Nepal is home to a wide range of religious and ethnic groups, as well as a variety of cultural festivals held throughout the year. Regardless of cultural differences or religious or conventional values, people come together to celebrate these festivals with zeal and enthusiasm.
In Nepal, there are many festivals, but only a few are considered more significant. So, here are some of the most popular festivals in Nepal.
1. Buddha Jayanti
The birth of the Lord Buddha is commemorated on Buddha Jayanti, which falls on the night of the full moon in the first month of the Nepali calendar. It falls on May 26 this year. Around 543 BC, Buddhist devotees began to commemorate the auspicious day, and every year since then, Buddhist pilgrims have flocked to Lumbini to pay their respects to Buddha’s life and teachings.
People, especially women, visit viharas to observe Buddhist sutras while dressed in all-white and abstaining from eating non-vegetarian food. Devotees eat kheer (sweet rice porridge), recite Buddha tales, and donate.
2. Ashar 15
The monsoon is a festival for farmers in a country where agriculture still supports a large portion of the population. For centuries, the 15th day of the month of Asar (or Aashadh), known as Asar 15, has been observed as an agricultural festival. The custom was endorsed by the government a few years ago, and it was decided to celebrate it as Ropain Diwas or Dhan Diwas (National Rice Plantation Day or National Paddy Day).
This is purely a farming festival that takes place every year. It will be on June 29, 2021.
Ropain Diwas has a close connection with people in almost every part of the world, and it has a significant effect on their cultural and economic lives. Non-family members of the community also meet to enjoy the popular delicacy of dahi-chiura (yoghurt and beaten rice).
3. Saaune Sankranti
This is the first day of the Nepali calendar’s fourth month, which begins on July 16, 2021. In rural Nepal, this festival is significant because people follow a special Luto Phalne tradition.
The entire family gathers outside the house in the yard, where they light small pieces of firewood and throw them on all sides, hoping to avoid catching luto (scabies) during the year.
However, in urban Nepal, the practice of tossing out a lit fire to wish for good health is not as common as it once was in villages. The culture is increasingly fading out as the village’s young people move to cities or abroad.
4. Raksha Bandhan/Janai Purnima
Janai Purnima is a major Hindu festival celebrated by Nepal’s Brahmin and Chhetri communities. Men wear a sacred thread known as janai on the full moon day of the fourth month of the Nepali calendar (August/September), while both men and women wear a sacred wristband known as raksha bandhan. (Raksha Bandhan is another name for the festival.)
People go to various holy sites on this day. For outsiders, the Gosainkunda trek is the most interesting.
This year’s festival will take place on August 22.
5. Gai Jatra
Gai Jatra is a traditional festival that takes place one day after Janai Purnima in August/September. It is one of the most important festivals in the Kathmandu valley’s Newa community; however, the festival is held all over the world.
On this day, people dress up as cows in formal clothes and walk around the city dressed as cows with pictures of their loved ones.
The festival is a memorial to families who have lost loved ones over the course of the year. They share their grief, but they still take solace in the knowledge that their loved ones are safe in the afterlife.
Cross-dressing is also popular, and the LGBTQIA+ community often parades in the area.
This year’s festival will take place on August 23.
6. Krishnaashtami/Janmaashtami/Krishna Janmaashthami/Krishna Janmaashthami/Krishna Janmaashthami/Krishna Janm
Lord Krishna was said to have been born on the eighth day of the waning moon in August, according to legend. The god is revered in Hinduism and plays an important role in the Bhagwad Geeta as Arjuna’s tutor. This year’s commemoration will take place on August 30.
Devotees flock to Patan’s Krishna Mandir to celebrate the festival on this day. Men and women come to this temple to sit in vigil and await the arrival of midnight. As a symbol of gratitude and obedience to the Lord, they light butter/oil lamps. Lord Krishna’s images are often carried in procession across the city by some religious sects, who are accompanied by jubilant crowds and musical bands.
Teej is a major religious festival in Nepal that is mostly observed by Nepali Hindu women. It is a fasting festival during which women pray for marital happiness, the wellbeing of their spouses and children, as well as the purification of their own bodies and souls. This festival takes place in August/September each year; this year’s date is September 9.
During this festival, women gather to listen to music and dance with their friends and families. They also exchange gifts like tika, bracelets, and other trinkets. They also gather on the eve to eat dar, a special type of dish eaten by women to prepare for the fast.
8. Indra Jatra
Indra Jatra is Nepal’s largest religious street festival, held in Kathmandu. This eight-day festival is known as Yen Ya and is mainly observed by the Newa groups (festival of Kathmandu). Indra, the Hindu god of rain and heaven, is honored during the festival.
Indra Jatra, on the other hand, is a festival that is celebrated by both Hindu and Buddhist devotees. Basantapur, or Kathmandu Durbar Square, is the focal point of the celebrations.
Kumari Jatra is a festival in which the living gods Ganesh and Bhairav, as well as goddess Kumari, are dragged around the city in chariots. Kumari steps out of Kumari Ghar, her residence in the square, on this day. The chariots are taken from Basantapur to various parts of the city so that people can see the festival. This year it begins on September 19th.
Dashain is Nepal’s most popular and largest Hindu festival. The festival honors Goddess Durga’s nine manifestations and the triumph of good over evil. Dashain is a ten-day festival that begins on October 7 this year.
Bijaya/Vijaya Dashami or Bada Dashain are other names for this festival. The festival commemorates Lord Ram’s victory over Ravana.
It’s also the season for people to get together with friends and family for a meal. People put on new clothes and embrace tika on their foreheads as well as jamara from their elders’ hands.
Tihar, also known as the Festival of Lights and Colors, is Nepal’s second most famous festival. This year it begins on November 3rd.
Tihar is a Hindu festival in which many Hindu gods and goddesses are honored, including Laxmi, Yamaraj, and Yamuna.
It is observed for a total of five days. The first day is dedicated to crows (the messengers of the death god Yamaraj), and the second day is dedicated to dogs (for their loyalty and protection). The Goddess Laxmi, as well as the bond between brothers and sisters, are honored during the festival (Bhaitika). On the fourth day, the Newa community also celebrates Mha Puja and their new year.
11. Chhath Parva
Thousands of pilgrims flock to the holy town of Janakpur to commemorate this day of worshiping the sun god. People travel to this part of Nepal in order to visit the Janaki temple and take ceremonial baths in the rivers and ponds. This year’s date is November 10th.
On the night before Chhath Parva, devotees light candles, sing songs, and sleep on the banks of rivers and ponds. They ask the sun to protect them from skin diseases.
People prepare a special dish called thekuwa on this day.
12. Maghe Sankranti
Maghe Sankranti is observed on the first day of Magh (the next one is January 15, 2022). In Nepal, it marks the beginning of the auspicious month of Magh. The festival is intended to mark the end of the winter season and the beginning of spring. People hope for better health and fortune on this day.
This festival is commemorated by Hindus taking a ritual dip in holy river confluences, such as the one in Devghat, Chitwan. Families gather during the day to share meals such as sesame seed laddus, molasses, ghee, sweet potatoes, and yam. Devotees worship Lord Vishnu by performing pujas and reading the holy Bhagwad Gita in the month of Magh.
In February/March, Mahashivaratri, a Hindu festival dedicated to Lord Shiva, takes place. On March 1, 2022, the Mahashivarati festival will be held again.
Thousands of pilgrims visit Kathmandu and flock to the Pashupatinath temple for a massive festival. On the eve, they arrive at the holy site and recite holy scriptures. Those who are unable to travel to Kathmandu can visit Shiva temples located throughout the country.
In the Hindu culture, it is extremely important.
14. Holi/Pagu Purnima
Phagu Purnima is a Hindu festival celebrated during the spring season, from February to May, on the full moon day in the month of Phalgun. The next festival will be held on March 17, 2022.
It is arguably one of Nepal’s most well-known festivals among international visitors, as it is full of vivid colors, friendship, and love. People gather and paint each other as a show of appreciation. Holi is celebrated for two days throughout Nepal, with people in Nepal’s Terai area celebrating the day after Kathmanduites.
15. Chaite Dashain
Chaite Dashain falls in the final month of the Nepali calendar, Chaitra. On Chaite Dashain day, Goddess Durga is worshipped, and animal sacrifices are performed in some temples, especially those dedicated to Durga Bhawani.
This festival is celebrated all over Nepal, and people enjoy spending time with their families and friends, eating nutritious food, and inviting their friends and loved ones to the feast.
The next day, Ram Nawami is observed, with people fasting and visiting Lord Ram’s temples. Chaite Dashain will be held on April 9, 2022, and Ram Nawami will be held on April 10.