Nepal Festivals and fairs (1st Part)
NEPAL FESTIVALS & FAIRS
Nepalese have preserved and continued thousands of years old festivals and traditions. Hence, you will find an innumerable number of colorful festivals throughout the year. No matter in which season you visit Nepal you will find one kind of festival or another. Nepal has many kinds of festivals. All Nepalese observe the national festivals. Some regions celebrate regional festivals. Different ethnic groups observe local festivals. All Nepalese together have more than 50 major festivals. They celebrate not less than 120days a year. The interwoven prevailing pattern of Hinduism and Buddhism allows the devotees of one religion to take part in the other's festival. Nepalese have the holidays during the national festivals and regional holidays for regional festivals.
The following festivals listed under different months indicate how often Nepalese celebrate their festivals.
Sweta Machhendranath Snan (January)
Sweta (white) Machhendranath enjoys a week-long festival in which he is bathed, oiled, perfumed, and painted. The Goddess Kumari visits him at his elaborate temple near Asan Tol. If he is pleased by the music, offerings, and attentions of his devotees, the people of the Valley can look forward to satisfactory rainfall in the planting season.
Swasthani Puja(January - February)
Goddess Swasthani's three eyes burn like the sun. She is the ultimate gift grantor; if insulted, she can make life miserable. By worshipping Swasthani, Parbati attained Lord Shiva as her husband. In the worship rites of Goddess Swasthani, outlined by Parbati, the Swasthani scripture is read every evening for a month. Worshipping Swasthani will bring together parted relations, remove curses, and result in limitless gifts.
Maghe Sankranti (January)
In the holy month of Magh the sun enters the southern hemisphere, and the days begin to grow longer and warmer. Lord Vishnu the Preserver, is thanked for his efforts. On Maghe Sankranti (the first day of Magh) people take an early morning bath in a holy river, visit the shrines of Vishnu, and present flowers, incense and food to him. They read the Bhagwad Gita, also known as The Song of the Gods, rub mustard oil over their bodies, and enjoy feasts of rice cooked with lentils, yams or taruls - a must - and laddu, sweets made of sesame and a sugarcane paste.
Basanta Panchami and Saraswati Puja (January)
Basanta, or spring, ushers in the loveliest time of the year. Crowds gather at Kathmandu 's Durbar Square while His Majesty the King and other dignitaries welcome the season as a band plays the traditional song of spring. A different celebration occurs at Swayambhu and at the Nil Barahi shrine near Lazimpat. Saraswati, the goddess of learning, arts and crafts is worshiped at her temples. Artists, musicians, teachers, and students bring flowers, unbroken rice, and other gifts to please her.
Maha Shivaratri (February)
Lord Shiva is one of Nepal 's most popular gods. During Maha Shivaratri, his ` `Great Night", followers throughout the Indian sub-continent crowd the Pashupati temple to worship him. On this occasion "there is no space even for a sesame seed": Colorful sadhus, the wandering sages who emulate Shiva, rub ashes over their bodies, give lectures to disciples, meditate, or practice yoga. Devotees pray to Shiva's image inside the temple at midnight and may queue for up to six hours to look at the image. Bonfires are lit, neighbours and friends share food, and devotees enjoy two days and a night of music, song, and dance throughout the Pashupati complex and in the streets.
Sherpas and Tibetans welcome their New Year with feasts, family visits and dancing. Families don their finest clothes and jewellery and exchange gifts.
Buddhist monks offer prayers for good health and prosperity, and perform dances at the monasteries. Colorful prayer flags decorate streets and rooftops; the colors seem especially brilliant at the Bouddha and Swayambhu stupas. Crowds of celebrants at Bouddha bring in the New Year by throwing tsampa (roasted barley flour) into the air.
Holi or Fagu Purnima (March)
Fagu Purnima is one of the most colorful and playful festivals of Nepal . The chit pole, decorated with colorful flags and erected on the first day of Fagu at Kathmandu's Durbar Square, is a formal announcement to all; hide your good clothes, for throughout the week you may be splashed with colored powder and water balloons. The last day is the wildest; youths covered with red vermillion powder roam the streets as inviting targets.
Chaitra Dasain (March-April)
Chaitra Dashain is also called a small dashain in contrast to October's big Dashain. This festival is similar in many respects and many goats and buffaloes are sacrificed to the goddess durga at the ‘kot square'. Red vermillion powder, family blessings, and goat and duck sacrifices are essential to praise the victory of Ram, hero of the epic Ramayana, over the evil king Rawan. Mother Goddess Durga, the source of all power, must be supplicated too for her powers that helped Ram achieve his victory.
Ghode Jatra (April)
Visitors are often amazed by the fine horses of the Nepalese army, and Ghode Jatra is a time for the most graceful of these animals to perform before the public eye. Legends relate that this "horse festival" was begun after the Kathmandu people buried a demon under the soil of Tundikhel showgrounds. They say that he may rise again and cause worry to the world if he is not trampled on by horses each year. So every spring, this victory over evil is celebrated in the Valley by organizing palanquin processions and grand display of showjumping, motorcycling feats, and gymnastics. Their Majesties the King and Queen, the Living Goddess Kumari, and thousands of people from all over the country are a part of the jatra audience.
Biska Jatra (April)
During this important festival, the old kingdom of Bhaktapur and its neighboring areas replay a drama passed on over the centuries. At Bode village, there is a tongue-boring ceremony in which the dedicated may reserve a place in heaven. A wooden pillar is erected in the evening on the first day of this festival. On the second day which is also the first day of Nepali New Year, a chariot is pulled from the pillar to the temple of Bhairavnath in the same square as the five-storey Nyatapolo pagoda. The pillar is shaken violently in the evening and then lowered with the great rejoicing. The chariots of Ganesh, goddess Mahakali and goddess MahaLaxmi are carried on the shoulders of the devotees.
New Year's Day (April)
The Bikram Era is Nepal 's official calendar. This solar calendar was started by King Bikramditya. The new year 2057 of the Bikram Era corresponds to 2000-2001 of the Christan Era. New Year's Day is an official holiday. Devotees visit the Pashupati temple to take a dip in the holy Bagmati river.Pilgrims also visit other religious spots and spend the day picniking. It is a day to seek blessings from family priest and one's elders as well.
Rato Macchindranath Jatra (May)
The festival of Red Macchindranath takes place in Patan over a period of two months and is one of the complex festivals. During the celebrations, a chariot bearing the image of Macchindranat, revered by both Hindus and Buddhists moves in a series of daily stages through the streets of patan. Patan's streets and palace complex are made even more evocative by wavering lamp and candle lights, women busy cooking feasts, and men gathering strength to pull the chariot of their red deity. As Lord Machhendranath views his followers from the high seat of his chariot, its four wheels - representing the powerful Bhairab - receive rice and vermilion powder, the king of serpents is asked for blessings, and his jewelled vest is shown to the public.
Buddha Jayanti (May)
Since the Nepal is birth place of Buddha there are still many Buddhists amongst Nepalese. This festival is celebrated to mark the birth day of Lord Buddha. On May 6, a full moon day, the Lord's birth, enlightenment, and salvation are applauded throughout the valley with celebrations. Swayambhu and Boudhanath Stupas are prepared for the oncoming festivities several days in advance. Monasteries are cleaned, statues are polished, bright prayer flags waft in the breeze, and monks prepare to dance. On the Jayanti day, people reach the stupas before dawn, go around them and give offerings to the many Buddha images there. Also, pilgrims take a long journey to the birth place of Buddha that is Lumbini on this day. Lumbini is situated at the western part of Nepal .
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