Bala Chaturdashi – An Important Hindu Festival
The festival of Bala Chaturdashi is a celebration in Nepal that is held at Pashupatinath Temple near Kathmandu every year in late November or early December. Hindu pilgrims from all over Nepal as well as India gather at Pashupatinath temple, which is considered to be the most sacred temple of Shiva (Pashupati), in Nepal. An all night vigil by the light of small wick lamps marks the beginning of Bala Chaturdashi.
Throughout the night the pilgrims chant and dance by the light of their lamps while paying homage to Lord Shiva. At daybreak worshippers make their way down to the holy Bagmati River for ritual bathing. The Bagmati flows through the Kathmandu Valley and has a number of Hindu temples located on its banks. It is considered to be a most holy river by both Buddhists and Hindus. Hindus are cremated on the banks of the Bagmati and the Nepalese Hindu tradition requires that the dead body be dipped three times into the river prior to cremation. After the cremation ceremony, many relatives bathe in the river or sprinkle the water on their bodies as a symbol of being purified by the river – both spiritually and physically.
After bathing in the Bagmati, pilgrims perform acts of worship at the many shrines of Pashupatinath temple. The festival is concluded by pilgrims following a prescribed path starting at the temple, passing through the Kailash forest past many Hindu shrines and finally returning to the temple. The worshippers scatter “sat biu”, seven types of grains and seeds, along the path as they go. The seeds are scattered in behalf of dead relatives and loved ones in the hope that this act will secure a better place in heaven for them. These rituals are also carried out to appease the restless souls of departed ones who were not properly cremated. It takes several hours for this task to be completed and once it is done, the pilgrims start making their journey home.
Nepal is a fascinating country, rich in history and age-old traditions and rituals. No matter what time of year travelers choose to visit this popular tourist destination, they are sure to have the opportunity to witness an interesting celebration such as Bala Chaturdashi.