The majority of Nepal’s festivals have religious beliefs, and some of them are based on significant occasions in prehistoric mythology and epic literature. The Nepalese festivals unite everyone for the celebration and maintain harmony within each other. Nepal is a country blessed by the most diverse in the world and it is recorded that the Nepalese population is comprised of 125 caste and ethnic groups, and every day Nepalese and Nepal are following their unique culture and celebrating their festivals. Regardless of the beauty of the Himalayas and its natural resources, Nepal is also well known for its culture, festivals, and hospitality.
Here are a few popular festivals celebrated in Nepal in the year 2023:
- 1 Jan 22, 2023, Lhosar
- 2 January 26, 2023, Basanta Panchami/ Saraswati Puja
- 3 February 18, 2023, Maha Shivaratri
- 4 March 6-7, 2023, Holi
- 5 March 21, 2023, Ghode Jatra
- 6 April 14, 2023, Nepali New Year and Bisket Jatra
- 7 May 16,17 and 18, 2023 , Tiji Festival in Upper Mustang
- 8 May 26, 2023, Buddha Jayanti
- 9 May-June 2023, Rato Machchhendranath
- 10 August 21 2023, Naag Panchami
- 11 August 31, 2023, Janai Purnima
- 12 September 1, 2023, Gai Jatra in Kathmandu Valley
- 13 September 6 & 7, Krishna Janmashtami
- 14 September 18, Haritalika-Teej
- 15 September 28, Indra-Jatra
- 16 October 15 – 28, 2023- Dashain
- 17 November 10 -15, 2023 Tihar
- 18 November 19, 2023 – Chaat
Jan 22, 2023, Lhosar
Sonam Lhosar festivities get underway on the second new moon following the winter solstice. It falls on January 22 in the year 2023. Every year, Nepal celebrates a lavish event to celebrate the start of the Tibetan New Year. 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 are held in cities and more remote regions.
Photo Source: Kathmandu Post
The Tamang community marks the new year off in style every year, and celebrations typically extend for nearly a week. To prepare for the new year, they clean and decorate their homes throughout the month. Other customs of the occasion include dancing while wearing masks, visiting monasteries and stupas, and performing rituals to ward off negativity.
January 26, 2023, Basanta Panchami/ Saraswati Puja
In the year 2023, Basanta Panchami / Saraswati Puja will be celebrated on Thursday, 26th of January. The Goddess Saraswati is celebrated on this auspicious occasion and she is considered the goddess of knowledge and creator and arts, education, and music. People worship Goddess Saraswati in a desire to become knowledgeable and to be freed from ignorance, sluggishness, and lethargy. This Vasant Panchami tradition of introducing education to young children is called as Akshar-Abhyasam or Vidya-Arambham/Praasana. Pujas are held in the morning in schools and universities to ask the Goddess’ grace and wisdom.
Photo Source: Republica
February 18, 2023, Maha Shivaratri
Maha Shivaratri is one of the biggest festivals celebrated by Hindus in Nepal. Shivaratri is an abbreviation for “the night of Lord Shiva.” On this day, devout Hindus take a morning bath and then go to Shiva temples. The Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu, where thousands of Sadhus (Hindu holy men) from Nepal and as well as India visit and smoke marijuana and hashish, which are thought to be precious to Lord Shiva. People also consume Bhang, a beverage produced by combining milk with crushed nuts, spices, herbs, and marijuana extracts. Maha Shivaratri is undoubtedly one of Nepal’s more intriguing festivals, in my opinion. Likewise. millions of devotees from Nepal and foreign land visit Pashupatinath Temple on this day.
Shivratri is observed on the fourteenth day of each lunar month, the day before the new moon.
Among all the twelve Shivratris that occur in a calendar year, Mahashivratri, the one that occurs in February-March is of the most spiritual significance. The northern hemisphere of the planet is positioned on this night in such a way that there is a natural increase in human energy. Nature is urging people to reach their spiritual zenith on this day. Visiting Nepal and experiencing this festival is certainly a high-rise experience in one’s life.
March 6-7, 2023, Holi
Holi is a festive season that is full of color and fun. On one day, it is observed in the Terai, and the following day, in Kathmandu and the hill regions. People hurl colored water and water balloons, as well as smear colored powders on their friends, family, and loved ones.
It begins on the evening of the Purnima (Full Moon Day), which happens in the Lunar calendar month of Phalguna( Falgun), which corresponds to the middle of March in the Gregorian calendar. It lasts for a night and a day and is also called Fagu-purnima.
People will gather in one big group on the streets, parks, and fields and share the experience of a rainbow of colors – by the end, everyone involved will be covered in a spectrum of colored powder. Groups of people will sing and dance, while playing the dhol drums in some regions – this year the kids had a water fight with balloons and water guns afterward! It is a really fun time. Kathmandu, Pokhara, and other main cities offer incredible Holi fest and one must enjoy this in their lifetime. A lot of foreigners visit nepal during this time of the year and enjoy the festival of colors.
March 21, 2023, Ghode Jatra
Ghode Jatra (Kathmandu valley) in 2023 is on Tuesday, 21st of Mar. Ghost Jatra is celebrated on the new moon of Chaitra Sukla Pakdhya in the Lunar Calendar, and it usually falls in March -April in the western calendar. The tradition of Ghode Jatra started when Legend has it that a demon called Gurumapa (also called Tundi) was terrorizing people in the Kathmandu Valley, kidnapping children and devouring them. The demon was finally slain when he was trampled by horses.
Gurumapa was buried under a tree on Tundikhel, a large grass-covered ground in the center of Nepal’s capital Kathmandu. Killing the demon isn’t the end of the story as his spirit lived on, creating trouble in different ways. To keep the demon in his place, the King ordered his horses to gallop over the field to trample the demon’s spirit back into the ground. This annual tradition became Ghode Jatra.
High-class dignitaries attend the celebration, which is marked with a big horse parade in Tundikhel that day. Horse races are organized by the army of Nepal. It is thought that the demon’s spirit will be suppressed more quickly the faster the horses run. The event is magnificent and well-attended since it also features other equestrian competitions, acrobatics, and parachuting.
The visitors can always enjoy the ceremony when they visit Kathmandu.
April 14, 2023, Nepali New Year and Bisket Jatra
Nepal has its own calendar and Baisakh is the first month of the year. April 14, 2023, is Baisakh 1st, 2080 B.S. in Nepali, and is a new year. The time of the new year is always an outgoing time in Nepal with mass celebrations all over the country. New Year is celebrated with different parties, family gatherings, exchange of good wishes, and participation in rituals to ensure good fortune in the coming year. Many cities organize parties and events during this time and the visitors can enjoy their time.
Likewise, BiskaJatra, the main Newar festival in Bhaktapur is called Bisket Jatra. The Bikram Sambat Calendar’s end of Chaitra and the beginning of the following year are marked by the celebration of this nine-day festival. Two goddesses, Bhairav and Bhadrakali, have chariots that are the highlight of the Jatra. The tug of the battle between the Thane (Upper) and Kone (Lower) parts of the town to get the chariot to their territory is the Jatra’s signature event.
The chariot is constructed in Taumadhi Square one month before the start of the Jatra. Additionally, the 25-meter-tall pole known as Lyasing Dya (Lingo) is built at Lyasing Khela and demolished at the beginning of each year.
A huge chariot carrying the god Bhairab is pulled through the streets, ending with a chariot battle at Bhaktapur’s Khalna Tole.
A huge chariot carrying the god Bhairab is pulled through the streets, ending with a chariot battle at Bhaktapur’s Khalna Tole.
May 16,17 and 18, 2023 , Tiji Festival in Upper Mustang
Tiji festival is a three-day festival during the month of May (the third Tibetan month) and is regarded as a very auspicious occasion in the Upper Mustang area. Tiji festival, which is a popular festival in the Himalayas of Nepal and India, celebrates the triumph of good over evil. A festival continued as a legacy from the 17th century features colorful events such as Vajrakila rituals consisting of dance performances to lift curses and spread the message of well-being and good luck.
Celebrated as a religious ceremony by the locals of Mustang, the Tiji festival attracts several tourists due to its unique events and has popularised the Tiji festival tour and Mustang Tiji festival trek over the recent years.
The Tiji Festival, 2023 will be celebrated 16th, 17th & 18th of May 2023. Apart from strolling along the stunning and exceptional surroundings of Upper Mustang with the magnificent views of the snow-capped peaks, you can take part in this vibrant and lively festival which will be a lifetime experience.
You can also book your trip for this year to celebrate Tiji Festival at Upper Mustang.
May 26, 2023, Buddha Jayanti
The birthday of Lord Gautam Buddha is commemorated on Buddha Purnima. Buddha Purnima is another name for Vaishakh Purnima. It falls on the first full moon day of the first month of the Hindu Lunar Calendar and is celebrated all over Nepal, especially by Hindus and Buddhists.
Buddha Jayanti is celebrated in all of the Buddha Stupas, monasteries, and Stupa. An auspicious time to visit Lumbini and other Buddhist places in Nepal is during Buddha Purnima. Both Hindus and Buddhists in Nepal celebrate the day, which is also a public holiday. Only in the Kathmandu valley are there more than 10,000 Buddhist Chaityas. The most famous and important Buddhist sites among them are Swyambhunath and Boudhanath.
Similar to this, ceremonies and butter lamp offerings are made at other significant Buddhist locations like the Guru Rinpoche cave of Pharping, the Namo Buddha Stupa, and the Buddhist monastic village of Patan. Throughout the day, hundreds of people visit these locations to adore Buddha, practice precepts and donate to Dana (donation).
Sermons are delivered, Buddha relics are shown, and ceremonies honoring Buddha are held during the day. A grand celebration can experience Lumbini- Birth place of lord Gautam Buddha. People must visit the Lord Buddha places once in their lifetime.
May-June 2023, Rato Machchhendranath
The Rato Machindranath Jatra, which takes place in Lalitpur, Nepal, is a chariot parade celebrating the Vajrayani Buddhist deity of kindness who is also revered by Hindus as an incarnation of Shiva. It is the longest chariot festival celebrated in the nation and one of the biggest religious festivals in the city.
The chariot festival is held according to the lunar calendar, so the date is changeable. It begins on the 4th day of the bright fortnight of Bachhalā, the seventh month in the lunar Nepal Sambat calendar. However, in Georgian calender, it lies during the month of May- June. Living Goddess, Kumari is also worshipped during this festival.
People from Lalitpur-natal, Gabalal, Mekhabahal, Kusunti, Kayani, Walmaya, Dhaugol, and SachhiChhe are leading the Rato Machindranath chariot. This annual celebration was started by the Lichhavi monarch Narendra Dev to appropriately invoke the rain and the harvest. At Pulchowk, a chariot with a height of roughly 60 feet is constructed to mark the occasion’s beginning. Once it is finished, the statue of Rato Machindranath (the rain god) from his temple is placed inside the chariot.
Another, smaller chariot called “Mimnath” travels with Rato Machindranath. The chariots are then pulled through Lalitpur’s streets, through Natole, Gabahal, Mangal Bazaar, Sundhara, Lagankhel, and Kumaripati before stopping to rest at Jawalakhel for the Bhoto Jatra festival and the chariot is dismantled after it reaches to bungamati and ratomachindranath deity is placed at its own place at BUngamati.
Thousands of visitors take part in this festival and enjoy the amazing Newa culture of Nepal. The Newari food is also very popular throughout the festival.
August 21 2023, Naag Panchami
When you walk along the street of Nepal and when you see the door of the houses, you must notify the pictures and posters of Naag ( Snake) in the doorways. The pictures are posted every year on the day of Naagpanchami. It is a festival that falls right in between the monsoon season where the Hindu devotees worship the serpent god, Naag. The worship is offered on the fifth day of the bright half of the lunar month of Shravana (July/August), according to the Hindu calendar.
People offer offerings like food and milk for snakes, on the day of Naag Panchami. Also, they visit Naag and Narayan temples. Nagpokhari, Taudaha, and Nagdaha are the places that seem thronged with devotees on this day, besides the Narayan temples.
August 31, 2023, Janai Purnima
One of the most revered and significant festivals is Janai Purnima. The celebration honors the connection between security and chastity. Purnima is the day of the full moon, and Janai signifies holy thread. Some ethnic groups carry out their yearly ritual of changing Janai on this day. After having a bath in the sacred Bagmati, Vishnumati, or other surrounding rivers, people change the cotton janai that is worn across their chest.Other individuals who do not wear Janai wrap their wrists in a sacred, vibrant thread from Pundits called “Doro” (priest).
There is a notion that sacred thread should be worn at all times for defense and safety. On the third day of the Tihar festival, a few months later, that thread is knotted into the cow’s tail. This ceremony is performed to ensure a smooth transition to paradise after death. It is thought that when someone passes away, they would hang onto the tail of the cow as it pulled them across to the Baitarni River.
The devotees especially visit the Kumbheswar Mahadev temple of Patan, Lalitpur, and Goisakunda Lake.
It is a good opportunity for trekkers to visit Goisakunda on the occasion of Janai Purnima to enjoy the trek with the culture.
September 1, 2023, Gai Jatra in Kathmandu Valley
The Gai Jatra is celebrated according to the lunar Nepal Samabat calendar and falls on the first day of the dark fortnight of the month of Gunla, it lies in the month of August/September in the Georgian calender. Gai Jatra is one of the old and traditional festivals in Nepal celebrated mainly in Kathmandu valley by the Newar community. Gai denotes Cow & Jatra denotes festival in the Nepali language. And in Nepal Bhasa(Newari language) is called Sah Paru.
The Gai Jatra festival is significant because it is a time when people remember loved ones who have passed away. Family members of the deceased from the previous year send participants in the celebration, typically children dressed as cows, to parade through the streets. In recent days, it is also taken as a festival of dancing, singing, merriment, laughter, and comedy.
The festival is related to the story of the queen of King Pratap Malla in the 17th century who was devastated when he lost his son. He urged his people to have a carnival if someone had passed away in their family in order to demonstrate to his wife that death is a normal part of life. The fact that so many people responded to the call to prayer helped the queen by demonstrating that she was not grieving alone and that everyone attending the festival had also lost a loved one.
September 6 & 7, Krishna Janmashtami
An occasion to celebrate Krishna’s birth is known as Krishna Janmashtami. Krishna, who is regarded as the eighth manifestation of Lord Vishnu, is the most significant figure in the Hindu epic Mahabharat. Hindu worshipers visit Krishna temples during this occasion. Particularly in Patan Durbar Square, throngs of devotees gather at the Krishna Mandir.
Pic Source: Kathmandu Post
Krishna Janmashtami is celebrated on Ashtami tithi, the eighth day of the dark half or Krishna Paksha of the month of Bhadra in the Nepali calendar of Bikram Sambat. The festival falls in August- September of the English Calendar.
September 18, Haritalika-Teej
One of the main Hindu festivals Teej. Nepali women celebrate it in the hope that their husbands will live a long life, that their marriage will remain strong and stable till death, and that they will have the same partner in the afterlife. The women sit for a 24-hour fast, during which the majority avoid eating or even drinking water, after a lengthy feast known as Dar. Ladies of all ages, young and elderly, dance for hours in the sun and rain without a drop of water or sustenance for the entire day is intriguing.
Pashupatinath Temple is the major holy site for this day, millions of people visit and worship lord Shiva on this auspicious day. All other temples of Lord Shiva are also popular during this time. The women wear red and green sare and put on tika and Sindhur, and pray , sing and dance by worshipping Lord Shiva.
September 28, Indra-Jatra
A vibrant street festival called Indra Jatra is conducted annually in Kathmandu in honor of the Hindu god Indra. Two events make up the celebrations: the Kumari Jatra, a chariot parade honoring the living goddess Kumari, and the Indra Jatra, which features the masked dances of gods and demons. It also pays tribute to Taleju Bhawani, a strong goddess and Kathmandu’s guardian who would appear as the Kumari and bestow divine powers on the country’s government and people.
Source: Kathmandu post
Centred around Kathmandu Durbar Square, the celebrations last for eight days. This is also a time for family members who have died during the past year to be remembered. Samaya bajis, which the inhabitants later eat, line the streets and temples in the center of ancient Kathmandu. Around the historic Newa towns, masked dances portraying various deities and demons are performed. Three chariots, representing Kumari, Bhairav, and Ganesh, parade through the streets, being pulled by jubilant crowds. The festival has a deeper meaning attached to the culture and traditions of Newa society-worshipping nature and ancestors.
The visitors must visit this festival if they are interested in the culture and traditions of Newa.
October 15 – 28, 2023- Dashain
Dashain is one of the major festivals of Nepalese people, it is celebrated all over the nation. The festival lasts for 2 weeks with different stages and events in the Bikram Sambat calendar of Nepal. In Nepal, it is also known as the biggest festival in the country and is the longest national/public holiday, 5 days to be exact. People come back from all over the world and from various regions of the country to celebrate the festival together.
Throughout the festival period, all governmental, academic, and other offices are closed. The celebration, which begins on the shukla paksha (bright lunar night) of the month of Ashwin and ends on Purnima, the full moon, takes place in September or October.
People fly kites, put tika on their forehead, receive blessings from the elder people and eat special Nepali cuisine, buy new clothes during the festival. Goddess Durga is worshipped during this festival and the Hindu religion believes Dashain is the celebration of the victory of god over evil. If you are planning to visit Nepal during October and November, it is recommended to take part and celebrate the biggest festival of Nepal – Dashain, and Tihar.
November 10 -15, 2023 Tihar
Tihar is Nepal’s other most important festival, after Dashain. It is also known as the festival of lights and is celebrated for 5 days. According to Bikram Samvat (BS) calendar, the festival begins with Kaag (crow) Tihar in Trayodashi of Kartik Krishna Paksha and ends on the day of Bhai Tika in Dwitiya of Kartik Sukla Paksha every year. It falls in the month of October or November in the Georgian calendar.
Crow, Dog, and cow are worshipped during this festival, and the festival ends on the day of Bhai tika, brothers’ day, where the sisters put tika on the forehead of their brother with a belief of receiving the blessing from the Yamaraj- god of death. The Newari community also has practice of self puja called mha puja and it is also the beginning of the new Nepal Sambat calendar.
The people cook sel roti- a Nepali dish, play deusi bhailo ( singing and dancing culturally) in the night, play firecrackers, worship Goddess Laxmi, and exchange sweets and gifts during this festival.
November 19, 2023 – Chaat
The most significant celebration in the Terai region, Chhath, occurs seven days after Tihar. At the river banks, devotees fast and offer gifts to the sun. The goddess Shashthi and the Hindu solar deity Surya are honored at the event. In the holy town of Janakpur in south-eastern Nepal, draws hundreds of pilgrims during Chhhat Festival. However, it is observed throughout Nepal, even in Kathmandu, where Terai residents congregate by the banks of rivers, particularly the Bagmati, to worship. They claim that attaining both physical and spiritual cleanliness is their sole purpose to celebrate the festival.
Devotees spend the day preparing their gifts of fruits, sweets, nuts, and other foods, they fast for the whole day. They congregate near the banks of ponds and rivers in the evening to watch the sun set. They sing songs, light lamps, and enter the sea to pray and present gifts to the setting sun. It is an impressive sight to see lit oil-wick lamps floating on the river.
The followers go back to their homes once the sun has set. The majority of men are only observers, with women making up practically all of the devotees. The following morning while they wait for the sun to rise, the procedure is repeated. There is ecstasy as the sun rises over the horizon, and devotees scramble to offer prayers, holy water, fruits, coconuts, and sacred threads.
Therefore, Nepal welcomes you for incredible cultural experience.
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