Festivals in Nepal
Dashain is the longest and the most important festival of Nepal. Generally Dashain falls in late September to mid October, right after the mansoon season in Nepal. Dashain gets many different nick names as Dasara, Bada Dashain, Vijaya Dashain, Durga Puja, all of which mean the same thing, Dashain, a day of Victory over Demons.
According to the legend, the bloodthirsty Goddess, Durga conquered evils on the Dashain day. Huge amount of animal sacrifices take place during the festival in temples and in home to please the Goddess Durga. Some people may take such animal sacrifices negatively but they might forget how they came by their meat on their plate! There are lots of western countires consuming mass amount of meat, animals are sluttered in factories by the hundreds and thousands. The final day of the festival is known as `Tika', a day on which the elder ones give `Tika' to the younger ones and to other relatives who come for their blessings.
DAYS of DASHAIN
1st Dashain Day (Pot Day) :
In the evening or at the time announced by Astrologers, a clay pot is filled with a mixture of sand and soil and Barley seeds are sown after performing Puja (Worshiping God). The pot is kept isolated from sun-light and a Puja is performed on it every evening till the last day of Dashain. On the last day, the yellow leaves (seedlings) are collected from the pot and are placed at the back of ear or hooked in hairs after Tika (a colored rice or color powder placed in one's forehead as a blessing from God). The tiny yellow leaves are called Jamara in Nepali. The first nine days of Dashain are called NavaRatri. Nava means nine and Ratri means Night. Some also call Dashain as NavaRatri. So Ghatas Thapana is the first day in Dashain that trigers the begining of the festival, it is this day which tells us that Dashain has just begun!
7th Dashain Day:
This day is known as Fulpati. On this day, Jamara (tiny yellow sprouts of crops such as barley) for Royal families carried from their ancestral Royal Gorkha palace arrives at Rani Pokhari Kathmandu and in the evening they are taken to Royal Palace along with a huge parade. For more on how Jamaras are made see the 1st day of Dashain above
8th Dashain Day :
Maha (Big) Asthami (Eight). Here is a Big Eight Day of Dashain full of sacrifices of blood to Durga and Kali Goddess. The night of this day is called Kal Ratri, the night is dark and the blood thirsty Kali Goddess along with Durga receive huge sacrifices in Kathmandu and in many parts of Nepal. In the capital, the most bloody animal sacrifices in this dark night takes place at the Basantapur Hanuman Dhoka
9th Dashain Day :
This is the Nawami (Ninth) day, a day before the real dashain. The ninth day is called 'Nawami'. The Taleju temple at Hanuman Dhoka is opened for the public only once a year on this day. Thousands of people go and pay their respect to the goddess day. Temples of mother goddess are filled with people from dawn till dusk. On this day the official military sacrifices are held in the 'Kot' courtyard at Hanuman Dhoka. The government allows foreigners to witness this function so hundreds of tourists and diplomats eagerly gather here. Animals mostly black buffaloes are slaughtered by hundreds to honor Durga the goddess of victory and might and to seek her blessing. Military bands play war tunes, guns boom and officers with beautifully decorated medals in full uniform stand there. When the function ends the courtyard is filled ankle deep with blood. On this very day the god Vishwas Karma, the God of creativity is also worshiped. All factories, vehicles, any machinery instruments and anything from which we make a living are worshiped. We also give sacrifices to all moving machinery like cars, airplanes, trucks etc. to get the blessing from goddess Durga for protection for vehicles and their occupants against accidents during the year. The entire day is colorful.
10th Dashain Day - Vijaya Dashain:
The tenth day is the 'Dashami'. On this day we take tika and jamara from our elders and receive their blessing. We visit our elders in their home and get tika from them while our younger ones come to our home to receive blessing from us. The importance of Dasain also lies in the fact that on this day family members from far off and distant relatives come for a visit as well as to receive tika from the head of the family. This function continues for four days. His Majesty also receives tika from the royal priests and then gives on tika to his loyal subjects. Thousands of loyal Nepalese people as well as foreigners also receive tika from His Majesty the King as this is said to be auspicious. After four days of rushing around and meeting your relatives Dashain ends on the full moon day, the fifteenth day. In the last day people stay at home and rest. The full moon day is also called 'Kojagrata' meaning 'who is awake'. The Hindu goddess of wealth Laxmi is worshiped. On this day the goddess Laxmi is given an invitation to visit each and everyone. After Dashain the nation settles back to normal. After receiving the blessing of goddess Durga, people are ready to work and acquire virtue, power and wealth. Dashain thus is not only the longest festival but also the most anticipated one among all the festivals of Nepal.
About Tihar :
The Nepali festival Tihar is also known by many names such as Dipawali or Bhai Tika or Laxmi Puja or as a festival of lights. It is a five-days festival, which comes soon after the Dashain Festival, and Tihar is all about worshiping of different animals such as crow, dog, cow, and worshiping of the Hindu Goddess of Fortune or Wealth (Goddess Laxmi), and cooking great meals at home, brothers and sisters shopping for gifts, flying kites, decorating homes and streets, playing cards with friends, resting and relaxing, and finally ending the festival with an exchange of a special temporary mark on forehead (tika in Nepali). The last day of the festival is known as Tika day or popularly known as Bhai Tika day (Bhai in Nepali means Brother). To sum up Tihar festival, Tihar is the festival when sisters wish a long life to their brothers (Bhai)!
Tihar is a festival for brothers and sisters, but What if you are a brother without a sister or a sister without a brother. Well, you can make one by accepting someone close to you in your relatives. If nothing works, you find one among your friends and neighbors, it becomes almost as if it was real. Whom ever you made your sister or brother remains so for life, and each year this festival makes your bond ber. Tihar is a festival of sisters wishing a long life to their brothers, and Tihar is the most popular festival in Nepal. So hold on to your topi (hat), loads of excitement and fun are coming at you now!
Tihar and Crows (1st Tihar Day)
Here comes Tihar to teach you a lesson! Early in the morning of the first day of Tihar, family prepares a good meal. Each member of the family takes the first portion of the meal outside on a platter. The crows come down in large numbers and partake of the feast, they will call others before beginning to eat : Share, Share what you have with all! Crows (Kag in Nepali) are considered as the messenger of the Lord of Death, Yama. There is a popular Nepali superstition of crows too: When the crows caw, sadness is coming.) On this day crows are worshiped and are kept happy. Where there are no crows, any winged animal of the heavens (bird) will enjoy the feast. So Tihar is also about appreciating animals around us.
Tihar and Dogs (2nd Tihar Day)
On the second day of Tihar, Kukur (Dogs) are adorned with flower garland around their necks, red tika on their forehead, and are offered great meals, they are the king of the day! On this day, people pray to the Kukur to guard their homes. Call someone "Kukur", he/she will bash you instantly! There are lots of Kukur running around in search of a loving home. You can find them on streets and in your backyards, but on this day, even the most unsightly Kukkur will be treated like a king, everyone has a day. Tihar is also about breaking the boundaries only men created, "The Good", "The Bad", "The Ugly", and all but same to the mother nature! In Hinduism it is believed that Kukur guard's the underworld empire just like it guards our everyday homes!. Tihar is about loving Kukurs too!
Tihar and Cows (3rd Tihar Day)
The 3rd day of Tihar is about worshiping the mother of the universe - cow. According to Hinduism, the human infant is fed breast milk by its human mother for under three years. After weaning, the cow acts as the surrogate mother providing milk for the rest of the human life - through childhood, adult age and old age. Cows are the mothers of the universe, the sacred animal. The cow puja is performed by giving a tika to a cow on her forehead, and a flower garland (Flower Leis) on the neck, and offering good meals. Those performing Cow puja place her manure in different parts of the home, drink a drop or two of the cow's urine, as a part of a purification process. Also dip a blade of grass into the urine and lightly sprinkle it on each other's body to become closer to the mother of the universe - cow.
Tihar and Laxmi Puja (3rd Tihar Day)
One of the most important day of the festival is Laxmi Puja on which day the Goddess of wealth (Laxmi) is worshiped in every household in the entire Nepali Kingdom by means of Puja, decoration, candle lights, and oil lamps. In this 3rd day of the Tihar Festival, the entire nation becomes an illumination of lights. Pictures and icons of Laxmi Devi (Goddess) are placed and worshiped in a Puja room (or a place in a living room or a dedicated room for worshiping Gods) Puja is performed using flowers, incense, oil lamps, color-powders, bell and money (both notes and coins). Laxmi puja is performed at dusk using red mud, and puja is often done by a female in the family. She uses her hand covered with red mud to make a symbolic foot-print on the floor entering the home and makes a trail leading to the Puja room.
Laxmi puja is not only for households but is equally done by Companies. Business-Laxmi-Puja is done exactly the same way as is done in home. Usually company's cashier performs the puja during which time the entire office including office compounds are lit with various lights including electrical, candle lights, and oil lamps and usually staffs are invited to participate in the puja procession.
"Tihar and Songs : Bhailini Songs (3rd Day) :
The eve of Laxmi Puja Day is made spectacular not only by lights but also by echos of a special song known as Bhailo or Bhailini that's played only on this day in the entire year! A group of girls get together and sing Bhailo door to door, giving blessings to the family in return for money or homemade treats.
Tihar and Songs : Deusi Songs (4th Day)
Male members sing what is called Deusi or Deusuray in Nepali. You can write just about any Deusi song as long as each line ends with the word `Deusi' or `Deosuray'. A group of males get together, carry what-ever musical instruments they have or can play, and sing Deusi door to door blessing the home and family in return for money and/or refreshments. Teenagers perform various Deosi songs to collect money for their picnic! Some may play Deusi to collect money to build a new trail in a far away village in Nepal! During the Tihar festival the only kind of songs you are most likely to hear from local Radio stations are nothing but Tihar Songs, Bhailo, Deusi and folk songs about sisters or brothers unable to see each other during the festival due to various reasons. A poor sister, now a daughter-in-law may not get even a day's break to visit her brother on this special day, and she might sing a song to make your tears flow!
Tihar and Myself! (4th Day) -
The fourth day of the Tihar is also about worshiping yourself. This puja (worshiping) is known as as Mahapuja. This is also the first day of the special annual calendar of an ethnic group known as Newar residing in Nepal. The coming of a new year is also celebrated in Tihar. Also a popular ritual of the day is the Govardhan puja or Goru Tihar (Oxen Worshiping). Oxen are worshiped on this day as they till lands and help grow crops to sustain life.
Tihar and Tika (5th and Final Tihar Day / Bhai Tika Day) :
On the final day also known as Bhai Tika Day, sisters give tika (a colored powder placed on once's forehead), and mala (a necklace of flowers or also known as as flower leis, similar to that's used elsewhere like in Hawaii!) to brothers along with wishes for long life and prosperity.
To sisters, Tihar is also the time to re-call their continued wish for a long and a happy life for their brothers. Brothers sit on a floor while sisters perform their puja. Puja involves following a traditional ritual in which sisters circle brothers three times dripping oil on the floor from a copper pitcher. Afterwards, sisters put oil in brother's ears and hairs, then give Tika. Also breaking of walnuts by sisters prior to giving Tika to brothers is also a common practice. Tika starts with placing a banana leave already cut into a line shape placed on brothers forehead held by one of the sisters hand, then applying tika base (made from rice paste) in the open space. Then sister dabs seven colors on top of the base using her fingers. Some may give tika with the help of a small stick or a brush without the using banana leaves. In this case, small stick is dipped into the tika base, then brushed vertically on the forehead, then using a different stick, the seven colors are applied on top of the base. After tika, flower garland is put around brother's neck. Then brothers give tika to sisters in the same fashion. Sisters also receive flower garland around their neck. Brothers give gifts such as clothes or money to sisters while sisters give a special gift known as Sagun (which is made of dried fruits and nuts, and candies), and a fantastic Tihar feast takes place. Those without a sister or brother, join relatives or friends for tika. Sisters pray for their brother's long life to the Hindu God of Death (Yam Raj).
January Sweta Machhendranath Snan
The Sweta (white) Machhendranath has a week long festival in which he is bathed, oiled and painted. The goddess Kumari visits him at this elaborate temple near Asan Tol. This god is pleased by music, offerings and attentions to hope for a rainfall in the planting season.
January Maghe Sankranti
This festival is celebrated to worship the god Vishnu who is thanked for his efforts in making the days longer and warmer from the Magh month of the Nepali Calendar. Devotees take bath in holy rivers, eat pulaow (rice cooked with lentils, dried fruits and peas). This festival is observed on the first day of Magh Month.
January Basanta Panchami and Saraswati Puja
The Goddess of education, Saraswati is worshiped through the country. Students join with teachers others for puja in their school, others visit the temples and religious sites.
January - February Swasthani
The goddess Swasthani regarded as the ultimate gift grantor is worshiped on this festival. According to the legend, Parbati got Lord Shiva as her husband only after worshiping Swasthani. In every home
February Maha Shivaratri
The Pashupati temple, in other words, the Lord Shiva's temple is remains packed with devotees for 2 to 3 days before the festival. On the day, one will find almost impossible to visit the Pashupati temple which remains jammed literally! The day is observed by visiting Pashupati temple, drinking and dancing. Sadhus - the replica of Lord Shiva enjoy the day by smoking cigars and sweets.
The festival of Sherpas and Tibetan who welcome the near year by celebrating this festival in which one can see feats, family visits, songs and dance in monasteries and colorful prayer flags decorating streets and rooftops.
March Fagu Purnima or Holi
Call it ugly or awesome, this is the festival of colors. If you are new to this festival, you will like it more!! Hide your clothes when walking on the streets! what? The festival is of just a single day but the fever starts 7 days ahead. Its all about splashing others with water and color. Color powder is often mixed with water and is filled in balloons which are then thrown at anyone for a good splash. Youth enjoy the final day of the festival as portraying one's chests and face fully covered or painted with different colors.
April Chaitra Dashian
Celebrated to observe the Lord Ram's victory over Rawan. Devotees visit the RAM and Durga temples to perform puja.
April Ghode Jatra A great jatra
(gatherings) takes place to please the demon who is believed to be buried under the soil of Tundikhel. The jatra is purely an stunt of show-jumping, motor cycling, horse riding, gymnastics and sky diving all performed by the Nepalese Army.
April Biskat Jatra
Communities at Bhaktapur and its surroundings replay a drama passed on generations to another. The drama is about sacrifices and pleasing goods.
May Rato Machhendranath Jatra
Rato (Red) Macchindranath is a rain god. In ancient times, the Kathmandu valley was a land of agriculture. This festival of gatherings (jatra) is dedicated to the God for hope for rains during the monsoon season.
May Buddha Jayanti
Lumbini, a piece of land is truly a gifted land by nature. It is where the lord Buddha was born. On a full moon day, the may 6th, the Lord's birth, enlightenment and salvation are celebrated through the Nepal. Swayambhu and Boudhanath Stupas receive huge visitors during this festival. Stupas are Buddhist monuments traditionally containing relic(s) of the Lord Buddha
July - August Gunla
The time when monsoon has arrived and the rice have been planted, it is time for Buddhist to observe this festival. This is an ancient festival initiated 25 century ago by the Buddha. During this one month festival, prayers, fasting and medications and religious music takes its turn.
August Janai Purnima and Raksha Bandhan
Its a time for Hindu and Buddhist to change a sacred thread (Janai) which is tied on the neck sliding from the right to left hands, and it is also the time to tie Raksha, a red or yellow thread (believed to have the power to protect) around wrists.
August Gai Jatra
To most Nepalese, it is like April fools day. This festive season is also a time to remember your lost ones and also to ease the pain. The word Gai means cow in English. Cow is the goddess of wealth and is regarded as the souls of the departed to the gates of the netherworld. Sharing of sorrow and to taking the comfort in knowing that their lost ones are safe is the true reason of celebrating this festival.
Satire, jokes and cartoons are published on newspapers and magazines. These such jokes are mostly describing the political situation of the country for the last year. Press and media feel like writing just about anything on this day, for its a jokes day!
A festival purely for women to perform puja, workshop lord Shiva, and go into fasting for a day to ask for husband's long time and b bond of love. Women wear red saris, sing and dance in Pashupati temple or anywhere in the junctions. The blessings of Shiva and the Lord's wife, Goddess Parbati ensure that family life strengthens and is joyous.
September Indra Jatra
Right after the monsoon, this festival is celebrated to thank the gods for giving enough rains to the Kathmandu valley. A great celebration and jatra takes place in the Kathmandu durbar square.
October-November Mani Rimdu
It is a a five days festival celebrated by the Sherpa in the Everest region. The celebration consists songs, masked dances and prayers. The gathering is for "the good of the world". Trips to the Everest during this festive season are very rewarding.
December Bibah Panchami
This is the festival that observes the marriage of Lord Ram and Sita. Festival lasts for up to 7 days, during which enactment of the marriage ceremony of Ram and Sita are performed in stage in villages, towns and city areas. Ram, the hero and Sita are the heroine of Ramayan, the most popular Hindu epic ever.