Festivals, Cultures, and Customs are intricately intertwined aspects of religion that are particularly manifested in the form of enjoyment. The way how people celebrate those festivals vary from one region to the next. Also, the date may vary depending on where you are: such as Holi (a festival of colors) in Lower-Terai region is celebrated a day after it is played in the upper hilly region. The cultures and customs dictate the ancient lifestyle and beliefs, which in many places are still untouched by modern-day-sophistication as in Nar-Phu valley.
These cultures are the endowment of the emperors from different dynasties. They introduced a new tradition and culture during their ruling period, because of which, today’s Nepal is full of historical practices.
Someone said it true, “Any excuse is valid for good celebration in Nepal.” An array of festivals every month speaks how true the statement is.
Here are the descriptions of some of the festivals, cultures, and customs in Nepal:
Dashain is one of the most important festivals of Nepalese, typically centered to Hindus. However, a good number of enthusiasts (regardless of their religion and ancestry) celebrate this festival with great joy and humor. The celebration of this festival is in the honor of the victory of good over the evil. This festival begins at Ghatasthapana and ends after the Kojagrat Purnima, which lasts 15 days. It usually falls in the month between October and November.
According to the Hindu mythology, a demon named ‘Mahisasur’ was killed by the legendary goddess ‘Durga’. For the first 9 days, there was a constant battle between the Mahisasur (bad) and goddess Durga (good). While on the 10th day, Lord Durga got a triumph over the evil. Another Hindu epic ‘Ramayana’ instigate similar stories but in the context of ‘Ram’ (good) and ‘Ravan’ (bad).
During this festival, all relatives meet in a house, ‘Mul Ghar’, and celebrate Dashain with grandeur. Blood sacrifices of animals such as goat is an important part of the festival. Officially, a large number of animals are sacrificed in the Hanuman Dhoka, each year. On this day, men and women in their fineries visit their elders and receive ‘tika’, a dab of red vermilion mixed with curd and rice, along with blessings and ‘dacchinaa’, an incentive usually money.
The festival ends with a grand family feast.
Like Dashain, Tihar is another important festival of Hindus, which is of 5 days (aka ‘Yama Panchak’). All the houses are adorned with lighting, because of which this festival is also called the ‘festival of lights.’ During this festival, the god of death ‘Yamaraj’ is worshipped by the females for the long-life of their brothers.
In the first day of Tihar (Kag Tihar), crows are worshipped by offering tongue-luring sweet delicacies. This is because, as per the Hindus, the cawing of crows is considered as bringing the misfortunes; so the foods are offered on this day to avert the grief and death in their homes.
Likewise, the second day is ‘Kukur Tihar’. On this day, dogs are worshipped with a garland and offered delicious foods. Two four-eyed dogs are believed to guard the palace of ‘Yamaraj’. Therefore, by worshipping the dogs, we are indirectly pleading the god of death to give us a long life.
The third day, however, is Gai Tihar or Laxmi Puja. Unlike praying to the God of death, people worship the god of wealth on this day. Early in the morning, a cow is worshipped with colorful dyes (Abir), a garland of marigold flower, and delicious foods. This is because, in the past, people benefitted a lot from the cow. Therefore, as a means of gratitude, cows are offered the best grass and worshipped on this day. During the night, houses are lighted with candles and ‘diyas’ for welcoming the god of wealth, Laxmi, in the house. After a short puja, a group of women come singing and dancing with musical instruments and play a short traditional concert at every house. In return, house owners give them money, Selroti, and fruits.
Similarly, the 4th day is Goru Tihar or Gobardhan Puja, during which ox is worshipped.
Finally, ‘Bhaitika’ is the last day of Tihar. On this day, sisters put ‘Saptarangi Tika’ (seven distinct colors) on their brothers’ forehead and worship them according to the traditional ritual, offering delicious fruits and ‘Bhai Masala’. Brothers, on the other hand, offer money in return to their sisters. The festival ends with a grand family feast.
On the day of Bhai Tika, Newars also perform ‘Mha Puja’, which means self-worship.
Like Dashain and Tihar, Holi is another important festival of Hindus. Usually celebrated in the month of March, Holi is played right after the Purnima, ‘full moon day’. This festival symbolizes the victory of good over the evil.
On the eve of Holi, people gather firewood and other combustible materials for the bonfire. They spend the night singing and dancing around the fireplace, while in the day, they play with colors of all kinds. People forget their sorrows and debts and spend time with their family and friends putting and receiving the colors. The streets become colorful and tourists are no exception to this festival.
Enjoy to the fullest.
Gai Jatra is a traditional ritual celebrated every year in the Kathmandu valley with cows marching on the street. This day usually falls in the month of Bhadra (Nepali Calendar) or between August and September (Gregorian Calendar).
This tradition began from the Malla dynasty, during the ruling of King Pratap Malla. History reveals that the queen of Pratap Malla was very much obsessed into grief because of the death of her son Chakrabartendra at an early age. The king tried his best to get her out of that suffering and let her know that death is a natural phenomenon and she is not the only one who has lost the loved ones. For that, he announced that anyone who would make the queen laugh would be rewarded. Then, the people came up with cows and start mocking at the important people of that time. Hearing such a strong satire, the queen couldn’t help her stop laughing. Since that day, Gai Jatra is celebrated every year in a grand scale.
Other Festivals Celebrated in Nepal are:
Chhath, Bisket Jatra (Biska), Bajra Jogini Jatra, Siti Jatra, Gatha Mu Ga: or Ghanta Karn, Pancha Dan, Janai Purnima, Nag Panchami, Krishna Janmashtami, Losar, Bagh Jatra, Indra Jatra, Mohani, Bala Chaturdasi or Satbyu, Kartik Purnima, Ganesh Chauthi, Maghe Sankranti, Basant or Sripanchami, Maghe Purnima, Pāhān Charhe, Ghode Jatra, Jana Bāhā Dyah Jātrā, and Bunga Dyah Jātrā.