Festivals and Holidays
Colorful festivals and holidays, many dating to time immemorial, characterize Nepal and particularly the Kathmandu Valley. Most holidays are scheduled by a combination of lunar and religious calendars, and so the dates are not fixed in relation the the western calendar. For the Calendar of major festival dates for April 2016 through April 2017, see below. For short summaries of the festivals most interesting to visitors, click here.
Consider planning your trip to Nepal to coincide with one of these Festivals!
Dates marked + are described in The Festivals of Nepal by Mary Anderson.
Short summaries of festivals of particular interest to visitors.
- Nawabarsa and Bisket - Nepali New Year and the festival of the God Bhairab in Bhaktapur. Eight days of colorful parades and processions
- Aama ko Mukh Herne Din - Mother's Day (literally Mother's Face Looking Day)
- Rato Machhendranath - the festival of Lokeswar, one of the patron Gods of Kathmandu. A 40-foot tall chariot with the God's image installed is pushed and pulled through the streets by hundreds of worshippers.
- Buddha Jyanti - Celebrating the birth of the Buddha
- May - June
- Kumar Sasthi - A celebration of the birth of the Hindu warrior God Kumar marks the beginning of the rice planting season. It's also celebrated by groups of boys who indulge in stone throwing fights.
No major festivals in the wettest part of the monsoon season.
- Ghanta Kharna - A festival commemorating an ancient victory over a particularly malevolent devil, Gathemuga. Mock funerals are held and figures burned in effigy.
- Gunla - A Buddhist Lent or Ramadan-like holy month of penance and pilgrimage, climaxing in a rollicking celebration.
- Naga Panchami - A festival devoted to the snake gods, who most Nepalis believe ruled the Valley before the coming of people.
- Janai Purna - the festival of changing of the sacred thread which every Brahmin caste Hindu male wears around his torso.
- Gai Jatra - A festival to the sacred cow. Among other symbolisms of the cow, cows are believed to lead the souls of the dead to the underworld; and on Gai Jatra Newar households process around an ancient path believed to mark the city walls of times past, in honor of recently deceased members of their families. It's also a carnival celebration with practical jokes - something like Mardi Gras combined with April Fool's day.
- Krishna Jayanti - Celebrating the birth of the Hindu God Krishna.
- Gokarna Aunsi - Nepali Father's Day
- Tij Brata - A womans' festval . Worshippers undergo fasting and penance and seek good fortune and long life, and a ritual purification of self. The three (or four) day celebration ends with a great feast.
- Indra Jatra - A Kathmandu festival celebrating the legendary capture of the King of Gods, Indra, in the Kathmandu Valley. This week-long festival is marked with many processions, street dancers, and the annual blessing of the King by the Living Goddess of Kathmandu.
- Dasain - Two weeks of happy celebration and gift-giving, interwoven with bloody animal sacrifice to appease the mother goddess Durga.
- Diwali - A festival of lights, when homes and offices are strung with colored lights and illuminated by candles. This is also the festival of the Goddess Laxmi, goddess of wealth, and is celebrated by much good-natured gambling.
- Indriani Puja - Festival of the Goddess Indriani and of the various mother goddesses which protect each village in Nepal.
- Sita Bibaha Panchami - Celebrating the wedding of the Goddess Sita and the God Ram with mock wedding procession
- Dhanya Purnima - A full moon festival celebrating the end of the rice harvest.
- Seto Machhendranath - A cleansing ritual for the White (seto) Machhendranath, a counterpart god to the Red (rato) Machhendranath who's chariot procession is in April-May.
- Lhosar - the Tibetan and Sherpa New Year, celebrated by thousands at Bodhnath Stupa and monasteries throughout the country.
- Shiva Ratri - The all day and all night festival of the great God Shiva.
- Holi - a rowdy festival of "colors", in which participants douse themselves (and sometimes unwary onlookers) with colored powder and liquid, and generally have a great time.
- Ghora Jatra - a horse festival, celebrated with coach processions and races and displays on the main parade ground in Kathmandu.
Ref: The Festivals of Nepal by Mary Anderson.