Given the country’s teeny tiny size, you would be surprised to know that more than 100 ethnic groups with their own distinct language reside in Nepal. These groups have their own set of tradition, culture, heritage and lifestyle. In fact, this very diversity that seamlessly blends is what makes this country so amazing. Big or small, a chariot procession or at least a puja takes place every single day. And like they say, the best way to get under a new place’s skin is during a festival, same is the case in Nepal. The energy and happiness that you will witness during the festivals is simply contagious. Here we have listed five best festivals in Nepal to plan your trip around for a fantastic experience.
Since lord Shiva, the God of Destruction, is revered as the holiest of Gods, Maha Shivaratri is the most important Hindu festival in Nepal. The festival literally translates to the Night of Shiva and is celebrated in March. It is believed that on this day, the stars in the Northern Hemisphere are at the most optimum position to raise an individual’s spiritual energy. It is also revered as the day that Shiva performs the Tandav, the cosmic dance. All Shiva temples in Nepal are swamped with devotees offering prayers. The Pashupati Nath Temple in Kathmandu sees hundreds of thousands of devotees alone.
One interesting fact is that the use of recreational marijuana is unofficially free on this day. The temples are filled with the smoke of it and you will see a lot of young guys high on it.
Holi, also known as Fagu Purnima, is one such festival in Nepal where you can not only witness it but become a part of it from start to end. It falls on a full moon day between February and May. According to the myth, this Festival of Colors is celebrated to mark the death of a demoness called Holika. The festival begins with the raising of the Chir Pole at noon in front of the Kumari House in Kathmandu Durbar Square. The main highlight of the Holi is people dousing each other with fistful of colors and splashes of water.
The festival is also known for another noble reason. It is believed to be the day to let bygones be bygones and mend strained relationship with anyone.
Tiji is a very interesting three-day-long festival in the famous Mustang region of Nepal. It normally falls in the month of May. The festival consists of several ancient Tibetan rituals that celebrate the legend of a son who saved the kingdom of Mustang. Today, the festival has evolved to become the “Prayer for World Peace”. The main highlight of the festival is the vibrant and energetic dance performed by the monks of Choedhe monastery in Lo Manthang. The dance enacts several old myths and stories relating to Buddha.
The eight-day long festival falls in September and is one of the most exciting and interesting festivals in the Kathmandu Valley. Although originally celebrated only by the native inhabitants of Kathmandu, the Newars, the festival now receives nationwide recognition and enthusiasm due to its grandeur. The festival celebrates and worships Lord Indra, the King God and God of Harvest. Some of the main highlights of the festival is the erection of a tall wooden pine pole at Basantapur Durbar Square; and chariot procession of Kumari, the Living Goddess alongside chariots of Lord Ganesh and Lord Kumar.
Masked dancers revered as Lakhey and a man dressed as a mythical elephant called Pulukishi take to the streets almost every evening and dance to traditional music.
Tihar, also known as the Festivals of Light, falls in October-November depending on the Lunar calendar. This five-day-long festival, that comes right after Dashain, honors the God of Death, Yama. The goddess of wealth, Laxmi, is also worshipped alongside a host of birds and animals. On the first day known as Kaag Puja, crows are worshipped as they are believed to be the informant of Yama. Dogs are worshipped on second day called Kukur Tihar as they are believed to be the agents of Yama. On the third day of Laxmi Puja, cows are worshipped as the goddess Laxmi, and on fourth day of Bhai Tika, the offerings for brother’s long life is made by sisters.
During the duration of festival, homes and streets are cleaned vigorously to please Laxmi. Also, the city is painted bright with extravagant lights. It is truly a beautiful sight to behold.