and health. The daura dance is a major attraction of this festival in which participants hold hands and form circles as they stepped traditional music.

Chhatt parva
This festival is celebrated by the people of Mithila of Nepal and India. Chhath Parba is observed for 4 days from Kartik Shukala chaturthi to Kartik Shukala Saptami. This festival falls in October or November in the English Calendar. This festival is dedicated to god sun “Surya”. This is thanksgiving to Lord Surya for sustaining life in the earth and worship him to continue blessing to mankind.

Tamu Losar
Tamo Losar is the new year of the Gurung community. Tamu represents the Gurung community and Losar represents the new year. Tamu Losar indicates the beginning of Gurung calendar year. Tamu  Losar is observed on every 15 Poush of the Nepali calendar (in December/January). In Tamu Losar family members of all generations get together and exchange their love and greetings. In cities, Gurungs come together to celebrate Tamu Losar (Gurung’s New Year) at a commonplace and rejoice in various cultural processions, feasting, and greetings. In the old days in the villages, they gathered in courtyards to celebrate Losar. In Kathmandu, Losar is celebrated in Tundikhel ground at the city center vibrant with colorful stalls and people flooding inside on Poush 15 under Nepali Bikram Sambat Calendar. Push 15 marks the end of winter and the start of spring that also brings warmth and charm to Tamu Losar.

Maghe Sankranti
It is the first day of the month Magh of B.S. magh is the 10th month of the year. Sankranti is the Sanskrit word which refers to the transmigration of the sun from one Rashi ( sigh of the zodiac) to another. In the very simple word Sankranti is the first day of the Nepali calendar. Maghe Sankranti is the biggest festival of the Tharu community. they call it Maghi. Tharu mark this festival as the end of winter and the beginning of summer. Maghi reminds us of some delicious foods, Till ko laddu (Brown Sesame seed Fudge), Chakku (Molasys), Ghee (Clarified Butter), Tilauri. Spinach and Yam’s curry is cooked as Maghe Shankranti’s special food. A special type of Spinich called Patne Palungo specially grown in Nepal and yam (the yam is Tarual in Nepali) is regarded as very important and special food of Maghe Sankranti. People of the Newari community massage their body and head with Sesame oilIt is believed that massaging the body with Sesame oil and eating these food items i.e Ghiu Chaku, Til ko Laddoo, Spinich, and yam helps us become healthier and warmer during the cold weather.

Sonam Losar
Sonam Losar falls on different dates each year in Bikram Sambat and English calendar. Tamang has a tradition of counting year with an association of symbols of 12 different animals. It starts with Rat and ends on Boar. The last day of the 12th month of the year is a time to clean and prepare a welcoming atmosphere for the New Year. The monasteries perform a special ritual with mask dance to expel negative forces. The New Year celebration varies. People go to Monasteries, Stupas, and Chaityas and perform ceremonial rituals there. Musical programs are performed with Tamang Selo in the beat of Damphu. 

Maha Shivaratri
Shivaratri is celebrated as the birth-night of Lord Shiva. Shivaratri is the night of Falgun Krishna Chaturdasi under Hindu Lunar Calendar. The Lingodbhav Moorti of lord Shiva was self-immerged at midnight of Shivaratri. So, this night is celebrated as the Birth-night of lord Shiva. Lord Shiva is called Bholenath too. It is believed Shivaratri is observed as: The Lingodbhav Moorti self-immerged at midnight of this day. Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati got married. Lord Shiva took the Poison Halahal and became Nilkantha shaving the world from devastation. According to the Shiva Puran, six items are regarded as precious to worship and offer Lord Shiva in Maha Shivaratri. On this day Hindu people go to the temple to worship lord shiva.

Gyalpo Losar
Gyalpo Lhosar is the celebration of the Tibetan New Year. The Tibetan calendar is made up of twelve lunar months and Losar begins on the first day of the first month. This Losar is celebrated in Nepal mostly by Sherpa, Tamang, Bhutia, and Yolmo. Different communities and different places have their own way of celebration. Gyalpo Lhosar is celebrated for almost 2 weeks. The main celebrations take place during the first three days. On the first-day beverage called changkol is made from Chhaang (a Tibetan cousin of beer). The second day is called Gyalpo Lhosar. This is the main New Year Day. 
Third-day people get together and have feasts. Many traditional ceremonial dances representing the struggle between demon and god are performed in the Monasteries. Mantras are chanted and fire torches are passed among all the people in the crowd.  A traditional dance representing the battle between deer and King is performed. 

Ghode Jatra
Ghode Jatra, meaning Horse Parade is organized in Tudikhel in Kathmandu every year. Ghode Jatra is organized on the no-moon day of Chaitra Sukla Pakshya of Eastern Lunar calendar. This parade is organized and performed by Nepal Army and Police together. This occasion falls about mid-March or early April of English Calendar month.  A big horse parade takes place at Tundikhel. Newars of Kathmandu celebrate Ghode Jatra for several days.  Idol of Gods Lumadi, Bhadrakali, Kankeshwari and Bhairav are brought to Asan chok during the day time at the main celebration and at night in Tundikhel. This day these Gods meet together every year. Actually, Godhe Jatra Falls within the festival of Pahachare (inviting guests in Newari language) Nepal Army at Tundikhel organizes Horse race, cycle race, and other completions. Army and policemen perform acrobatic shows.  

Udauli Parva
Sakela is the biggest festival, Kirats of Nepal celebrate. Ubhauli and Udhauli are the two main festivals of Sakela. Ubhauli means upward and Udhauli is downward. According to the Holy book of Kirat  'Mundhum', a year of 365 days is divided into two phases Ubhauli (going up) and Udhauli (going down). The birds migrate from one place from others in these periods as well in the old days people used to move uphill and downhill during these seasons. Every year Ubhauli is celebrated on Baishak Sulka Purnima. It is on the same day as Buddha Purnima or Buddha Jayanti. 
Traditionally the Kirat people used to climb up to the mountains in summer to avoid the heat and malaria (epidemic) after performing the Ubhauli rituals. During these traditional rituals, they worship their ancestors and nature, seeking better wealth and crops. At the start of winter with similar rituals for Udhauli they used to move down the hill. The greatest events of this festival are the Sakela Ubhauli dance. A large mass of people of different ages wear traditional dresses and perform a dance together in the circle. Male leaders known as Silimangpa and female leaders called Silimangma to control the dance and others follow them.

As we know that Nepal is rich in its culture and traditions. We observe the varieties of festivals and occasions. Among them, Dashain is the biggest festival for Nepalese and especially for Hindus. Dashain is the longest and most celebrated festival in Nepal. Nepali celebrate it for about 15 days with the same zeal and enthusiasm. Dashain is the celebration of victory of good over evil. This festival symbolizes that good always prevail over bad. The first day of this festival starts at Ghatasthapana. The "Dashain Ghar", or special worship room, is set up, to start pooja of Durga Bhawani. This room is used to plant barley called Jamara in Nepali and to worship the Astha-Matrikas (the 8 Tantrik Goddesses) as well as the Nava Durgas (the 9 Goddess Durga) for remaining 9 days.

The main day is called ‘Dashami’ which is also known as ‘Vijaya Dashami’, the day when Goddess Durga got victory over demons. On this day the seniors put ‘Tika’ and ‘Jamara’ giving blessings to their younger ones. The special money given to the younger ones is received as ‘Dakchhina. Nepali people, wherever they live, they try to reach home to see their family in Dashain. Take blessings from their elders and enjoy being with family forgetting all the trouble and worries. That is why it is also called Dashahara, it simply means “take away ill fortune” (dasha=ill, fortune, hara=take away). People enjoy the varieties of food, playing cards, flying kites

Tihar is the most celebrated festival after Dashain in Nepal. This the most beautiful and dazzling festival.it also known as the festival of lights. It is a five-day festival celebrated in late autumn and usually falls in October. It has its unique ways of celebration. The 1st day of Tihar is Kaag Tihar (crow Tihar) crows are worshiped and fed early in the morning. People leave different food items outside for crows to eat. Crow is considered to be the messenger of death. People believe the crow gets the messages to the house in the morning. People worship it to bring good luck themselves. The second day of Tihar is dedicated to the most loyal friend of mankind. Kukur, the dog, Puja is done by putting a red tika on the dog’s forehead and flower garland around the neck offering him foods and Sel roti. Generally, male dogs are worshiped. It is said dogs can see endangers and death coming. 
On the third day of Tihar, Cows are worshipped in the morning. Cows are worshipped with sesame oil light, a garland of flower, and red color (abir). Wheat flour, Sel roti, rice, and dal are feed to cows On the third day of Tihar Cows are worshipped in the morning. Cows are worshipped with sesame oil light, the garland of flower, and red color (abir). Wheat flour, Sel roti, rice, and dal are feed to cows There is a long tradition of going housed in the evening singing songs to ask for money and foods. Generally, girls and kids go out to neighbors to sing traditional songs called Bhailo songs. The tradition is called “Bhailo” and songs are called Bhailini songs. On 3rd day Govardhan puja Goru Tihar, three different Kinds of puja are performed. We perform Goru Puja or worship Oxen. The fifth and last day of Tihar is Bhai Tika. This day sister put “Tika of five colors” Paanch Rangi Tika - Yellow, green, red, blue, and white on the forehead of her brothers, to ensure long life and pray to Yamraja for her brother’s long life and prosperity.

Mani Rimdu Festival in Everest 
Mani Rimdu Festival is the special and most important festival in Tengboche Monastery. Tengboche is the main trekking way of Everest Base Camp and Kalapathar. It is the festival of Buddhist Sherpa peoples. It held on the tenth Lunar month according to the Tibetan calendar. The festival held in the autumn season around October – November month, at the time of a large group of trekkers and climber arrive in the Everest region. It believes that the red pills are blessed repeatedly and then distribute to all attendances during the festival time. The religious festival is all about the ceremony of meditation continue for nineteen days. The festival is a tradition passed from the Rongbuk Monastery of Tibet. Rongbuk Monastery in Tibet near at Everest base camp of north part is the mother monastery of Tengboche. All the lamas from different monasteries gather here during the festival. They perform special mask dance in the name of different god and goddesses which believe to beat all the demons. They also formally remove all old prayer flags and put all new one.  

Hemanta Budhathoki

Hemanta Budhathoki

Hemanta Budhathoki is team leader of Nepal Highland Trekking and travel company. 

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