Festivals and Events are an essential part of Nepalese life that garners tremendous local participation. Festivals also offer visitors a valuable opportunity not only for having fun but gaining insight into various aspects of Nepalese culture. The religious festivals follow the lunar calendar, which national festivals have fixed dates.
Major Festivals and Events
Baisakh Poornima (April): As Nepal is the birthplace of Lord Buddha, the Light of Asia, the triple anniversary of the Buddha's birth, enlightenment and death is observed with many colorful ceremonies on this day. People celebrate the occasion with great veneration paying homage to Buddha at places like Swayambhunath, Bouddhanath and Lumbini.
Red Machchhendranath Rath Jatra (May-June): This festival is the biggest socio-cultural event of Patan. The wheeled chariot of a deity known as Bungdyo or Red Machchhendranath is made at Pulchowk and dragged through the city of Patan in several stages till it reaches the appointed destination (Lagankhel). The grand finale of the festival is called the 'Bhoto Dekhaune' or "Showing of a vest". A similar kind of chariot festival to Machchhendranath (white) is also held in Kathmandu city in the month of March-April.
Dumji: It is celebrated in all the Sherpa settlements in the month of July. The Sherpas of Kathmandu and Helambu regions participate in dancing on this day.
Gaijatra (Cow festival) (July- August): It is a carnival that lasts eight days. Dancing, singing, comedy and anything that causes mirth and laughter are its highlights.
Indrajatra (August- September): The festival of Indra, the God of rain, is observed with great enthusiasm in Kathmandu Valley. The festival lasts for eight days. The chariot of Kumari, the Living Goddess, is taken out in procession through the main streets of Kathmandu. The festival is specially noted for the echoes of drums and dancing feet of the masked dancers almost every evening.
Dashain or Durga Puja (September - October): The Dashain festival is the most important festival of the Nepalese. The entire country is in enthusiastic holiday mood at the time of the festival.
Tihar (Deepawali) (October-November): Known as the Festival of Lights. Tihar is celebrated for five days. Houses are illuminated at night and special sweets of different varieties are prepared.
Lhosar (February): T his festival is most impressively observed in the month of February by the Sherpas. They organize folk songs and dances on this occasion. These dances can be seen in Khunbu, Helambu and other northern regions of Nepal and also at Bouddhanath in Kathmandu.
Maha Shivaratri (February): Shivaratri or the Night of Lord Shiva is observed in February-March. It is celebrated in honor of Lord Shiva. A great religious fair takes place in the Pashupatinath Temple and thousands of people from all over Nepal and India flock the temple to worship Lord Shiva.
Teej (August- September): Teej is a Hindu festival celebrated by women. Dancing, folk song and the red color of women's wedding saris dominate the days of Teej. Women observe a fast and flock to Shiva temples where married ones pray for a happy conjugal life and unmarried ones for a good husband.
Mani Rimdu: Mani Rimdu is a Sherpa festival celebrated during the fall at Tengboche Monastery in the Everest region. For five days, Lamas and Sherpas gather for "the good of the world." There are plays, masked dances, prayers, and feastings. Demons are quelled and the pious rewarded. The days are colorful and trips to the Everest region are very rewarding indeed if they can be organized during the days of the festival.
Different Ethnic Groups in Nepal (Cast)
MAGARS: The magars originate in the western and center areas of Nepal. Though are found in scattered communities throughout the country. They may be of either Hindu or Buddhist faith. Traditionally hill farmers Inhabiting he lower slopes. They also known for their fighting abilities and many have recruited into Gurkha regiments of the British and Indian armies. It is thought to be a strong cultural bond between magars and Gurung.
GURUNG: The gurungs also originate in the western and central areas of Nepal. Though they have tended to inhabit higher areas adopting a lifestyle of sedentary agricultural and nomadic pastorals, like the magars, gurungs have been well repressed in Gurkha units. They are predominantly Buddhist; though small Hindu and shamanist communities exist. In recent years, may magars become involved in the hotel business, especially in the pokhara region.
THAKALIS: The thakalis originate from the kali Gandaki Gorge and, like many Nepali groups have been subject to both Hindu and Buddhist influences. Adept entrepreneurs, they have cashed in on the trekking boom and have established little hotels all along the Annapurna circuit and have also extended their influence to other parts of country. Before Nepal was opened up to tourism, their economy was dominated by subsistence farming and, in the Kali Gandaki area, by salt trading.
TAMANG: The Tamangs are found around the Kathmandu valley and in central and proportion of the porters in these regions; bur many are also engaged in the agriculture as small holders and day labor. The Tamang language originates from the Tibet-Burmese family.
NEWARS: The Newars are of Mongolian origin and are the dominant ethnic group of Kathmandu valley a surrounding central area of Nepal. Despite their geographical origins, the majorities are now shaivite Hindus following received Hindu customs although communicates of Newari Buddhists do remain. They represent perhaps the greatest synchronism of the Tibetan and Indian traditions of any Nepal's ethnic groups and also incorporate aspects of animism. The Newari language has been influenced by both the Tibet-Burmese and Indo-European families. Traditionally leading traders, Newars once organized trains of basket carrying porters over the Trans Himalayan passes to Tibet. They are also remarkable craftsmen and developed the unique building style that successfully blends influences from India, china and Tibet with carved wood and pagoda -like temple roofs.
KIRANTI: The Kirantis are comprised of Raise and Limbus and are the oldest known people in Nepal. They live in the eastern hills of Nepal, the raise being concentrated in the Solukhumbu, Dudh Kosi, and Arun Valley, while the Limbus is at the east of Arun Valley, in the kanchanjangha region. And also extend in to northern Parts of west Bangel in India. Both groups have supplied recruits to Gurkha regiments an reference is made to their fighting sprit in the Hindu epic " Mahabharata" of Mongoloid features, both have Tibetan – Burmese languages. The religion of the Limbus incorporates elements of Buddhism and Shamanism, while that of the Raise are more influenced by Hinduism Sunwars &Jirels:These related groups are small in number and are found in the area around and to the east of jiri, the place that gives the jirels their name. Their religion is significantly influenced by Hinduism, but has distinct or apices and deities.
BHOTIA: The Bhotia lives in the northern part of Bhutan, Sikkim, and Nepal and along the Indo-Tibetan border in Garhwal, Kumoun and Himanchal Pradesh. They are Mongoloid people who gradually moved off the Tibetan plateau. Tibetan Buddhism plays an important part in shaping Bhotia society. The monastery is at the center of the social environment, and the prayer flags, prayer wheels and chortles are a vital part of daily life.
ETHINIC TIBETIANS: Many thousands of Tibetans fled their homeland as a result of Chinese Take over. Most are now resident in and around Kathmandu and Pokhara valleys, but some have remained in Bhotia country where they have been highly successful in integrating with local populations, especially through intermarriage.
LIMIPAS: The Limipas are a small group living in the limi Valley in the north west of Nepal.
DOLPOPAS: With a pollution of no more then a couple of thousand. Dolpopas live in remote areas, north of Jomsom and Muktinath. A hard working people, they are nomadic pastorals, traders, and weavers.
LOPAS: Lopas lives in Lo mangthang, the capital of the high and arid region of Mustang, once an independent state. Of Tibetan ethnicity, they follow Tibetan Buddhism and number about 6000.
BARAGAUNLE: The name means “twelve village people". The Baragaunle are also ethnically Tibetan and live in the Muktinath Valley and follow the forms of Lamaistic Buddhism that also incorporates elements of animism.
MANANGIS: Known also as Manangpa or Nyeshang, this group live in manang region and along the northern stretches of Marsyangdi River. They are perhaps the wealthiest of any Bhotia groups thank to a still extent 18th century decree by Rana Bahadur Shah which gave them trading privileges with Tibet and which have today been adopted to the trade of luxury Items, some which find their way to kathmandu.
SHERPAS: Sherpa live in Solukhumbu region of glacial valleys at the southern approaches to Everest. Their name tells of the origin (sha-east, pa-people) and has come to be almost synonymous with great peak that dominates their country. They immigrated from about 600 years ago. Earlier they were traders and porters, carrying butter, meat, rice, sugar, paper and dye from India, and salt, wool, jewelry, Chinese silk and porcelain from Tibet and beyond. The closure of the boarder between India and China undermined their economy. Fortunately, with the mountaineer in expeditions and trekkers, the Sherpa's found their load carrying skills, both on normal treks and high altitudes in great demand. The khumbu region has provided the valuable contingent of able bodied, hardy and seemingly Fearless Sherpa porters and guides. Over 80 years they have built up a mountaineering reputation as the elite of Himalayan porters.