Krishna Janmashtami marks the birth of Krishna. Considered the eighth incarnation of Lord Vishnu, Krishna is the most important character in the Hindu epic, the Mahabharat. On this day Hindu devotees visit Krishna temples. In particular, thousands of devotees gather at the stone Krishna Mandir in Patan Durbar Square.
Indra Jatra is the most important festival of Kathmandu city, associated with Hindu God Indra, the king of heaven. The festival lasts for three days, with a chariot procession of the deities Ganesh, Bhairav and the Kumari (the living goddess). It starts in the Kumari House on The Basantapur Durbar Square in Kathmandu and travels around the old parts of Kathmandu.
Dashain is the most important festival to Nepalis. It is a celebration of good prevailing over evil. Most families offer male goats, ducks, chickens, eggs, and coconuts to the goddess Durga. People return to their home villages and spend the fifteen-day festival with their families. Large swings are set up for children, and from the tenth day, family members receive Tika (rice, red vermillion, and yogurt) on their foreheads from their elders.
Tihar is Nepal’s second most important festival, after Dashain. In each of the three days, a different deity is worshipped: on the first day the crow, the messenger of Yama (the bringer of death); on the second, dogs, which are believed to be Yama’s custodian; and on the third, the goddess Lakshmi is worshipped, the bringer of wealth. Lakshmi is worshipped by lighting houses with oil lamps, candles and colourful lights.
Chhath is the most important festival observed in the Terai region and falls on the seventh day after Tihar. Devotees fast and make offerings to the sun by gathering at river banks. The Terai region is the best place to observe this festival or the Rani Pokhari tank in central Kathmandu.
Lhosar is celebrated by Nepali ethnic groups who trace their history to Tibet, namely the Gurung, Tamang, and Sherpa people. Lhosar is the first day of the new year, and each community celebrates the festival differently. Traditional dress is worn by young and old, and festivities held in cities and more remote regions.
Devotees worship goddess Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge and creator of arts, education, and music. Basanta Panchami also marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring.
‘Shivaratri’ means the ‘night of Lord Shiva’. Devout Hindus bathe early in the morning and fast on this day, then visit Shiva temples. The best place to witness the festival is at the Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu, where thousands of Sadhus (Hindu holy men) and smoke marijuana and hashish, considered dear to Lord Shiva. People also drink Bhang, a drink made by mixing ground nuts, spices, herbs and extracts of marijuana into milk.
Holi is a very colorful and playful festival. It is celebrated in the Terai on one day, and in Kathmandu and the hill regions on the next day. People smear colored powders on their friends, relatives, and family members, and throw colored water and water balloons. It’s important not to take any valuables out with you on this day unless they are sealed in a plastic bag!
Ghode Jatra is important in the Kathmandu Valley and is celebrated to ward off demonic Gurumapa. It is said the soul of the demon still lives underground at Tundikhel. To prevent him from rising again, a horse race is organized on this day by the Nepal Army.
Nepali New Year:
This is a major holiday in Nepal. A particularly lively place to spend the day is Bhaktapur, where the Bisket Jatra festival takes place. A huge chariot carrying the god Bhairab is pulled through the streets, ending with a chariot battle at Bhaktapur’s Khalna Tole.
On this day, children (including adult children!) offer sweets, fruits, and gifts to their mothers to show their respect and gratitude. Those whose mothers have passed away visit Mata Tirtha in the west of Kathmandu, take a holy bath and make offerings in their mother’s memory.
Buddha Jayanti (Buddha’s birthday):
Buddha’s birthday falls on the first full day of the first month of the Hindu lunar calendar and is celebrated by Hindus as well as Buddhists. It is observed at Buddhist shrines and monasteries throughout Nepal, but a particularly grand ceremony is held at Buddha’s birthplace in Lumbini, on the Terai. In Kathmandu, the Tibetan enclave of Boudhanath is a particularly good place to watch the festivities.
This is Nepal’s longest and largest festival, held in Patan. A large chariot is built on Pulchowk Road over several weeks, and finally, the god Machchhendranath is placed inside. Three days later, the chariot begins its procession all throughout Patan and wider Lalitpur, towards Bungamati. Machchhendranath is the Newar god of rain, and the festival ushers in the monsoon.
Naag Panchami falls in the middle of the monsoon. It is a Hindu festival that worships the serpent god, Naag. Pictures of Naag are posted in doorways, and milk is offered to him. It is believed that worshipping Naag protects against snake bites. This festival marks respect to serpents as the water guardians, and to ensure regular rainfall in the Kathmandu Valley.