Shree Panchami (or Basanta Panchami)
Shree Panchami honors the goddess of knowledge and learning, Saraswati. Her birthday is celebrated on this day. Saraswati is the lily-white daughter of Shiva and Durga in spotless white robe and seated in a full-blown lotus.
Ceremonies associated with the instruments of art and learning, like books, pens and brushes, take place at home. Traditionally, in this particular day parents teach their child their first alphabet lesson. Student take an early morning bath, wear clean clothes, worship their books and visit temples dedicated to Saraswati, believing that this broadens up their knowledge horizon and that their studies will progress further fruitfully. This day also bears cultural and religious significance for Buddhists who prioritize this day for worshipping God Manjushree. Astrologically, Shree Panchami is an ideal day for couples to tie a marriage knot and also for new born babies’ name gibing sacrament called nwaran.
This day is also dedicated to the martyrs of Nepal and hence celebrated as Martyr's Day.
Shree Panchami is always celebrated in January or February, in 2011 it will be on 8th of February.
Shiva Ratri (also known as Maha Shiva Ratri)
On this day, which is one of the major festivals in Nepal, devotees in Bhaktapur honor Lord Shiva by making a pilgrimage to the Dattatraya temple and celebrate it with big bonfires. It is Lord Shiva’s birthday, who is considered to be the guardian and protector of everything that exists.
Shiva Ratri always falls on the Trayodashi of the month Fagun (February/March), this year on 02/03/2011
Holi Puni (also known as Fagu Poornima or color festival)
Holi celebrates the death of the demoness Holika. This wicked woman, who was supposed to be invulnerable to fire, tried many times to kill her nephew, an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu. In the end, she put the boy on her lap and set fire beneath them, thinking he would be burned up and she would escape. Instead, the boy remained unharmed and Holika, to her surprise, immolated herself.
This festival lasts a week, starting with the Chir Swayegu. The last day is the wildest, when especially young people wander through the streets and throw various colours (Fagu) and water balloons on others.
The ancient Hindu festival of Holi falls on late February or on early March; in 2011 it’ll be on March 19. If interested to take part in this festival, tourists should not wear their best clothes at this day…
Chaite Dasain used to be the original day of the grand Dasain festival (which takes place exactly six months later now in September or October), but because people got their stomachs upset after feasting on spicy food during the warm month ofChaitra, the grand celebration was shifted to the cooler season. But the religious fervor is still evident in the celebrations of the day, with animal sacrifices like goats and buffalos.
Chaite Dashain is always in March or April, this year on 11/04/2011.
Shree Ram Nawami
Ram Nawami is celebrated in the mid of Chaitra (March/April) as Lord Ram's Birthday. It is celebrated with much pomp at Janaki temple in Janakpur city, which lies in southern Nepal. 2011 it’ll be on 12th of April.
The Nepalese follow their own calendar system known as the Bikram Era or Bikram Samnat. The new is called Nawavarsha in Nepali language and is observed as an official holiday. The day usually falls in the second week of April. People go for picnics, have get-togethers and celebrate the day socializing in various ways. Musical programmes are organized at various places to mark the day.
In Bhaktapur, Bisket Jatra is celebrated with a special tradition: Every year, a drama that was passed on over centuries, is replayed. God Bhairav and Goddess Bhadrakali are placed in large chariots (locally known as Rathas) and pulled through crowds of cheering onlookers. When the chariot reaches a sloping open square, there is a tug-of-war between the inhabitants of the upper and lower parts of the town. The winners are considered to be blessed with good fortune for the coming year. Other gods and goddesses, too, are put on palanquins and carried around so that they may see the sights. They are offered blood sacrifices, flowers and coins. Men brimming with youthful vigor and rice beer drag these chariots across the brick-paved streets of the town, and wherever these Rathas stop, lamps are lit and devotees overflow into the surrounding alleys.
In 2011 Bisket Jatra can be observed on 14th of April.
This day symbolizes love and affection for one’s living mother or memory for one’s dead mother. For the living, it is a reminder to pray for their soul and to appreciate and be grateful for the mother’s unconditional love. It is the day of reunion for married daughters with their mothers. Sons and daughters come with presents and delicacies to offer to their mother
This is one of the widely celebrated festivals that falls on the first month, Baisakh (April/May). It is also called Mata Tirtha Aunsi as it falls on a new moon night. In 2011 it falls on the same day as Bisket Jatra, 14th of April.
This festival is a special occasion for both Hindus and Buddhists. They celebrate this day as the day of Buddha Siddartha’sbirth, enlightenment and death. His birthplace, Lumbini Grove, is in the Terai region of Nepal. Buddhists of all persuasions throughout the Valley, as well as pilgrims from abroad, honor the Buddha on this day, most particularly at the two great stupas and the largely Buddhist city of Patan. Activity at the main Buddhist stupas, especially Swayambbhunath and Boudhanath, begins at dawn.
This will be celebrated on 27th of May 2011.
Gathan Muga (also Ghanta Karna Chaturdasi or Ghanta Mangal)
At the time when local community used to rely heavily on agriculture for livelihood, they were superstitious about evil spirits spelling evilness onto their harvest. This festival celebrates the exorcism of the mythical demon Ghantakarna, where demons are erect at every tole’s street. Gatha Muga made of wheat straw are burnt outside of city.
This day is always celebrated around July or August, in 2011 it falls on 8th of August.
This day honors the nagas, snake gods, who in Nepal are associated with rain. Nepalese purchases nag portraits and attach these over their doorways. Then they perform a small puja and leave a food offering in the yards and paddies for the snakes.
Nag Panchami is always in July or August, this year it will be celebrated on 24th july 2012.
Janai Purnima and Rakshya Bandhan
On this day, high-caste Hindus chant the powerful Gayatri mantra and change their Sacred Threat (janai), while a raksya bandhan, a red or yellow protection cord, is tied around the wrists of other Hindus and Buddhists. Newars make a soup of sprouted beans known as kwati. On this day, there is a big Mela (fair) at Khumbeshwor, Lalitpur.
This festival is always celebrated at a full moon night in July or August, in 2011 this will be 2h of August.
The gai (cow) is holy to Hindus as she represents Laxmi, the goddess of wealth. It is believed that she guides the souls of the departed to the gates of Heaven. Gai Jatra is an occasion for satire, jokes and colourful processions.
On that day, Sapare, families who have lost a member during the year, parade a decorated cow around the city. The celebration in Bhaktapur is the most interesting. Tall bamboo contraptions, wrapped in cloth and topped with horns of straw, are carried around the city in memory of the dead. Some proceed along the festival route performing Ghentang Ghisi dance. Children dressed up as cows, and sadhus as well as other whimsical characters of all sorts fill the streets. Special issues of local magazines are circulated full of satire and jokes of reputed and famous people.
The festival of Gai Jatra (“The procession of cows”) which is one of the most popular festivals is generally celebrated in the Nepalese month of Bhadra (August-September), in 2012 it falls on 3rd of August.
Krishna Janmasthami (also Krishnastami)
This festival marks the celebration of the birth of Lord Sri Krishna. It is also known as Krishna Jayanti or Janmashtami. Lord Krishna is regarded as the 8th avatar or 'incarnation' of Lord Vishnu and is the hero of the Hindu epic Mahabharata. Devotees make pilgrimages to Krishna temples all over the country and receive blessings.
It falls on Saptami of Bhadra (August/September), in 2011 it is celebrated on the 1st of September.
Father’s Day (Gokarna Aunsi)
This is the most auspicious day to honor one's father for his guidance and teaching in life. It is the day when sons or daughters, near or far, come with presents like sweets, meat or other gifts to spend the day with their father. People who do not have a living father go to temples (especially Gokarna Mahadev in the north-east of Kathmandu) to pray, to perform rituals and to offer grains, vegetables or fruits.
Father’s Day is also known as Kuse Aunsi which falls on the dark fortnight of Bhadra, this is usually in August or in early September. 2011 it is on 8th of September.
Teej is the fasting festival for women. Through this religious fasting, Hindu women pray for marital bliss, wellbeing of their spouse and children and purification of their own body and soul. Unmarried women fast on this day to get good looking husbands. All dress up in beautiful red saris with shining glass beads (Pote), singing and dancing is a common sight during this festival as women recall Parbati’s devotion to her husband Lord Shiva. It is a loud and cheerful celebration until late at night, when strict fasting begins.
Teej always takes place on Tritiya of Bhadra (August/September), 2011 it will be on September 11.
The fields have been planted, the monsoon is ending, 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 valley farmers.
Both Hindus and Buddhists unite to celebrate the festival of Indra Jatra with great enthusiasm. This festival is one of the most colorful festivals in Nepal; it lasts for eight days with singing, mask dancing and jubilation. The chariot of Kumari, the Living Goddess, along with chariots of Bhairab and Ganesh are taken through the streets of Kathmandu with much fanfare.
This festival falls in the end of Bhadra (August/September). In 2011 it can be observed on 22nd of September.
During the month of Kartik in the Bikram Sambat calendar (late September and early October), the Nepalese people indulge in the biggest festival of the year, Dashain. Dashain is the longest and the most popular festival in the Nepalese annual calendar, celebrated by Nepalese of all caste and creed throughout the country. The fifteen days of celebration occurs during the bright lunar fortnight ending on the day of the full moon.
Skies of Kathmandu Valley are filled with kites. Big swings are set on the grounds for children and grown ups alike. Animals like buffalos, goats, ducks and chickens are sacrificed to the goddess Durga on Kal Ratri (The Dark Night) to celebrate her victory over evil. Following day, on Nawami, people clean their vehicles and sacrifice animals or eggs for safe journey throughout the year. The next day, on Dashami (Day of Tika), people dress up and visit elders to receive large red Tikas of vermilion paste on their foreheads. In the following days of Dashain, families and friends unite, feasts are consumed, blessings are imparted and gifts are exchanged.
This year the festival is celebrated from 8th to 17th of October. Ghatasthapana falls on October 8, Phulpati, Maha Ashtami, Maha Nawami and Bijaya Dashami are celebrated from October 14-17.
Tihar (also known as Dipawali Tihar)
Tihar is another big festival celebrated in Nepal; it is a three-day festival in honor of Laxmi, the goddess of wealth and good luck. It is the festival of Lights tinsel decorations and sweets. On different days, people worship cows, dogs and oxen with vermilion, garland and delicious food for their important role in society. On the night of Laxmi Puja, the first day of the festival, houses are cleaned and decorated with candles, oil lamps and other lights in the belief that Goddess Laxmi will enter the house that is bright and cleanest. Garlands are hung at the doors and windows and lamps are lit to invite Laxmi into homes, shops and workplaces. On the second day, Gobardan Puja or Mha Puja, Newars do a ritual of worshipping one’s own body and soul to remain healthy and happy for the rest of the year.
On Bhai Tika, the last day of the festival, sisters use to make offerings to their brothers for their longevity to safeguard the lives of his sisters. In return, brothers reward their sisters with valuable goods. The ritual of breaking a walnut, putting on garlands of Makhamali flowers and encircling brothers in rings of mustard oil are performed to protect them from Yama, Lord of the Death.
This festival heralds the month of Kartik (October/November) starting with Kukur Puja-Narak Chaturdashi.
In 2010 it is celebrated as following: Lami Puja on 05/11, Gobardan/Mha Puja on 06/11 and Bhai Tika on 07/11.
According to local legends, a citizen named Sankhadhar Sakhwa paid off all the debts of all people in Nepal. To commemorate this event, a new era was established called Nepal Sambat. Newar communities from all over the country mark the new year with different festivities and cultural programmes. The Nepal Sambat follows the lunar calendar. It consists of 354 days per year and an added one month every third year. This calendar came into being and into official use during the reign of King Raghabdev, immediately after the completion of Mandev Sambat 304 (881 AD). Nepal Sambat is a unique calendar in the whole world as all other calendars are named after some rulers or religious leaders whereas Nepal Sambat is the only calendar which is named after a country. Ghorka king Prithvi Narayan brought Shaka Sambat into official use after conquering Kathmandu in 1769 AD.
In 2010 it is celebrated on 7th of November.
Bihab Panchami (also known as Sita Vivaha Panchami)
This festival, commemorating the marriage of princess Sita to the hero Ram according to the epic Ramayana, is particularly celebrated in Janakpur. Each year in Janakpur, idols of Ram and Sita are brought out in bright processions and their Hindu wedding ceremony is enacted.
This year it can be observed on 10th of December.
Each and every full moon day is a special occasion in festival-rich Nepal, and so is the one in November. Just like all other full or new moon days, the full moon day in this month is dedicated to a cause that communities do share and celebrate. The full moon day (Punhi) in November is named after Saki. Saki in Nepalbhasa (Newari) is a root of a particular kind of Arum lily (Calladium arumacieae), which is boiled (maa or manaa) and eaten, hence the name Saki-maa or Saki-manaa Punhi, or the full moon day dedicated to boiled, ready-to-eat Saki. Complying with the centuries-old tradition, Saki, together with sweet potato (Chaku-hi), becomes a part of the special menu marking the special day. Besides, grains of different cereals also add to the celebration. Go around Bhaktapur after dusk, and you will see the specious foreground of temples in each and every neighborhood adorned with images of deities and/or religious symbols with a variety of ready-to-eat grains of cereals and boiled Saki and Chaku-hi.
Halimuli of Bhailakha (Chariot)
The harvesting season has just passed by, and it is of course the time to pay gratitude to deities for their generosity. Each and every life or object under the sun germinated on Earth (soil), and the human history shows that it is the soil where the earliest human civilization sprouted thousands of years ago. And, of course, certain edible underground roots were the very first foodstuff that the earliest ‘human’ beings had tasted and survived on. So, it is also the time for people to remember their ‘roots’, and the best way to do this is to to assimilate roots in their life.
People on this day worship and pay homage to their patron deities, eulogize them by chanting religious hymns in nearby phalchas, and distribute and consume the special food items (Saki, Chaku-hi and cereals) as blessings from the divinities. The festivity comes to a happy end, leaving a message to all individuals of the community not to forget their ‘roots’ and always remain grateful to those who have done good to you and the society that you are living in.
At this festival, the people of the Kathmandu Valley offer worship to Annapurna, the goddess of grains, for the rice harvest by offering Yomari (“tasty bread”). These are like cookies made of rice-flour dough (from the new harvest) shaped like fig and filled with brown cane sugar and steamed sesame seeds. This popular festival always takes place on a full moon day in December, which is 21st of December 2010.
Abiding the lunar calendar, Tamang, Magar, Gurung and other Himalayan communities of Nepal celebrate Tamu Lhosar as their New Year during the moth of December. Monasteries are attractively adorned with colorful decorative items. People take blessings from monks for their progress, prosperity and happiness. Each home raises a flag on top of its roof. A party is organized at home and invitations are forwarded to relatives and friends. Delicious food, music and dance become the essence of party. Greetings and gifts are exchanged.
This falls on 30th of December in 2010.