The Hindu Festival of Vibhaha Panchami

Some visitors to Nepal have commented that every other day is a festival and every other structure is a holy shrine. This observation in not far from the truth, as festivals, both national and religious, form an indispensable part of Nepalese life and are well supported by the community. Festivals offer visitors the opportunity to have fun, but more than that, they offer valuable insight into various cultural aspects of the lives of the inhabitants of Nepal. Religious festivals are held according to the lunar calendar and national holidays are held on fixed dates. No matter what time of the year visitors decide to tour Nepal, they will be sure to catch at least one special festival event.

In December every year, the Hindu world re-enacts and commemorates the marriage of Lord Rama to Princess Sita, in a festival known as Vibhaha Panchami. In Nepal this festival is held at Janaki Temple in Janakpur, eastern Terai, and attracts thousands of Hindu pilgrims from India and elsewhere.

Princess Sita had many suitors and her father, King Janak, decided to set a test of strength to determine which suitor would be worthy of his daughter. The test required each suitor to string the great bow belonging to Lord Shiva. Chieftains, kings and warriors came from far and wide to take up this challenge, but not one of them could even lift the bow. It seemed that Princess Sita would never have a husband. But then along came Lord Rama, who managed to lift the bow with ease. When he tried to string the bow, it shattered into many pieces. To Princess Sita’s delight, Lord Rama had secured her hand in marriage. Lord Rama and Princess Sita were married in Janakpur.

Princess Sita set the standard of an ideal wife with her willingness to follow her husband anywhere, no matter how uncomfortable their journey, or inhospitable their destination may be. She viewed a wife as being the shadow of her husband. Hindu female devotees are known to make every effort to imitate Sita’s high standard of selflessness. Husbands may aim for Rama’s moral perfection.

The three thousand year old classic tale of Ramayana (Rama’s story) has not lost its appeal to the devout Hindu community and Vibhaha Panchami is a festival in Nepal that is looked forward to with great anticipation and celebrated with joyfulness.