Nepal: Popular Summertime Holy Festivals

This summer, when you’re not busy searching for the Yeti or traipsing around the countryside on a yak, take some time out to enjoy a few of the significant Holy festivals that take place during the summer months of Nepal.

During the months of July and August (and to an extent September) are two events in particular that bear seeking out. The first is the celebration of Gathemangal: This festival celebrates the exorcism of the mythical demon Ghantakarna. Celebrated primarily in the Newar community, the townsfolk throughout the region celebrate the occasion by acting out the legendary drama in the streets. Children usually take the lead, first collecting money form passersby and foreigners, which is then used to make an effigy of the demon. While this effigy remains in the center of a rough tent-like structure erected from bamboo poles, one man impersonates Ghantakarna by smearing himself with paint and roaming the streets with a begging bowl asking for donations. At the end of the day, the person imitating Ghantakarna is dragged to a nearby river where the demon is cast out.

Meanwhile, the festival of “Gai Jatra“, better known as “the festival of cows”, is generally celebrated during August and September. The festival of cows is one of the most popular festivals of Nepal. The history of the Gai Jatra festival has its roots in the ancient age when people feared and worshipped Yamaraj, “the God of death”. According to tradition, every family who has lost one relative during the past year must participate in a procession through the streets of Kathmandu leading a cow. If a cow is unavailable then a young boy dressed as a cow is considered a fair substitute. In Hinduism, a cow is regarded as the most venerated among all the domestic animals. It is believed that the cow, revered as a holy animal by Hindus, will help the deceased relative’s journey to heaven.

According to a local legend a savage by the name of Ghantakarna used to terrify the public by stealing their children and womenfolk. The demon made a grotesque sight with his body painted in red, blue, and black. He had a pair of bells on his ears so that, at every moment, he made a jangling noise. Because of these bells, he was called Ghanta (bell) Karna (ears). Ghanta Karna was a big bully and demanded money and other gifts be made to him by the villagers.

There are many Holy and religious festivals that are performed throughout the year in Nepal. These are but two of the most interesting. Check out the Tours link for a list of reliable points of contact with tour operators who can give you specific times and locations for many such festivals in Nepal.