SAHID DIWAS (MARTYR’S DAY)
Sahid Diwas or Martyr’s day is an annual public holiday, celebrated by the Nepalese as a way of remembering and giving honor to people, who sacrificed their lives to fight for the country and its people. Especially in memory of the four martyrs’, who were executed in 1941: Dharma Bhakta Mathema, Dashrath Chand, Gangalal Shrestha and Shukraraj Shastri. They gave their precious, youthful lives to overthrow the autocratic Rana family. The four youths were a great threat to the tyrannical regime of the Rana family. They demanded human rights for the Nepalese people, Shukra Raj Shastri and Dharma Bhakta Mathema were hanged and the other two shot.
The former royal regime has built a gate called Sahid with the statues of these four martyrs.
MAGHE SANKRANTI / SONAM LHOSAR
Maghe Sankranti is a Nepalese festival which is celebrated on the first day of the month Magh in the Vikram Sambat calendar. It brings an end to wintertime and marks a new holy season. The Nepali people celebrate the end of the inauspicious phase ending with the month Poush.
How is Maghe Sankranti celebrated by Nepalese people?
The first day of Maghe is also celebrated in the Terai by the Tharu community as Maghi or New Year. The Maghi festival celebrations last from the last week of the month Poush until the third of the month Maghe. Families get together and dressing up in the traditional Tharu wear, eating, drinking and are merrymake.
Sonam Lhosar / Tibetian New Year
“Lho” means year or age and “Sar” means new or fresh. Hence, the word Lhosar means New Year or the beginning of a new era. In Nepal, Sonam Lhosar falls on the first new moon of the month called “Magh” in the Vikram Sambat calendar. The Tamang, constituting eight percent of Nepal’s population, are celebrating this festival. The Tamang also celebrate the twelve animal symbols associated with particular years, same as the Chinese do. It is attach important for them, whether it is the year of the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, or boar. Tamang is a very ancient tribe and they are the original people of Yambu. Tamang is made up of two words, “Ta” means horse and “Mang” means rider. It is assumed that they were connected with business of horse trading or riding.
Large numbers of Tamang people live in the Mid Mountains of the Himalayan range including also in the capital city, Kathmandu. Tamang are very rich in their tradition and culture. They have their own language, culture, dresses and social structure. It is said, 90 % believe in Buddhism.
How do we celebrate Sonam Lhosar:
The Tamang begin to prepare for Sonam Losar on the final day of the 12th month. They clean their houses and welcome the new year. In Buddhist monasteries rituals are performed, which also include masked dances, which is supposed to drive out negative forces. The New Year celebration is celebrated differently, some people go to monasteries, stupas or chaityas and perform ceremonies there. People dress again to wear new clothes on New Year’s Day, decorate their houses as well as they can. A tradition is also to sweep the houses, so that the bad disappears. There are doors and windows decorated for a long life and happiness. The feast consists of pork, duck, chicken and sweet dessert. Music is made with traditional instruments, called Damphu.
SHREE PANCHAMI / SARASWOTI PUJA / BASANTA PANCHAMI
Shree Panchami, Basanta Panchami or Saraswoti Puja is one of the most important festivals in Nepal. Basanta Panchami is the day when winter ends and spring starts in January-February (Magh-Fagun). Goddess Saraswoti is regarded as the goddess of Knowledge, she will be worship on this day. She is the creator of art, music, science and all education. Saraswoti is one of the greatest creations of Lord Brahma. She is believed to be the most beautiful creation of Brahma. Saraswoti is a four handed Goddess seated on a white lotus wearing a white sari. Her vehicle is a white Swan and she is holding Veena, Book and a garland in her hands. Saraswoti Puja is observed on Magh Sukla Panchami, it is done on Panchami, so the day is called Shree Panchami.
How do we celebrate Saraswoti Puja in Nepal:
The day is very auspicious day; many kids start writing their first alphabet. Children are taken to Saraswoti temple and asked to read and write first letter of their life. The wall of Saraswoti temples across the country are scribbled by Nepali Alphabet, numbers and slokas. Kids use white chalk to write on the slate or wall. Therefore, it is a very important day for every kid. It is believed, Shree Panchami is the best day to start learning new things. Students worship their books, pens and notebooks. Musicians worship their instruments and professionals worship their tools. In one sentence, this is the day when the source of knowledge, art and education are worshiped.
Students worship to goddess Saraswoti for more diligence and respect. Schools and colleges have special celebration traditions of Saraswoti Puja. In the Madhesh and Terai region of Nepal there is the tradition to collect money. They build idols of goddess Saraswoti at the town avenues. People visit the idol and pay homage and regards, sometimes they organize idols competition. The community who established the best idol will win. And is awarded a price, this adds more fun to the celebration.
On this day people get married, start new venture or new business. There are many holy temples of Saraswoti across Nepal. In every temple area, there is always a small separate temple for Saraswoti. It is a tradition of establishing Saraswoti in every temple in Nepal.
The night is celebrated as the birth-night of Lord Shiva, she is also called Bhaolenath.
Story behind the celebration of Shivaratri:
During Samundra Mantha, the poison came out of the ocean and starts creating destruction all over. To protect the universe from the devastation, Lord Shiva drank the poison and managed to keep it in throat. His throat turned blue, since then he is known as Nilkantha.
Shiva protected the world from the dangerous poison; therefore, people started celebrating the day as Shivaratri and thanking Shiva for saving the world. It is believed Lord Shiva married Goddess Parvati on this day. In some places, Shivaratri is celebrated as marriage anniversary of Shiva-Parvati too. All these three things happened at the same day, the day is also called Falgun Sukla Chaturdashi.
How do we celebrate Maha Shivaratri:
According to the Shiva Puran, six items are regarded precious to worship Lord Shiva in Maha Shivaratri. The items are: Bel (Marmelos) leaf, Varmilion Paste (chandan), Food Items (Prasad), Incense (Dhoop/Batti), Lamp (Diyo), Betel Leaves.
Shiva devotees fasting whole day and night. Shiva Linga Pooja is done in the night by chanting mantras, offering Bel Leaf and pouring water on the linga. Fireplace is set in avenues and in temples at night to make Lord Shiva warm. Children searching wood and singing “Shivaji lai jado bhayo aago deu” (Shivaji is feeling cold, give some fire). In villages and towns big logs are burning and people sing “Shiva bhajans” the whole night.
Pashupatinath is the biggest temple of lord Shiva in Nepal. In Shivaratri, this temple has a big appeal. Hindu devotees from all over Nepal and India visit Pashupatinat and a large number of Shadus come here. The Shadus are covered with bhibuti (Ashes), they are said to have mastered the pain of heat, cold and suffering and have devoted their life to Lord Shiva. They stand naked blessing the devotees and smoke weeds as a divine gift of Lord Shiva.
There is always a big fair and market setting around the Pashupati temple area in Shivaratri. Large numbers of people visiting the temple and buy things. Announcements, music, dances, sadhus, market and large number of tourist make Shivaratri more fun. Women and childs putting Mehandi (Heena) on their hands. Snakedance, circus and other fun activities can also be seen in the surrounding areas of the Pashupati temple.
FAGUA / HOLI
Holi is the festival of colors. This festival is also a farewell of the winter and welcoming the summer in Southern Asia. Holi is celebrated on full moon day in Falgun. Hence, it is also called Fagu Purnima and Sanskrit Dhuli.
The fsestival is celebrated with colors, water, sweets and music. People put color on each other as a token of love. People go in groups to the houses of relatives and friends, put colors on each other, eat sweets, play music and dance around the whole day. The people in Terai celebrate Holi one day later than in Kathmandu Valley and other hilly regions of Nepal.
Many years ago people used to make Pichkari (water guns) out of bamboo and thrown colored water on each other.
Nowadays balloons and plastic water gun (Pichkari) are used. The balloon filled with water is called Lola in Nepali. Kids start throwing Lolas on each other from one week ahead of the main Holi day. The burning of the wood log in villages and town avenues is a very important part of the Holi celebration. This event is called Holika Dahan, the end of Holika. Furthermore Holi is an officially holiday in Nepal.
Holi (Fagua) is also one of the most important and biggest festival of Tharu people. Similarly to other communities, they celebrate Holi with full enthusiasm. They wear their traditional dresses and also perform Sakhiye Naach. A big feast is organized at the night time, where they have their traditional dishes like Dhikri, Ghongi, Jaad (wine made of rotten rice) etc. Most of the people wear white dresses in Terai during the Holi festival, to look more attractive with the different thrown colors.
Stories behind Holi celebration
Lord Krishna and Radha:
Lord Krishna was complaining to his mother Yashodha, that all his girlfriends were teasing him, naming him “the black one”. He didn’t understand why all the girlfriends (Gopini), including Rhada, were not black. One day her mother Yashodha suggested that he can throw colors on Rhadas face to change her complexion in any color he wants and so he did. As the Gopinis were all in love with Lord Krishna, they liked being smeared with colors by him. This day was the initiation of the Holi festival.
Death of Holika:
Prahladh was the son of Hiranyakashyapu, a demon who wanted to be the only lord in this Universe. But his son Prahladh became devotee of Lord Vishnu, while Hiranyakashyapu wanted him to worship only him. He wanted to convince his son with various tries, but failed. Prahladh never stopped worshipping Lord Vishnu. Hiranyakashyapu then planned to kill his five-year-old son. He ordered his sister Holika to kill Prahladh. Holika was blessed with a fire proof dress and hiss on should sit on her lap. But as the flames grew, the fire proof dress flew from Holika to Prahladh and saved him. From that day on, Holi is celebrated as the death of Holika.
Krishna and Draupadi:
Another legend behind the Holi festival is the friendship between Lord Krishna and Draupadi. When the Kauravs tried to chir haran Draupadi (to strip of her clothes), Lord Krishna made her sari off and protected her. The day Lord Krishna saved Draupadi is celebrated as Holi day.
In Far-Western and Mid-Western Region, Bisau Parba symbolizes the beginning of the harvest season. It is an important festival of the Region. On the New Year day, several popular delicacies of Far West, like Gatani Dupka, Batuk, Babar, Mada, Nisose are prepared in every household. Some people go to the bank of rivers for a holy bath. In some villages the youth of the village gather at a place, they are carrying small bundles of sticks and worship the stick which is known as Latthi Pujne. On the occasion of Bisau, an annual worship (Puja) – locally known as Jaat, is also held in some temples.
AAMA KO MUKH HERNE DIN (MOTHER’S DAY)
Mother’s Day in Nepal is also known as Mata Tirtha Ausi. People pay homage to their mothers, presenting her favorite food, clothing and various gifts on this day. Mukh Herne means to allow someone as our relatives, give respect and love them. This is the day when we recognize and pay respect to our mother for her care and unconditional love to us, so we call this day “Mother’s Day”- “Aama ko Mukh Herne Din” (the literal meaning is “to see Mother’s face”). Mother’s Day is not attached to a certain religion or a particular community. This occasion is celebrated by many communities across the nation. Mother’s Day in Nepal is traditional.
Story behind celebrating Mata Tirtha:
According to a story, a boy used to take his cows to graze nearby a pond. Whenever he started eating his lunch, a bit of the food fell in the pond. This kept happening for a long time. One day the boy peeped into the pond, to find out what was going on there. Surprisingly, he saw his dead mother in the pond. The boy wanted, that his mother went home with him. He insisted on it and starts crying. But she said, she was already dead and it is not possible to go back if someone is dead. She said she would appear in the pond every year on Baishak Krishna Aushi (NO-moon day of Baishak). The boy agreed and went back. He started visiting the pond every year on the same day and saw his mother. Many people started to visit the pond to see their mother on this day. It is said that, once a lady visiting the pond wished to see her dead mom but she couldn’t see her. After a long wait, with frustration she jumped into the pond and died. Since the Lady committed suicide, no more dead people were seen in the pond.
RAM NAWAMI / CHAITE DASHAIN
Rama Nawami is a Hindu festival, celebrating the birth of the god Rama to king Dasharatha and Queen Kausalya in Ayodhya. Rama, the seventh avatar of Vishnu, is one of the oldest avatars of Lord Vishnu and he is having a human form. The holy day usually falls in the Shukla Paksha on the Navami, the ninth day of the month of Chaitra in the B.S. Hindu calendar. Rama Nawami is one of the most important Hindu Festivals. In some places of Nepal, the festival lasts the whole nine days of the Navaratri, thus the period is called ‘Sri Rama Navaratri’. A large number of Hindu devotees from different parts of the country and from the neighboring country India come on a pilgrimage to the Ram Janaki Temple in Janakpurdham on this occasion. Likewise, worships are also held at temples dedicated to Ramchandra, the Hindu deity and incarnation of Lord Vishnu across the country.
Hindu scriptures such as the Ramayan are recited. The devotees observe a vigil by observing a fast. It is believed to fulfill one’s wish. Born as the 10th incarnation of Lord Vishnu and the oldest son of King Dasaratha of the Ayodhya, Sri Ram married Sita, the daughter of King Janak of Mithila. The festival commemorates the victory of Sri Ram over the demons and his inspiration to the human kind, to follow the path of truth and of highest moral standards.
NEPALI NEW YEAR
The New Year in Nepal starts on Baisakh, it is the first month of the Bikram Sambat (B.C) calendar. Bikram Sambat is the official calendar of Nepal. Nepal celebrates nine different years in different times of the year. Baisakh 1st falls in mid-April. Nepal has more than 60 ethnic groups with their own unique culture and most of them have their own language. In other words, Nepal is a live example of unity in diversity. A lot of people with different cast and culture are living in Nepal. Each of them celebrate with same zeal and enthusiasm. However, Baisakh 1st is regarded as national New Year. The people are planning picnics, tours and travel during this day. The Parks across the whole country are full of people who celebrate.
Buddha Purnima Festival or Buddha Jayanti Festival is the most sacred day in the Buddhist calendar and also the most important festival of Buddhists. It is celebrated with great enthusiasm. Although Buddhists regard every full moon as sacred, the full moon of the month Vaisakh / Baisakh (April-May) has a special significant. On this day Buddha was born, attained enlightenment and Nirvana. This strange, three-fold coincidence, gives Buddha Purnima its unique significant.
Buddha Jayanti is the birthday of Lord Gautam Buddha. Buddha’s original name was Siddhartha Gautam. Siddhartha Gautam was born about 543 BC in Kapilvastu of Nepal. Siddhartha was the son of King Suddhodhan Gautam and Queen Maya Devi. Buddha was born in garden of sal trees (Shore Robusta), situated in the beautiful and peaceful Lumbini zone in Rupandehi district of Nepal. UNESCO has listed Lumbini in Nepal as a world heritage site and birthplace of Gautam Buddha.
The biggest festival celebrated in Khaptad National Park is the annual Khaptad Mela – Ganga Dashahara. Pilgrims come to take a holy bath at the park’s sacred Tribeni wetlands, where the Sailenge Khola and the Kausiya Khola rivers meet. Over 5000 people gather for this celebration! The festival is very important for cultural exchange among the population of Nepal‘s Far West. The religious rituals are accompanied by performing traditional dances and other cultural activities.
Guru Purnima is the day to show gratitude to one’s Guru who removes inner fears and show the path to Pararambha, the Supreme One. Guru Purnima is celebrated on the Full Moon day during Ashadh month (June/July). Guru Puja or Guru Worship is performed on this day in order to offer obeisance to his Guru or teachers on this day. He is a teacher, a spiritual master and the one who guides you through your personal, professional and spiritual development.
It is the day to revere our teacher and mentor, males who valuable in our life. It is the Guru who removes the darkness from within his students and leads them to the lights of wisdom and ultimately introduces them to God. The ones who impart temporal wisdom such as school teachers and college lecturers are also revered on this day.
Muslims of Nepal celebrate Eid-al-Fitr festival, one of the most important Islamic festivals. The festival, is celebrated for one to three days, marked by the end of Ramadan, the month-long fasting by the Muslim community. The date of the festival varies every year according to the Islamic calendar. On this day the Islamic community prays and call for unity among all. The Nepal government has given a public holiday for this festival.
The birthday of Lord Krishna is a special occasion for Hindus, who consider him as their leader, hero, protector, philosopher, teacher and friend. Krishna was born at midnight on the Ashtami or the 8th day of the Krishnapaksha in the Hindu month of Shravan (August-September). This auspicious day is called Janmastami. Lord Krishna is regarded as the 8th avatar or ‘incarnation’ of Lord Vishnu. Krishna belonged to the Vrishni clan (Yadu Vansa) of Yadav’s from Mathura. He was the eighth son of King Vasudev and Queen Devaki of Mathura and he was born exactly at midnight. He was the biological child of Vasudev and Devaki, but he was brought up by Nanda and Yosadha Maiyya. Krishna’s childhood is full of fun and love. His youth is romantic and an example of love and friendship with Gopis and Gopinies. He was married to Rukmini.
Krishna had a very important role in Holy Battle of Mahabharat. He was the Chariot Rider of Arjun and the main character who supported Pandavs against Kauravs to win the holy war. His holy advices are known as Bhagwat Gita, where he teaches Arjun about Dharma (Good) and Paap (Sin). He did not physically take part in the battle, but he was the heart and the soul of Pandavs. The Pandavs would never won the war without his help.
He is worshiped with so many names: Krishna, Murari, Hari, Gopal, Shyam, Nanda Lala, Makhan Chor and hundreds of other names. In fact, Krishna said “you just remember me, whatever for a name; I will be with you, if I know you are calling me”. He is named Krishna because his complexion is dark. Krishna in Sanskrit is Dark (Black). He is regarded as inventor of Basuri/Murali (Flute). Hence, he always had a flute in his hand and played his flute in the regions Brindaban and Mathura. It is said, the vibration of his music is still floating in the environment of those places.
Reason behind the celebration of Krishna Janmastami:
In the Bhagwat Gita Krishna says: “Whenever there is predominance of evil and decline of good doings (religion), I will reincarnate again to end the evil and to save the Dharma (good)”. This day is celebrated to remember, that when the pot of sin is filled, there is an end to the devil and God will come to rescue. Krishna Janmastami reminds of those stories of the battles between good and evil and tells, that the good always wins.
All Hindus celebrate Krishna Janmastami all around the world; there is a tradition to do a fasting until midnight. They enchant Slokes from the “Bhagwat Gita” and sing religious songs (Bhajans). The temples of Lord Krishna are decorated and Bhajans and Kirtan are sung or played. On Krishna Janmastami numerous devotees gather to the ancient Krishna temple in old Patan Durbar Square to keep vigil through the glorious night of his birth. As they sit huddled together, the women chant the many names of the Lord, ‘Narayan, Narayan’ and ‘Gopal, Gopal’. Some sing ancient hymns, other clap their hands, while some pray.
In Far West region:
Krishna Janmastami is also one of the famous festivals in the Far West of Nepal. The people are not only celebrating the birthday of Krishna, they also celebrate Dol Jatra. Dol Jatra is the second day celebration of Lord Krishna’s birth, in which people dress up like god and goddess and parade around the Dahangadi Bazar. Many people take part in this parade and sometimes the crowd becomes uncontrolled. However, Dol Jatra is very famous in Far West region and it is celebrated since many centuries
“Gai” is cow and “Jatra” is procession. Gai Jatra festival, the procession of cows, generally falls in the month of Bhadra, which corresponds to the month August / September in the English calendar. The festival of cows is one of the most popular festivals in Nepal. It is said, that people in ancient time, started worshipping Yamaraj, “the god of death” on this day. The modern form of the celebration of Gai Jatra came into existence in the medieval period of Nepal, during the reign of Malla Kings. The celebration of Gai Jatra, like it’s today, with its humorous acts, parody and comedy, was started by the King of Kathmandu, Pratap Malla.
Traditionally every family who had a case of death in the family during the preceding year must participate in the procession with a cow through the streets of Kathmandu. If a cow is unavailable, then a young kid, dressed as a cow, is considered a fair substitute. This was the beginning of the tradition of leading a cow with kids in funny costumes.
Story behind the celebration of Gai Jatra:
Pratap Malla (King), lost his young son. His wife, the queen was in great misery and her husband couldn’t make her smile again. So, Pratap announced that anyone who could make the queen laugh, would be rewarded adequately. He asked the people to past the queen with the cow procession. The people tried their best with different costumes and humorous acts. The dances and the cow procession finally gave the queen her smile back. The smile at the moment was temporary, but the procession gave queen a big relief. She knew that there are several deaths in the city during the year and she is not alone. Death is a natural phenomenon and no one has a control on it.
Hence, from the day King Pratap Malla started the tradition of the cow procession with boys in different funny make ups and funny costumes. The boys even put tails and dressed like monkeys and walk through the city, to show people that the death is the truth in the life and everyone has to face it one day. The Gai Jatra tradition slowly developed into doing humorous acts, including jokes, satires, mockery and lampoon.
After the cow procession is over, in the afternoon everyone takes part in another tradition, in which the participants dress up and wear masks. The people also enjoy the moments with songs, jokes, mockery and humors until late evening.
Gai Jatra is a festival, which enables people to accept the reality of death and to prepare oneself for the life after death. It heals the sorrow, at least a little, when people see the cow procession and realize people die and they are not the only ones in the country, that lost a loved one.
Modern Day Gai Jatra:
Modern day Gai Jatra added various flavors to the festival in consistence with the traditional values, Pratap Malla had established. In the past, when there was Shah’s regime, people were not allowed to speak openly about the political system and the leaders. Gai Jatra was regarded as the day, when people are given such liberty to talk, point and satire the system, government and the leaders. Still various comedy shows, acts and dramas are organized in different places including television and radios. Special edition of newspapers are also published on this day with different cartoons and comedy articles.
Teej is a festival which is celebrated by Nepali women all around the world, for the long life of her husband and a long relationship between them, until the death for this life and all the lives which will come. Teej is observed for marital happiness, well-being of spouse and children, as well as purification of the own body and soul. Teej is the most famous festival among Nepali women. The folk music and dances make Teej a more traditional festival. It is fascinating to see women wearing all red, dancing and singing on the street, going to temple in holy and fasting mood. Teej is also called Hari Talika Teej.
Teej is celebrated on the 3rd of Bhadra Sukala Paksha (according to Nepali lunar calendar). It generally falls in late August or early September. Teej is traditionally dedicated to the Goddess Parvati, remembering her union with Lord Shiva. It is a three-day long celebration that combines splendid feasts, as well as rigid fasting. The festival also welcomes and celebrates the arrival of the monsoon after a season of summer heat.
The eve (first day of Teej):
Is called Dar Khane Din. On this day, all the family members, especially the women, both married and unmarried, gather at one place, in their red clothes (called Saubhagya) and start dancing and singing devotional songs mixed with Nepali folk and Dohori songs. This evening the grand feast takes place, which is called “Dar”. The celebration often goes until midnight. After midnight, the 24-hour fasting starts.
The second day:
Is the main day of Teej (the fasting day). Some women take it very rigid, they even live without a piece of food and drop of water. Married women wear their Lagan Ko Pote, Natthi and other jewelry and visit a nearby Lord Shiva’s temple singing and dancing all the way.
Most of devotees in Kathmandu go to Pashupatinath Temple. At the Shiva temple women worship the Shiva lingam, the symbol of the Lord Shiva, by offering flowers, sweets and coins, pleading them to grant their blessings upon the husband and family. The most important part of the Puja (religious ceremony) is mostly done in the evening, burning the oil lamp (108 Sute Batti in a Diyo), which should be burn throughout the night. It is a tradition, that the mother in law gives the Diyo of Teej to the married women.
What is Dar:
Women who go for fasting, eat a very big feast the next das, which is called “Daro Khana”, that means heavy food in Nepali. They go for a big feast in the evening with deserts, Mithai, Nepali foods like Sel, Puri, fruits and some communities even go for non-vegetarian foods, like muttons and chicken. Dar is just the short form of Daro Khana.
Third day morning:
Women get up early in the dawn, get cleaned and do Puja once again for the Diyo and the goddess Parvati. The most important part of this Puja is a banana and a holy basil leaf (Tulsi Patta). This third day of Teej is called Ganesh Chaturthi. Women eat Karkallo ko Tarkari with Chokho (pure), food made with pure ghee.
The fourth day of festival:
Is called Rishi Panchami. After the completion of the previous day’s Puja, women pay homage to various deities and bathe with red mud found on the roots of the sacred Datwan bush, along with its leaves. This act of purification is the final ritual of Teej, after which, women are considered forgiven from all their sins. In present day, many women are boycotting Rishi Panchami Puja, because they think it’s challenging their dignity of being a woman. In Nepal, menstruation is considered as impure. Women, who are in their period, are not allowed to touch anything, they are not allowed to go into the kitchen and they have to sleep in a different room. This shows the discrimination to women, who are in their period. Women doing Rishi Panchami Puja are asking god to forgive them, if they had touched any holy thing in their period. Hence, the feminists disagree with the concept of this Puja. Menstruation is not related to any religion or culture, it is a biological procedure.
JANAI PURNIMA / RAKSHA BANDHAN / RAKHI
Janai is a cotton string worn across the chest by Hindu man. This thread is only given to males during a long and impressive religious ceremony, called Barthabandhan. Almost all the religion has a type of Barthabandhan, known by different names. Barthabandhan is basically a formal process of accepting someone in the religion.
The Janai initiates the boy manhood and commands them to devotedly follow the religion and the path of truth. The Janai must be worn every day, after they had listen to their mantra from the guru during Barthabandhan. It is regarded as a symbol of body, speech and mind. The person, who is wearing the knots tided, is supposed to gain complete control over them. This cord is changed, if it becomes untidy or dishonored this is forbidden by religion. However, Janai must be changed without failure on Raksha Bandhan Day.
Rakshya means “to protect” and Bandhan is “tie” or “bond”. Rakshya Bandhan is a bond or tie of protection. This thread, which is tied around the hand, is called Doro. Some people even say Janai for Doro. In Rakshya Bandhan day, men, women and children, regardless of their status and caste, get tied a Doro (sacred colorful thread) around their wrist. Generally, males get tied thread around their right and the women around their left wrist. They believe that Doro brings them good luck and if you believe strong, it always becomes true. People keep the Doro until the Laxmi Puja day in Deepawali. At this day, the thread is taken away from the wrist and tided on the tail of a cow during the cow worship day (Laxmi Puja) in October.
This festival is also marked by tying a Rakhi or a holy thread at the wrist of a male by his sisters. At this time, the market is full of different colored Rakhis. This festival is equivalent to Bhai Tika in Tihar, which is celebrated by some communities across Nepal. The brother in return offers a gift to his sister and swears to look after her, as she presents sweets to her brother.
In Nepal, a special menu for Janai Purnima in the Newar community is called Kwati. This day is also called Kwati Punhi. Kwati is a soup of different beans, and Punhi means the full moon day. Newar people also put the sacred thread around the wrist, which is to be taken off on the day of Laxmi Puja, another festival in Tihar. In Janai Purnima Newar farmers offer different food items to frogs, believing that worshipping the frogs, who are considered as an agent of the God of rainfall, helps to increase the production of crops.
Indra Jatra is known traditionally as Yanya Punhi for “Kathmandu festival”. It’s also known as Kumara Jatra. So, in truth it’s about two or three celebrations all made into one. Indra is the Hindu lord of rain and god of heaven, while the word Jatra means procession or festival.
What happens at Indra Jatra?
Actually Indra Jatra is an eight-day festival, but most people only celebrate on the penultimate day, commonly known as “Indra Jatra”. The festival usually starts at 1pm at Kathmandu Durbar Square with several groups of tribal and local musicians arriving into the main area. The music is heavy with cymbals and drums. A thirty-six-foot wooden pole, selected by a ceremony from the Nala forest in Kavre in east Kathmandu, is brought to represent Shiva’s Linga (Yasingh). The pole with a flag on its top, is balanced by a man. It is believed, Indra received this flag from Lord Vishnu for protection. The massive Bhairab statue is unveiled (usually the day before and at the same day) in Durbar Square, where alcohol pours from his mouth.
People, dressed as demons, enter the square and reenact mystical fights between the creatures. The music beat gets louder and the crowd surges a little. A stream of young men run into the square followed by an elaborately decorated team, dressed as a white elephant, Tana-Kishi. The elephant is looking for his master Indra and runs along the streets creating mischief with the man running beside him, who leads the crowd with a little torch flame. Finally, after the dignitaries get their blessings, the living Goddesses enter the square in their special ropes and a drawn chariot. Handlers throw out sacred carnations to onlookers. The Chariot is pulled by men and goes through massive crowds.
KUSHE AUSI (FATHER’S DAY)
Father’s Day is the day of paying respect to him. It is also known as Kuse Ausi or Pitri Tirpani Aausi or Gokarne Ausi. On this day, Nepali people pay their homage, respect to their father for his care and love, with their favorite food, clothing and other dad’s favorite stuff. Mukh Herne means “to allow someone as our relative, give respect or to recognize the achievement of someone”. Hence, this day is called “Babu ko Mukh Herne din”. The people who has already lost their father, giving Sida Daan to Pandit (Sida is holy mixture of rice grains and other pure food materials with clothes).
How do we celebrate Babu ko Mukh Herne din:
Nepal has more than 70 ethnic groups almost all have their own traditions and languages. The people of different communities and tribes have their own way of celebrating Father’s Day. Some communities celebrate with an empty stomach early in the morning and some celebrate in the evening. However, all the communities prepare foods and tasty feats in and serve it to their father. The celebration and fun of the festival depends upon the place, climate and ethnicity.
Gaura is the festival which falls in the month of Bhadra, according to Nepali calendar (August/September). Especially most of the middle-west and Far West parts of Nepal celebrates this festival. It starts from day of Krishna Janmastami (birth of Lord Krishna) and lasts for three days, by worshipping Shiva and Parvati along with Ganesh. The Deuda dance is a major part of this festival, participants hold hands, form a circle and stepped to the traditional music. Apart from the many ceremonies that happen during this festival, it is the occasion for married women to put on the sacred thread which is called Dub Dhago. Deuda is one type of music having variety of genres including Thadi Bhaka. Specially this type of music is presented in Sudur Paschim and many regions of Madhya-Paschim. The Gaura festival is celebrated by the Hindu people residing in the far-western part of Nepal. There are many tales regarding the origin of the Gaura but mainly on this day, the women worship goddess Gauri (the wife of Lord Shiva) for their husband’s health and a long life.
The main theme of this festival is to worship goddess Gauri, so during this day many temples of the goddess get different rituals. After finishing the worship at the temple those fasting women return back to home and bless their keens with Biruda, it is supposed to give them long life and health. On the day of Krishna Janmastami women fasting, later they form a grass-made idol of Shiva and Parvati. They also offer a mixture of five kinds of grains, known as Panchbirudi. This festival is also called Biruda Parva, women wear new clothes and enjoy singing their traditional songs.
During the month of Kartik (late September and early October), the Nepalese people celebrate the biggest festival of the year, Dashain. Dashain is the longest and most auspicious festival in the Nepalese annual calendar, celebrated by all castes and throughout the whole country. The fifteen days of celebration take place during the bright lunar fortnight and ending on the day of full moon. Throughout the kingdom of Nepal the goddess Durga was worshiped with innumerable Pujas (religious ceremony), abundant offerings like thousands of animal sacrify for the ritual holy bath, which drenches the goddess for days in blood. Dashain commemorates a great victory of the gods over the wicked demons. The main celebration glorifies the triumph of good over evil and is symbolized by goddess Durga slaying the terrible demon Mahisasur, who terrorized the earth in the guise of a brutal water buffalo.
Preparation – During the preparation for Dashain, every home is cleansed, beautifully decorated and painted as an invitation to the mother goddess, so that she may visit and bless the house with good fortune. During this time the reunion of distant and nearby relatives occurs in every household. The market is filled with shoppers who offer new clothing and gifts. The people offer luxurious and enormous supplies in temples for the gods: ducks, chicken and water buffalo for ten to fifteen days. It is almost impossible to find laborers these days, from the poor to the rich, all enjoy the festival mood. Anywhere you can feel the flair of ‘Vijaya Dashami’.
The first day – of Dashain is called Ghatasthapana. During Ghatasthapana, the first day of the Dashain festival, the citizens in Far West Nepal celebrate another festival called Kalai Lagaune. It is regarded as an opportunity to pay homage to mother earth and is unique to the region. On this day the Kalash (holy water vessel), which symbolizing goddess Durga is important. You will find the Kalash in the praying room,it is filled with holy water and covered with cow dung, in which seeds are sown. A small rectangular sand block is made and the Kalash is put in the center. The surrounding bed of sand is also seeded with grains. The Ghatasthapana rituals are performed at a certain moment, which is determined by astrologers. The room where the Kalash is standing, is called Dashain Ghar. A priest or a household man/woman worship the Kalash everyday once in the morning and once in the evening. The Kalash and the sand are sprinkled with holy water every day and it is shielded from direct sunlight. By the tenth day, the seed will have grown five or six inches long. The sacred yellow grass is called Jamara. The elders bestow it in the last five days the head who is younger then them. The Jamara is taken as a token of Goddess Durga to pay homage to mother earth and is unique to the region.
The seventh day – Regular rituals are execute until the seventh day. The seventh day is called Fulpati. In Fulpati, the royal Kalash, filled with holy water, banana stalks, Jamara (yellow sacred grass) and sugar cane, is tied with red cloth and carried by Brahmans on the decorated palanquin under a gold tripped and embroidered umbrella. The government officials also join the Fulpati parade, with this the Dashain feasting starts.
The eighth day – is called the Maha Asthami: the fervor of worship and sacrifice to Durga and Kali increases. On this day many orthodox Hindus will be fasting. Sacrifices are held in almost every household throughout the day. The night of the eighth day is called Kal Ratri, the dark night. Hundreds of goats, sheep’s and buffaloes are sacrificed at the mother goddess temples. The sacrifice continues until dawn. While the Puja (religious ceremony) is being carried out, great feasts are held in the homes, where large amounts of meat are consumed.
The ninth day – is called Nawami: Temples of mother goddess are filled with people from dawn until dusk. Animals, mostly black buffaloes, are slaughtered to honor Durga and to seek her blessing. On the ninth day, the god Vishwa Karma, the god of creativity, is also worshiped. All factories, vehicles, machinery instruments and everything, which we are able to make our living standards, are worshiped. They also give sacrifices to all vehicles, like cars, airplanes, trucks etc., to get the blessing from goddess Durga for their protection and their occupants against accidents during the year.
The tenth day – is the Dashami: on this day, we get Tika and Jamara (yellow sacred grass) from our elders and receive their blessings. On this day nearby family members and distant relatives come for a visit to receive Tika. This function continues for four days. After four days of rushing around and meeting your relatives, Dashain ends on the full moon day (Kojagrata, meaning who is awake). The Hindu goddess of wealth, Laxmi, is also worshipped.
After Dashain everyone goes back into normal life. After receiving the blessing of goddess Durga, people are ready to work and acquire virtue, power and wealth. Thus, Dashain is not only the longest festival, but also the most anticipated one among all the festivals of Nepal.
The festival of lights, is one of the most dazzled Hindu festivals. The Goddess of Wealth, Laxmi, is worshiped and all the houses are decorated with oil lamps. During the night, entire villages and cities look like they are sparkling.
Tihar is the five days celebration in the Yama Panchak. After Dashain it is the most celebrated festival in Nepal. It is a five-day festival celebrated in late autumn and has a unique way of celebration.
The Five Days of Tihar: 1. Kaag Tihar- Crow Puja, 2. Kukur Tihar- Dog Puja, 3. Gai Tihar or Laxmi puja- Cow or Goddess of Wealth Puja, 4. Goru Tihar, Govardhan Puja, (Aatma Puja)- Ox Puja, 5. Bahi Tika, Bhai Dooj- Brother and Sister Puja
Story behind Tihar:
There are various stories about the celebration of Tihar. One of the famous stories behind the celebration of Tihar is related to Yama, the god of death and sister Yamuna. Yama had been staying away from his sister for a long time. His sister wanted to meet him. She sent crow, dog and cow and at the end she went herself to see her brother. She worshipped him with Tika and flowers and put him five colored tika. Yamuna made a circle with mustard oil, Dubo (Grass) and put Makhmali Mala (Globe Amaranth) and asked Yamaraj not to go till the oil, the Dubo Grass and the flowers get dry. Therefore, every sister worships her brother.
First Day of Tihar – Kaag Tihar (Crow Puja) – On the first day of Tihar, crows are worshiped and fed early in the morning. People are giving different food items for crows to eat. The Crow is considered to be the messenger of death. People believe the crow gets the message to the house in the morning and bring good luck themselves.
Second Day – Kukur Tihar (Dog Puja) – The second day of Tihar is dedicated to the most loyal friend of mankind. Kukur, the dog, Puja (religious ceremony) is done by putting a red tika on dog’s forehead and flower garland around the neck offering him foods and sel roti. It is said that dog can see endangers and the death coming. They are worshipped also for being the most loyal animals and most loving their masters.
Third Day – Gai (Cow Puja) and Laxmi (Goddess of Wealth) Puja – On the third day cows are worshiped in the morning. With sesame oil, light, garland of flowers and red color. Wheat flour, sel roti, rice and daal are feed to the cows. The Cow is regarded as mother in the Hindu religion, we grow up and drinking her milk. Some people see cows as Goddess Laxmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity. In the afternoon we clean our house, paint floor with Red Mud (Rato Mato) and cow dung (gobar). A small circle is made in front of the main gate and will be decorated with colorful design. Small designs of footsteps are painted from the main entrance to the puja kotha. These footsteps are believed to be the footsteps of goddess Laxmi. Candles are lit all over the house, making it bright and beautiful. There is a long tradition of going around in the evening, singing songs to ask for money and food. Generally, girls and boys go out to neighbors and sing the traditional songs called Bhailo.
The People play cards in Laxmi puja to welcome goddess Laxmi in the night. They believe, Laxmi comes to the house which is clean and bright. In the evening, the goddess of wealth Laxmi is worshiped by lighting numerous puja to welcome goddess Laxmi in the night. It is believed that by worshipping Laxmi and pleasing her in return she gives us wealth. The People worship wealth and food store this day.
Fourth day – On Govardhan Pujaihar, three different kinds of puja are performed. We perform the Goru Puja, or worship Oxen, also the Govardhan Puja, which is done by making a hill of Govardhan Parbat using cow dung. Cow dung has big importance in Hindu culture. In the old days, it was used for everything from light at night to polish mud floors of traditional houses. Still now, no Puja is complete without cow dung in Nepal Hindu culture.
In this night Newar community perform Maha Puja also known as self-puja. It is done to purify our body. In this Puja, a Mandap is decorated with Saipatri (Marigold Flowers, sweets, fruits and a special Mala). Each member of the family offers the person sitting on the Mandap a Shagun with her hands crossed. Shagun usually consist fried eggs, fruit, sweets, meat, fish, lentil and pastries. In the left-hand egg and fish and in the right hand Rakshi (homemade alcohol). This day is also called the beginning of Nepal Sambat, Newari New year.
In the evening, many Nepali children and young men go from house to house and singing the Deusi song (aahai bhana mera bhai ho deusi re bhana na bhana deusere). Deusi is very similar to Bhailo. Bhailo is primarily for female and Deusi for male. However, now a day there is such distinct. People go in group with males and female members to celebrate Bhailo and Deusi.
Fifth Day – Bhai Tika or Bhai Duj, the fifth and last day of Tihar is Bhai Tika. This day, sisters put “Tika of Five Color” Yellow, Green, Red, Blue and White on forehead of her brothers, to ensure long life and pray to Yamaraj for her brother’s long life and prosperity. Sister offers brothers Shaguns of dry fruits especially walnut, hazelnut (Katus), fruits and sweets and in return, the brothers give their sisters gifts and money. The brothers also put Pancha rangi Tika to sisters, bow her on her feet and assure her to protect her until the end of life. On this day, Rani Pokhari Temple (located at center in Kathmandu) is opened for those, who do not have any brother or sisters. This is the only time in the year, that the temple is open to general public.
We call the five days of ‘Tihar’ as ‘Yama Panchak’, means the five days of Yama Raj. On these five days, we do everything possible for keeping Yama Raj happy, as Yama Raj is going to judge our vices and virtues after our death and treats our souls accordingly.
Neman is the ritual of honouring the new harvest, which is celebrated in November. On this day, the chirpi (dung cake) made during Shukrati (another Tharu Festival) is used to light a fire and cook the first grain harvested from the field before it is offered to the home deity. The Tharus consume the newly harvested grain only after celebrating Neman.
Yomari Punhi is a Newari festival marking the end of the rice harvest. It takes place in November/December during the full moon day of Thinla, the second month in the lunar Nepali calendar. Yomari Punhi, meaning the full moon of Yomari, is one of the most popular Newari festivals and is observed every year during the full moon of December. A Yomari is a confection of rice flour (from the new harvest) dough shaped like fish and filled with brown cane sugar and sesame seed, which is then steamed. This delicacy is the chief item on the menu during the post-harvest celebration of Yomari Punhi.
On this full moon day, people of the Kathmandu valley worship Annapurna, the goddess of grains, for the rice harvest. Groups of kids go around the neighborhood in the evening to beg Yomari cake from housewives. Sacred masked dances are performed in the village of Hari Siddhi and Thecho at the southern end of the valley.
Christmas is the celebration of Lord Jesus birthday. It is believed that Jesus was born in the town of Bethlehem, six miles south of Jerusalem, the capital of Israel. Christmas is celebrated in Nepal in the Nepali way. Nepali Christians are busy going to the Churches and exchanging gifts and having feasts with their friends and family. Christmas is celebrated on 25th of December every year and it is an official holiday in Nepal.
How do people celebrate Christmas in Nepal:
Christmas is celebrated more amongst the Christian communities in Nepal. However, other communities also participate in parties and non-religious celebration during Christmastime, just like they celebrate every other festival.
People start shopping from the beginning of December and Christmas trees are erected at homes. The trees are decorated with bells, stars, reindeers, gift boxes and many other decorations. The Christmas trees are lit up with twinkling lights. People are going to mass in church during the mid-night. In the morning people visit the houses of friends and convey their best wishes. Gifts are being exchanged. In the evening the Christian homes host special Christmas feast. The feast comprises roasted chicken, vegetable salad and other Nepali foods along with Turkey, pumpkin pies and Christmas pudding. The foods and celebration depends the birth of Lord Jesus with zeal and enthusiasm.
There are many functions organized in Thamel, Kathmandu and other cities of Nepal, like lightening, music, concert, live music held in restaurants and some even offer a discount and lots of food variety during Christmas.
History of Christianity in Nepal:
Protestant Christians came to Nepal primarily through the Nepalese, who were living outside of Nepal during the prior to the Rana Regime. After the collapse of Ranas rule in Nepal in 1950, Nepali Christians living in India came in, along with some western missionaries. Unites Mission to Nepal, International Nepal Fellowship and other are a few earliest western mission agencies that came in and brought Christianity. According to the government data, Protestantism (a form of Christianity) accounts for about 0.5 % to 1 % of Nepali population.