This is the longest Hindu festival in Nepal, traditionally celebrated for two weeks with prayers and offerings to Durga, the Universal Mother Goddess. The great harvest festival of Nepal, Dashain is a time for family reunions, exchange of gifts and blessings, elaborate pujas, ritual bathing and animal sacrifices. Dashain honors the Goddess Durga, who was created out of the shakti or energy of all the gods, armed with weapons from each of them.
Ghatasthapana, Phool Pati, Mahaastami, Nawami and Vijaya Dashami are the series of the events under Dashain each marked with a different set of rituals.
During Dashain, men and women in their fineries visit their elders to seek tika (a dab of red vermilion mixed with yogurt and rice) accompanied by blessings. Sword precessions (Paayaa) are also held in various part of the Kathmandu Valley. A large number of animals are officially sacrificed at Hanuman Dhoka during Nawami which is attended by officials, invitees and visitors. During the ninth day, the Taleju Temple which is normally out of bounds is also open to the public. On the tenth day known as Tika, people are seen moving around with their foreheads covered with rice tika, wearing new clothes. There is much feasting as people visit relatives’ homes to receive tika and blessings.
The last day, known as Kojagrat Purnima, is the full moon. New clothes, home visits, grand feasts, kite flying and village swings are the highlights of Dashain. Around this time the population of Kathmandu is greatly reduced as many head home to various parts of the country.
TIHAR FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS
The 5-day festival of lights, known as Tihar honors Yama, the God of Death but the worship of Laxmi, the Goddess of Wealth dominates the festivities.
On the first day, the crow, the informant of Yama is worshipped. The second day is for worshipping the dogs as the agent of Yama. On the third day Laxmi is worshipped. The fourth day is for the draught animal, oxen when the Newari community does Mha puja dedicated to oneself. The fifth day is Brothers’ Day when sisters put tika on their brothers’ foreheads and give blessings.
This festival is notable for the lighting up of homes with anything from candles, oil-wick lamps and electric lights. Houses all over the country are lit up with extra lights and decorated with garlands. A great view can be had of the brightly lit-up Kathmandu city from the Swoyambhunath Stupa. It is also traditional to go from house to house singing Tihar songs and bestowing blessings, whereupon the residents of the house give money in return. Fireworks also fill the skies despite a government ban on fire-crackers.
Day 1: First Day of Mani Rimbu Festival
Day 2: Second Day Mani Rimbu Festival (Mask Dancing Day)
Day 3: Ending Day of Festival (Blessing Day)
Mani Rimdu is a 19-day festival celebrated by Buddhists in the Himalayas to mark the founding of Buddhism by Guru Rinpoche Padmasambhava.
Grand shows are put up on three different occasions at the monasteries of Tengboche, Thame and Chiwong. Masked dances and Tantrik rituals are put up by Buddhist monks at these monasteries, where huge crowds from nearby gather to celebrate. Many treks are organized to coincide with this festival.
Mani Rimdu is observed from the first day of the tenth month of the Tibetan lunar calendar which falls between October and November under English calendar. This festival is celebrated following the full-moon in autumn.
Tiji is a fascinating annual three-day festival consisting of Tibetan rituals that celebrate the myth of a son who had to save the Mustang kingdom from destruction. The festival is indigenous to Lo-Manthang, Upper Mustang.
“Tiji” the name is an abbreviation of the word “Tempa Chirim” which means “Prayer for World Peace”. This festival commemorates the victory of Lord Buddha’s incarnation Dorjee Sonnu over a demon called Man Tam Ru a vicious creature feeding on human beings and causing storms and droughts.
The Tiji festival usually takes place around mid May and lasts for 3 days. The monks of Lo Manthang’s “Choedhe” monastery perform ritual dances during the celebration. The harassment of Ma Tam Ru Ta (in a dance called “Tsa Chham” on the first day), the birth of Dorjee Sonnu as the demon’s son (on the second day called “Nga Chham”) and the attempt to return the demon to Lord Buddha’s realm (on the third and final day) are enacted during the performances. The Tiji festival dances are all organized by the Choedhe Monastery, which belongs to the Sakya sect of Buddhism. The monastery is headed by a Rimpoche. About 65 monks from Lo Manthang, Nhenyul and Chhosyer reside in this monastery.
The colorful festival of Holi is celebrated on Phalgun Purnima which comes in February end or early March. Holi festival has an ancient origin and celebrates the triumph of ‘good’ over ‘bad’. Holi celebration begins with erecting pole of colorful clothes at Kathmandu Durbar Square. Numerous legends & stories associated with Holi celebration makes the festival more exuberant and vivid. People rub colors on each others’ faces and pour water on each other.
Teej is a festival celebrated by women all over Nepal for three days. Decked up in red sarees and red tika, bangles, women sing and dance to traditional folk songs for days. It is especially significant for married women, when they get a special invitation to visit their maternal home and feast. Following a long feast also known as Dar, the women, sit for a 24 hour long fasting, where most do not eat or even drink water. What is fascinating is to watch women of all age group, young and old, dance for hours in the heat, rain, without a drop of water or food for an entire day.
It is a sight to behold at the Pashupatinath temple, where thousands of women draped in Red and green throng the premises of the temple. Observers can take photos of these women dancing merrily, where sometimes foreigners, especially women tourists are requested to participate in the merry-making. The significance of such a festival is for women to ask for special blessings by Lord Shiva, to have attain a good husband in life, and to pray for his longevity and prosperity.
On the final day of this three day festival Women satisfy seven saints offering them food, money and various offerings, and also bathing with Red mud and brushing their teeth with Datiwan (branches of a bush tree) hoping this purifies their body and soul.
Saga Dawa Festival
Saga Dawa Festival is the most important annual festival in Tibet. The festival of Saga Dawa marks the enlightenment of Sakyamuni, and occurs on the full moon day of the fourth Tibetan month. This is a very auspicious day, since the gods are believed to descent from the heaven to the earth on this day. Incense sticks are lighted in huge number and families gather and go for picnicking in this day. This very day is also known as the World Incense Day too.