5 festivals in Nepal you should not miss

  •   2017-12-05  |  nepaltraveller.com

Festivals are the best ways to witness the culturally rich symmetry of Nepal

The rich cultural heritage of Nepal is best expressed through festivals – a seamless harmony of mythology, history, religion, and devotion of people. Throngs of people gather in a public square - old people enjoying the show, young ones participating and children shouting in excitement while the sound of a blaring drum drowns all other noise. The only thing that matters despite people’s differences is the assimilation and celebration in all its grandeur. These festivals represent an integral part of a religion and give a particular caste its unique identity. The Newars of the ancient cities of Bhaktapur, Kathmandu and Patan have left a mark with festivals like Indra Jatra or the lesser known Kathik Nach which is celebrated after centuries with the same spirit.

Your trip to Nepal might be incomplete without witnessing these festivals that are nothing but grand. Here are the best festivals that you can witness on your trip to Nepal:

1. Indra Jatra

A popular festival of both the Hindus and Buddhists of the Newar community, it also shows a deep religious tolerance between them. A festival dedicated to Indra- The God of Rain, it continues for eight days with rejoicing, dancing and feasting. This also marks the beginning of a month long festival season of autumn and begins with the ceremonial erection of wooden pole in front of the ancient Palace of Hanuman Dhoka. The festival is lit by the classical dancers, called Lakhe as well as a rare appearance of the Living Goddess Kumari in a chariot. On the last day the long wooden pole erected on the first day is lowered with religious ceremonies and animal sacrifices.

2. Rato Machhendranath Jatra

A chariot of the patron God of Patan, Rato Machhendranath is carried from Patan to a small town of Bungamati, with large celebration through the narrow streets of the city. A small group of musicians and soldiers add even more excitement to the occasion. Over a period of several weeks, the chariot is slowly hauled to Jawalakhel where thousands of devotees burn oil lamps and keep an all-night vigil. During this festival, the much talked about the display of Bhoto (sacred waistcoat) believed to be given by Karkotaka Naga (the God of Serpents) is displayed to find out its real owner according to popular myths. A final ritual is then conducted to mark Lord Machhendranath’ yearly return to Bungamati for another year.

3. Gai Jatra

According to traditions dating back centuries 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. Believed to be started by Pratap Malla, the King of Kathmandu to make his queen laugh after the death of their son this festival still retains much of its old charm. It comes as close to the American festival of Halloween as possible except people dress up in comical ways as a form of joke and mockery. Later in the afternoon, nearly everyone takes part in ways to dress up in masks and costumes in all the ancient cities – Bhaktapur, Kathmandu, and Patan. 

  

4. Fagu Purnima (Holi)

Holi also was known as the Festival of Colours, is a weeklong festival celebrated all over Nepal. In Kathmandu, it starts at Hanuman Dhoka with the setting up a Chir – a long pole whose upper portion consists of wooden frames decorated with strips of colorful cloth. These strips of cloth are believed to carry special power to ward evil off. The following six days of the festival are nearly uneventful. However, the last day is widely celebrated with people throwing coloured powders and small balloons filled with ordinary or coloured water. Young people can have an eventful time with their friends and loved ones. At the end of the festival, the Chir is taken down and burnt.

5. Karthik Nach

Karthik Nach was started by Sidhi Narsingh Malla in the 17th century as a way to make Patan prosperous like the other cities with this annual ceremonial dance and is since performed to this day. This play believed to be written by Siddhinarsingh Malla himself and small changes have been made since its inception. It was not only intended for entertainment but for the awareness and education of people regarding societal issues and subjects. The play runs for nearly two weeks during which the plays based on the story of Vishnu is portrayed by a group of young, local and talented actors. A rich depiction of history, culture and myth is in the costumes and acting of the people, that is not to be missed.

Shuvekshya Limbu is a Content Writer at Nepal Traveller.