Nepal has been a cultural, spiritual, and religious hub of eastern civilization for millenniums. One of the main focal points of Hinduism, it is also the place of origination of Buddhism. Today, the country is secular and gives utmost respect and recognition to over a dozen religions, celebrating the origin, heritage, and teaching of every religion with great pride. Thus, the country rejoices unique festivals throughout the year, with most of these festival traditions dating back to medieval times. Like they say, the best way to get under a place’s skin is to celebrate its festivals, here we have listed down four most popular and iconic Nepalese festivals in Nepal to experience.
Dashain and Tihar
Undoubtedly, the biggest Nepalese festivals, Dashain and Tihar are celebrated by people of all caste and creed across Nepal. These month-long celebrations generally fall in October-November, with everything from administration to business on halt for a few days to mark the celebrations. Dashain celebrates the victory of Goddess Durga over demon called Mahisashur, whereas, Tihar, the festival of lights, is dedicated to Goddess Laxmi. If you plan your trip around Dashain and Tihar, you will be able to witness the true splendor of Nepalese culture and experience the world-famous hospitality of Nepalese people who will be more than happy to include you in their celebrations.
The eight-day long Indra Jatra festival falls in the month of September and is one of the most amazing and revered festivals of the Natives of Kathmandu Valley, the Newars. Beginning with the erection of a pine wooden pole at Basantapur Durbar Square, the festival sees thousands of spectators gathered in Kathmandu Durbar Square area to witness the ferocious Lakhe Dance, dances of masked gods and goddesses, and chariot procession of Kumari, Nepal’s Living Goddess. The sight of majestic palaces and ancient shrines aglow with the light of oil wicks during Indra Jatra makes the festival time even more beautiful and memorable.
Fagu Purnima, popularly known as Holi, is a Hindu festival celebrated on the full-moon day at the end of month of Falgun, falling between mid-February to mid-May. Celebrated according to the myth of death of demon called Holika, this colorful festival masks the arrival of spring. On the day of Holi, people of all caste, creed, and color come together, letting bygones be bygones, and dousing each other with water and colors of rainbow. Watching the city get painted in vibrant colours, as well as smiley faces saturated in vermillion powders of different shades, and of course, being a part of it will be one of the most enjoyable festivals you’ll celebrate in this lifetime.
In the month of August, the Kathmandu Valley celebrates “Gai Jatra” a popular Nepalese festival with great enthusiasm. Gai Jatra is celebrated to clear the route to heaven for a family member that passed away that year. On this day, a decorated cow or a child dressed as a cow is taken in procession to the ancient towns of Kathmandu. It is believed that the holy cow will help the deceased on their path to freedom into heaven. Over centuries, the festival syncretized into a day to dress up in a comical way, ridicule problems in society and mock political figures. It is also a day to parade for the LGBTQ community, who are normally still ridiculed in the society.