Home to Everest and 7 eight-thousanders, 10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, over 6000 rivers, World’s Deepest gorge ‘Kali-Gandaki,’ Nepal, the trekker’s paradise, is also blessed with vibrant festivals.
Did you know there are 126 ethnic groups in Nepal?
One of the most diverse countries in the world, Nepal celebrates almost every month of the year. Perhaps there are festivals as many as days in a year.
Here are 10 major festivals in Nepal you cannot afford to miss.
Dashain and Tihar
Dashain and Tihar are the biggest festivals in Nepal.
Dashain is the most auspicious festival celebrated by more than 80% of Nepali people. People celebrate it for 15 days with their family, sharing happiness and togetherness.
Family member receives tika and blessing from their elders. Bamboo swings are erected, people indulge in kite-flying, and animals like goat, chicken, are sacrificed during Dashain.
Tihar, also known as Deepawali or Diwali, is the second most auspicious festival celebrated in Nepal. It is arguably the most popular festival in Nepal-celebrated for 5 days.
It is a festival of light- diyas, candles, and lanterns are lit inside and outside the houses. People adorn their house with rangoli patterns and welcome Goddess Laxmi.
Tihar is dedicated to Goddess Laxmi- goddess of wealth and good fortune. People form a group and play deusi and bhailo- a form of musical fundraising.
This festival shows reverence to crows, cows, and dogs– to acknowledge the beautiful relationship between them and human beings. Crows, cows, and dogs are worshiped for a day, and sweets and foods are offered.
Similarly, the 5th day of Tihar is Bhai Tika- worship of brothers. Sister applies tika to their brother and wishes for their brother’s long life and thanks them for protecting and guiding them.
Mahashivaratri (meaning night of Shiva) is a festival dedicated to Lord Shiva. Hindu devout gather at Shiva temples, specially Pashupatinath Temple, to celebrate this festival.
Naked sadhus can be seen meditating and posing for photographs at Pashupatinath temple. Pashupatinath attracts the biggest crowd on this day.
Thousands of pilgrims and sadhus worship Lord Shiva by dancing and singing and chanting the sacred mantra “Om Namah Shivaya.”
Huge fires are built in the streets in Kathmandu to celebrate Mahashivaratri.
Shivaratri is the only day in Nepal when smoking marijuana and hashish is considered legal (at Pashupatinath only).
Teej is the Nepali women festival- women fast for the whole day wishing for their husbands’ long life and marital happiness and unmarried girls for good husbands.
Draped in red saree, red tika, and bangles, women sing and dance and celebrate the day.
Maghe Sankranti festival marks the end of the winter solstice.
It is celebrated on the first day of the Nepali month Magh. This festival is a harbinger of longer and warmer days.
It commemorates the beginning of the harvest festival.
People eat an assortment of seasonal foods like Sesame seed laddus, molasses, ghee, sweet potatoes, and yam.
Buddha Jayanti is celebrated to mark the birthday of Lord Buddha. On this day, Buddhists celebrate the Birth, Enlightenment, and Death of Buddha.
Swayambhunath and Boudhanath are the two prime places where Buddhists gather and honor Lord Buddha by chanting Buddhist mantras and holding a grand ceremony.