Festivals and Events
Sitting on the roof of the world, Nepal is the ultimate mountaineering destination and attracts adventurous hikers from all over the world hoping to make it to Everest’s Base Camp and beyond. Combine this with the strong Buddhist beliefs that are entrenched in the Nepali way of life and you get one of the most mystical and fascinating countries in the world with festivals and events to match. Here are a few of our favourites.
Also know as Shree Panchami, Saraswati Puja celebrates the birthday of Saraswati, the Goddess of Learning. Students and scholars worship their pens and books during this event in order to gain the favour of the Goddess with the hopes that this will make them wiser and more knowledgeable. Sweets, fruits and flowers are offered to the idol of Saraswati and small children are taught to read and write as part of the celebrations.
One of the most auspicious days in the Buddhist calendar, Buddha Jayanti celebrates the birth, enlightenment and passing away of Lord Gautam Buddha. The festivities that take place during this period are tranquil and gentle, in keeping with the practices of Buddhism. Vegetarian food is usually exclusively consumed and many people spend the day attending a slightly longer than usual sutra, which is a type of service.
Literally translating as Cow Festival, this event is one of the most important Nepali celebrations. The event’s main purpose is to commemorate those who passed away in the past 12 months and families that have lost a loved one are expected to lead a cow through the streets as part of the procession. If there is no cow available, the family will lead a young boy dressed as a cow. Jokes, satire and humour are a main part of this festival and there is a definite ‘anything goes’ atmosphere for its entire duration.
This unusual festival is a national holiday but only women are given the day off for the occasion. Teej is dedicated to the Hindu Goddess Parvati and observes her union with Shiva. The ceremonies are separated into the women performing rituals for the purification of their body and soul, and the women fasting for the well-being of their spouse and children. On the first day of the festival, a feast is hosted by the men of the community. Women are not expected to do anything during this time.
Dashain is a 15 day festival celebrated by the Nepalese as well as many other Hindus and Buddhists around the world. The festival celebrates the forces of good overcoming evil and while the exact story changes according to which religion you follow, the gist is that the first nine days symbolise good’s battle with evil and the tenth day is when victory was achieved. The first, seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth days are the most important of the festival.
Taking place over the course of five days, Tihar is a festival of great religious and cultural significance. Each day sees something different being worshipped starting with crows on day one, dogs on the second day and cows on the third. There is also a part during the celebrations when sisters worship their brothers and give thanks for the protection they provide. Siblings exchange gifts and tikas and strengthen their bond with one another.