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Festivals in Nepal

Nepal's identity is not confined to mountains alone. It is equally famous for its different festivals too. Nepalese celebrate more than 50 festivals around the year. National holidays have the fix date but religious festivals are celebrated according to the lunar calendar and it doesn't coincide with the solar calendar. All the people take part in the festivals and they celebrate it with full enjoyment. some of the important festivals are Sweta Machhendranath Snan, Maghe Sankranti, Basanta Panchami, Maha Shivaratri, Losar, Holi, Ghode Jatra, New Year's Day, Gunla, Buddha Jayanti, Krishnashtami, Janai Purnima (Raksha Bandhan), Gai Jatra, Teej, Dasain and Tihar.

Dasain Festival

Dasain is the longest and most favorite festival of Nepal . This festival is celebrated in the month of October in Nepal . On this day, everyone stays at the home with their families, offices are closed. The skies are filled with kites and the marketplaces are filled with farmers bringing their buffaloes, goats and chicken to sell. These animals are then sacrificed on the night of Kal Ratri to please the goddess Durga. On the day of Dashami, everyone puts on new clothes and goes to honor their family elders, where they receive large red tikas of vermilion paste on their foreheads. In the following days of Dasain, families and friends unite, take part in the feasts, impart the blessings and exchange the gifts.

Tihar Festival

Tihar is regarded as the festival of light among Hindus. It is celebrated in the month of November. This festival is a time of candlelight, tinsel decorations and festive colored sweets. This festival is celebrated for five days and on different days; there are offerings and small celebrations for crows, dogs, cows and oxen. On the night of Lakshmi Puja, garlands are hung and lamps are lighted to invite Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth into the home. Maha Puja, the New Year's Day according to the Nepal Era is celebrated as the day of the self, when people give themselves blessings to remain healthy and happy for the rest of the year. On Bhai Tika, the last day, the sisters make offerings to their brothers and the rituals include breaking of walnut, putting on garlands of Makhamali flowers and encircling brothers in rings of mustard oil to protect them from Yama, lord of the Netherworld.

Teej Festival

The festival of Teej is celebrated in the month of August. On this day, the women dressed up in their fine red wedding saris visit the Pashupatinath temple of Shiva . The women celebrate the festival by fasting, folk songs, and dances and recall the goddess Parvati's devotion to her husband Shiva. The married women visit their father's homes and all daughters and sisters receive gifts from their male kin, and an elaborate feast is prepared for them. It is a loud and cheerful celebration until late night, when strict fasting discontinues. On this day women observe a fast and pray to Lord Shiva for the long, healthy and prosperous life of their husbands and their families.

The unmarried women also observe this festival with the hope that they will get to marry good husbands. The blessings of Shiva and Parbati ensure that family life will be joyous for all.

Indra Jatra Festival

The festival of Indra Jatra is named after the Lord Indra, King of Heaven. This festival is celebrated by both the Buddhists and Hindus in the month of September in Nepal . On this day, the people worship the Lord Indra, to be grateful to him, who has blessed the valley. This festival is celebrated for eight days in the Durbar Square in Kathmandu with singing, mask dancing and rejoicing. On the first day, the Indra's dhwaj or flag is erected. It is said that many centuries ago, Indra's mother needed specially scented flowers but could not find them in heaven's gardens. Indra discovered parijat flowers in the Kathmandu Valley and tried to steal them for his mother. He was caught and imprisoned by the people of the valley. When Indra's mother came searching for him, the people were punished for what they had done. As a result, they released Indra and dedicated one of the most colorful festivals of Nepal to him to appease his anger. On this day, the masks and statues representing Vishnu, Bhairab, and Shiva are shown to the public and the Goddess Kumari witnesses the special occasion from her chariot. The chariot of the Living Goddess Kumari is taken through the main streets of Kathmandu . On the first day, the head of the state (It was king before, now it's president) also pays homage to Goddess Kumari. The people gather at the streets of Kathmandu valley to enjoy the festival.

Gai Jatra Festival

The gai or cow is holy animal to Hindus. She represents Laxmi, the goddess of wealth, and guides the departed souls to the gates of the world. The Gai Jatra or Cow festival is celebrated in the month of August. Satire, jokes, fancy costumes, and colorful processions are the part of the festival as the people recall how an eighteenth century king rallied his people to cheer his queen upon the death of their son. Those who have experienced the death of close ones during the past year share their sorrow and comfort so that the gai can safely transport the departed souls on their afterlife journey. The young men wear the women's saris, children dressed up as cows, and whimsical characters of all sorts fill the streets. The special issues of local magazines shower its fun on everyone and everything.

Janai Purnima (Raksha Bandhan) Festival

The Janai Purnima or Raksha Bandhan festival is celebrated in the month of August. On this day, the high-caste Hindus chant the powerful Gayatri mantra (hymns) and change their Sacred Thread (janai). The people tie a red or yellow protection cord around the wrists of other Hindus and Buddhists. The pilgrims make a journey to the mountains north of Kathmandu . Here they please the Lord Shiva by bathing in the sacred lake of Gosaikund . Those unable lo make the trek celebrate at Shiva's Kumbheswar Mahadev temple. Here, a pool with an image of Shiva at its center is filled with water which is believed to have come from Gosaikund.

Buddha Jayanti

The Buddha Jayanti is observed as the birth of Lord Buddha on the full moon day in the month of May. The Lord Buddha was born in Nepal , and he preached Buddhism, which is the second most popular religion in Nepal . On this day, the people celebrate the Lord's birth, enlightenment, and salvation throughout the valley with celebrations. Before the coming of the festival, the Swayambhunath and Boudhnath Stupas are prepared for the festival several days in advance. The people clean the monasteries, polish the statues and monks prepare for the dance. On the Buddha Jayanti, people reach the stupas before dawn, go around them and give offerings to the various Buddha images.

Holi Festival

Holi or Fagu Purnima is one of the most colorful and playful festivals of Nepal . The Holi festival is celebrated in the month of March.. The chit pole are decorated with colorful flags and erected on the first day of Fagu at Katmandu 's Durbar Square . On this day, a formal announcement is made to all the people to hide their good clothes or you would be splashed with colored powder and water balloons. On the last day, the youths cover their body with red vermillion powder and roam the streets.

Losar Festival

Losar Festival, the Nepal New Year is celebrated in the month of February. The Sherpas and Tibetans welcome the New Year with feasts, family visits and dances. The people wear their finest clothes and jewelers and exchange gifts. The Buddhist monks offer prayers for good health and prosperity, and perform dances at the monasteries. The colorful prayer flags are decorated at the streets and rooftops and they seem as brilliant at the Buddha and Swayambhu stupas. In the Buddha stupas, the people celebrate the New Year by throwing tsampa (roasted barley flour) into the air.

New Year Day

The Bikram Era is the official calendar of Nepal . This solar calendar was started by king Bikramditya and starts from the first day of the first month of Baisakh. The New Year 2057 of the Bikram Era corresponds to 2000-2001 of the Christan Era. The New Year's Day is an official holiday. The first day of the month of Baisakh is observed as the Nepali New Year and falls in the second week of April. It is also known as Navavarsha in Nepal . On this day, the devotees visit the Pashupati temple to take a dip in the holy Bagmati River and visit other religious spots. The people go for picnics have get-togethers and celebrate the day by socializing in various ways. It is a day to seek blessings from family priest and one's elders as well.

Maghe Sankranti Festival

The Maghe Sankranti Festival is celebrated on the occasion of the sun entering the southern hemisphere. The Maghe Sankranti is celebrated in the month of January. On this day, the people take an early morning bath in a holy river, worship the Lord Vishnu and present flowers, incense and food to him. They read the Bhagwad Gita, the Holy Scripture, rub mustard oil over their bodies, and enjoy feasts of rice cooked with lentils, yams or Taruls, Laddu, sweets made of sesame and a sugarcane paste.

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