Sunday, September 22, 2013

Festival of Nepal

Nepali Festival

The varied climate of Nepal is suitable for varied settlements and cultivation. A wide variety of crops are grown from the flat plains in the south to the mountainous slopes in the north. Nepal is equally renowned for its cultural diversity. More than 125 castes of people live in the country and they speak more than 120 languages. The social and cultural traditions differ greatly from one group to another. More than ten religious sects are followed by the Nepalese people. The life styles are uniquely different from one community to another.

People living in the high Himalayan region follow Buddhism and observe festivals cuch as Lhosar. Those in the eastern hills are Hindus and observe Sakela, Sakewa, Nuwagi and Chamachasok. The Newari poople mainly in the Kathmandu valley follow Hinduism or Buddhism and observe their own festivals such as Sithi Nakha, Mha puja and Kumari Puja. Jatras such as Gai Jatra and Bisket Jatra are unique in their community. The people in the Terai observe Holi, Chhath, Maghi and Siruwa festivals with great devotion and zeal. All the festivals observed in Nepal are national festivals. The costumes, food, folk songs, musical instruments and dances also differ from one community to another as well as from one region to another. Nepali celebrate many religious and social festivals. There are mainly two types of festivals-religious and social. Religious festivals are celebrated to show devotion to God. These involve activities like worship, offering etc.  Social festival are based on our traditions and customs.  Some of them important festival are:-


Symbol of Dashain 
Dashain is the greatest festival of the Nepal. It is very joyful religious festival of the Hindus. It is the greatest among their festivals. It is celebrated in the month of September or October. Goddess Durga is worshipped on this occasion. Ghastapana is the first day of Dashain. The tenth day known as Vijayadashami  is the most important. An important aspect of this festival as also of  Bada Dashain is the animal sacrifices, which are essential to appease Goddess Durga. Hence blood sacrifices are carried out in the temples of the Mother Goddesses who are manifestations of Goddess Durga. Many water buffaloes and goats are sacrificed during this festival. Major sacrifices take place near the Hanuman Dhoka palace at the guardhouse and also at Bhaktapur Durbar Square. Tourists may take photographs of the sacrifices from a distance. The story goes that Ravan the demon king kidnapped Ram's wife Sita and disappeared. Ram then invoked Goddess Durga and destroyed Ravan. Another version of the story has Sita taking the form of Goddess Kali, the dangerous form of  Durga and killing Ravan with her own hands. 

This festival is the symbol of the victory of truth over untruth. People go to their elders or seniors to receive blessings from them. The elders offer Tika on their foreheads and Jamara (fresh barley and maize seedlings) on their heads. 
This festival brings extreme delight. People wear new clothes and enjoy delicious meals. They also exchange greetings. 
Happy Dashera and Deepwali 2070

Listen Dashain Dhun



Rangoli on Laxmi Puja
This festival of lights that falls between October/November is the second 
biggest festival after Dashain. This festival lasts for five days and people 
worship Laxmi – the Goddess of Wealth. All the houses are cleaned and 
decorated with the belief that Goddess Laxmi will enter the house that is 
the cleanest and people lit candles, oil lamps and other lights and the 
whole place looks illuminating. During the five days, crows, dogs 
and cows are worshipped and honored with vermilion, garland and 
delicious food for what they have done in the lives of humans.

The first day of tihar is knows as ‘Kag Tihar’, ‘Crows Day’. Crow is 
an underworld henchman. On this day crows are offered food on a 
plate made out of leaves in the morning before anyone in the house 
takes food. Crows are regarded as the messagner that brought 
 news even during the times when there no postmen 
and no postal services.

The second day is called ‘Kukur Tihar’, ‘Dog Day’. A dog plays many roles in our society. Dogs are the most obedient animals and they guards our house as true guardians. So on this day a big red tika is out on a dog’s forehead and a beautiful garland around the neck. After worshiping the dog, it is given very delicious meals.

The third day is the most important day of the festival. It is called 'Laxmi Puja'. The day goddess of wealth. On this day, early in the morning the cow is workshiped. Tika is put on her head and a garland around her neck then she feasts with delicious food. A cow is also symbolizes of wealth and she is the most holy animal for Hindu. 

In the evening goddess laxmi is worshipped. Goddess of wealth (Laxmi) is worshiped in every household in the entire Nepali Kingdom by means of Puja, decoration, candle lights, and oil lamps.

In this 3rd day of the Tihar Festival, the entire nation becomes an illumination of lights.

Laxmi Puja 
The eve of Laxmi Puja Day is made spectacular not only by lights but also by echos of a special song known as Bhailo or Bhailini that's played only on this day in the entire year! A group of girls get together and sing Bhailo door to door, giving blessings to the family in return for money or homemade treats

The fourth day is bit different. Normally most of the people perform 'Guru puja', ox worshipping. The ox is worshipped with tika, garland and then a delicious meal is fed to it. On the other hand people who follow lord Krishna perform '

Gobhardan puja'. These people build a small hill made out of cowdung and put some grass on it then do puja on it. During Tihar, the Newari community in Nepal also observes Mha puja – a ritual of worshipping one’s own body and life. On this very day, the Newari New Year which is also known as Nepal Sambat begins.

On the final day also known as Bhai Tika Day, sisters give tika (a colored powder placed on once's forehead), and mala (a necklace of flowers) to brothers along with wishes for long life and prosperity.

This is also a gambling time in Nepal as gambling is not illegal during this festival. 

Chhath is main festival of the Hindu people in the terai region of Nepal. It is celebrated the month of Kartik-Mangsir(November-December). People worship the sun-god with great devotion. They express their reverence towards the sun, the major energy source in the world. Women observe fasting Everything is kept clean. People go to the river or pond and worship the setting sun in the evening and rising sun in the nest morning. The festival is celebrated after Dipawali. Chhath is being o fourth day of the lunar calendar. It is especially significant for married women. They observe a two-day fast and offer prayers while keeping almost three-quarters of their body immersed in water for two hours.
There is a tradition of listening to Surya Puran after the conclusion of Arghya or offering of curd, the devotees listen to the stories of the Chhath fasting.
They also listen to a story of a greedy mother-in -law and her daughter-in-law.
According to Mahabharat scriptures, the Pandavas and Draupadi had also observed the fast with sun worship for the successful completion of their exile.

The people from the Terai living in Kathmandu go to Ranipokhari and other ponds and river banks for these prayers. They seek blessings from the sun-god for their health, prosperity and happiness.
Janai Purnima (Raksha Bandhan)
Janai Purnima is the festival of Sacred Thread.On this day every Hindu ties a sacred thread on the wrist.It is also called Rakshya Bandhan.On this day, there is a big Mela (fair) at Khumbeshwor, Lalitpur.It is again on a full moon night. . On this day Hindu men, especially the Brahmans and Chettris perform their annual change of Janai, a yellow cotton string worn across the chest or tied around the wrist of the right hand.
The Newars of Kathmandu valley call it Gunhi Punhi, the day when a soup of different beans, known as Kwati is prepared as the special menu of the day, signifying the coming of winter season.
It seems that King Bali had taken the vow of Charity, according to which he would grant every wish made to him. His deep devotion and boundless benevolence won him a place higher than even Lord Indra, the King of of Heaven did. Seeing their realms under a mere "Danava"(demon), for Bali was the King of the Danavas, the Gods appealed to Lord Vishnu, who came to their assistance disguised as a dwarf. Knowing that Bali had taken the Vow of Charity; the dwarf begged him for as much land as he could cover in three strides. The moment Bali agreed, the dwarfed Vishnu swelled to the size of a tremendous giant and in two mighty strides stepped across Heaven and Earth. When he demanded were he might take the promised third step, Bali who had already recognized Vishnu placed the giant's foot a top his own head and was pushed far into the bowels of the earth. Thus Vishnu restored the Three Worlds to the rightful ruling Gods, and repaid Bali for his last act of earthly charity, by making him the King of the Underworld, where he is believed to be still ruling.

This is also the day when male, females, and children regardless of station and caste tie a sacred yellow thread around their wrist. The males tie the thread around their right and the women tie it on their left. Raksha means g to Hindu rules the cord must be changed without fail by a Brahman on this day, Janai meaning sacred thread, and purni meaning Purnima or the full moon, thus pointing to the change of the thread on the auspicious full moon day. On Janai Purnima, there is a big mela (fair) at Kumbeshwor in Lalitpur. Devotees come here to worship Lord Mahadev and to tie a knot around their wrists. On the preceding day the wearer makes himself 'clean' by shaving, cutting the hair and bathing. He undergoes a partial fast, taking only one meal of foods considered to be 'clean' - no meat, onions or garlic. The next morning the family priest comes to the house. The entire family gathers around him as he reads from a holy book, performs a ceremony, which sanctifies the new thread, and places it about the recipient's neck across the chest. In payment the priest is given foodstuffs and some money.

Teej is the fasting festival for women. Through this religious fasting, hindu women pray for marital bliss, wellbeing of their spouse and children and purification of their own body and soul. It takes place on Tritiya of Bhadra
According to the holy books, the Goddess Parbati fasted and prayed fervently for the great Lord Shiva to become her spouse. Touched by her devotion, he took her for his wife. Goddess Parbati, in gratitude sent her emissary to preach and disseminate this religious fasting among mortal women, promising prosperity and longevity with their family.
Women clad in beautiful red saris with shining potes (glass beads), singing and dancing is the sight almost everywhere in Nepal during the festival of Teej. On this day women observe a fast and pray Lord Shiva for the long, healthy and prosperous life of their husbands and their families. The unmarried women also observe this festival with unabated zeal with the hope that they will get to marry good husbands. From early dawn, women queue up in the multiple lines in Pashupatinath to offer their prayers to Lord Shiva.
Lhosar is a main festival of the Sherpas, Tamangs, Gurungs and Thakalis. The term 'Lhosar' is derived from two words 'lho' meaning 'year' and 'sar' meaning 'new'. There are three types of Lhosar:  Tola Lhosar,  Sonam Lhosar and Gyalpo Lhosar. Tola Lhosar is celebrated by the Gurungs, Soman Lhosar by the Tamangs and Gyalpo Lhosar by the Sherpas. They observe Lhosar with great excitement and joy exchanging wishes for happiness in the new year.
Id is a festival of the Muslim people. It is celebrated at the end of the month of Ramazan of Hijri Calendar. They fast for the whole month and do not eat or drink during the day. This fast is called Roza. When the sun sets in the evening, they offer parayers to Allah. This prayer is called Namaz. After the prayer, they break the fast by eating and drinking. This continues for the whole month. The last day of the month is known as Id-ul-Fitra. On this day, they go to the mosque, read the Namaz and pray to Allah for the good of mankind. They wish each other saying- 'Id Mubarak' and embrace each other. They wear new clothes and eat a variety of sweets. They also offer alms (Zakat) to the poor and disabled.
Christmas is a popular festival of the Christians. It is celebrated on December 25 every year. Churches, shops and houses are cleaned and a well-decorated Christmas tree is displayed. In the evening, they pray to God and exchange a big feast. After the feast is over, they enjoy dances and songs. the next day is called the Boxing Day. On this day they give food and clothes to the poor. This festival continues till January 1st, New Year's Day.


Unbhauli and Undhauli
The Rai people worship nature twice in a year –before planting and at harvesting. This worship is called sakewa. They perform 'Bhumi Pooja' before plantation on Chandipurnima. This is called Unbhauli. Again on Mangsir Shuklapurnima, they perform Undhauli. They worship Sumnima Parohang (Shiva Parvati) and perform Chandinaach on the occasions. They dance to the music of Dhol-Jhayamta.
Magha Sangranti

In addition to holy bathing and worship of shrines, certain auspicious foods like till laddoos (seasame seeds ball cakes), chaku(molasys), ghee (clarified butter), sweet potatoes, khichari (mixture of rice and lentils) and green leaf spinach are taken on this day. Families come together and share these delights. Married daughters and families are invited to parental homes for festivities and blessings. Yet another occasion to renew family ties. Many homes have pujas (religious ceremonies) conducted by priests with chanting from holy books, for which they receive alms.

Like any other holy celebration Maghi Sankranti also has a legend of its own. It recalls that once a merchant from the town of Bhadgoan despite of his thriving business noticed that his supply of seasame seeds hadn't diminished. When looking into the matter he found an idol of the Lrod Vishnu hidden deep beneath the seeds. Since, then on this day the Til Madhav idol is worshipped with the belief that god will continue to be generous in the supply of food and wealth on the Bhadgoan community. It's also the day commemorating the death of Viswapitamaha, the elderly grandfather of two families of Pandavas and Kauravas, between whom the famous battle of Mahabharat took place.

He was determined not to die until the way to the region of gods opened. While lying on the bed of arrows he discovered words of wisdom on life and death. Eventually, through his free will he succumbed to death. Hence it's believed that those who die on this day go to heaven, released from the burden of rebirth.

Maghi Sankranti, is yet another occasion which renews the faith of Nepalese people in the heavenly powers.
Shree Panchami
This day is celebrated as the birthday of Saraswati, the Goddess of Learning, She is the lily-white daughter of Shiva and Durga in spotless white robes and seated in a full-blown lotus. Her carrier is a snow-white swan. Her brother Ganesh, the elephant God, is invariably close at her side, and he receives animal sacrifices in her stead. In her hands Saraswati holds a book, a vina harp, and sometimes a great sword because of which many believe that she and Manjushri are one and the same.
Shri panchami brings people of all castes, ages and creeds together to the temples of Divinity, especially to the idol behind Swayambhunath.The image is inundated with gifts, sweets, fruits, flowers in the hope of gaining Saraswati's favor. As she rules over the realm of speech, letters, arts and sciences, students, scholars, writers, poets, artists, musicians and also spinners and weavers lavishly fete her. All her tools like pens, books, ink, etc. are also worshipped. According to popular belief, if a person swallows seven rice grains, which are offered to the Goddess, he/she will become wise and knowledgeable. So, students and children clamor for the rice grains strewn around the idol.
This is also the day when children of 5 to 7 are taught their first alphabet, which is repeated after the parent or teacher and traced on wooden slabs. And around the city numerous wedding processions followed by musicians and relatives can be seen, as this day is the most auspicious and popular day in the year for marriages, when the union is blessed by the Goddess Saraswati herself.
This day also coincides with the advent of spring. The ancient royal palace at Basantapur was first inaugurated in Kathmandu on Basant Panchami day with rites still officially commemorated at Hanuman Dhoka by the mid-morning gathering of hundreds of government officials, in formal attire and military officers laden with ribbons and medals. The King arrives in a motorcade, escorted by mounted cavalry officers and military band. Inside the old palace they all stand to attention through the strains of the traditional Song of spring. Then the season is inaugurated with gun salutes, while the royal priest conducts elaborate ceremonies in the honor of Goddess Saraswati.
Shiva Ratri is a much anticipated festival by all Hindus.Shiva's birthday falls on the new moon day of the month of Falgun. Festivities take place at all Shiva temple but most particularly at the great Pashupatinath temple,Pilgrims and yogis (holy men), from all over Southeast Asia come to Kathmandu weeks before the festival. On this holy day people fast through out the day. At dawn, worshippers take a holy bath or dip in the river and go to the temple to worship. Pashupatinath temple is located at the eastern part of the Kathmandu valley on the banks of the holy river Bagmati. Pashupatinath, which literally means ‘the Lord of animals’, is one of the many forms of the Lord. He is the guardian deity, protector of our Hindu Kingdom of Nepal, thus Shiva Ratri is one of the major festivals of Nepal.
One of the interesting aspects of Shiva Ratri is that on this day devotees and non-devotees alike freely indulge in smoking intoxicating substances such as marijuana and bhang for it is the only day in the annual calendar when marijuana is legal. Many people take these intoxicants in the belief that it pleases Lord Shiva for he too is said to be fond of it.
Holi (Fagu Purnima)
The ancient Hindu festival of Holi falls on late February or on early March. Allegedly named after the mythical demoness Holika, it is a day when the feast of colours is celebrated. The festival is of a week. However it's only the last day that is observed by all with colours. Phagu is another name for Holi where Phagu means the sacred red powder and Pune is the full moon day, on which the festival ends. People can be seen wandering through the streets either on foot or on some vehicle, with a variety of colours smeared over them.
Families and friends get together and celebrate the occasion with a lot of merry making. This spring time celebration is also an outburst of youthful exuberance in which throwing colours and water bolloons (lolas) on passer- by is acceptable. But, the Indian community, that is, the Marwari class who have settled down in Nepal for centuries and the people of Terai celebrate it a day later with more pomp and ceremony. The days prior to the last don't have a lot happening except, the installation of the ceremonial pole called "chir', on the first day. It's a bamboo pole, fringed with strips of cloth representing good luck charms. It is said to symbolize the tree on which lord Krishna hung the milkmaids' garments while they were bathing, unseen as they thought, in the Jamuna river of northern India.
As the pole is put up in the street at Basantapur, the festivities and worship commences for the week. At the end of which its taken to a bonfire. The myth following Holi, reveals that a fiend named Holika together with her brother, an atheist king by the name of Hiranyakasyapu conspired ways to kill his son Pralhad because Pralhad was an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu. But their attempts always failed for Lord Vishnu protects those who love him. Finally, Holika who having received a blessing from Lord Bramha to be immune to fire, jumped in with Pralhad. But Brahma's blessing could only be used for good purposes and so Holika was consumed by the fire where as Pralhad was saved by the grace of the Gods. Thus, Holi is said to be celebrated to rejoice Holika's extermination and the traditional bonfires are believed to commemorate her death. According to another story, from the Puranas and the Bhagvat, Kansa sent a female demon named Putna to kill his nephew Lord Krishna. Taking the form of a nurse Putna went to Brindaban where the child Lord Krishna was growing up and tried to feed Him her poisonous milk but the attempt backfired and she was killed. Her body was burnt on the night of Holi. So some consider Holi, the festival of fire also. Holi for everyone is a time for fun and frolic. A day when one forgets the worldly anxieties and just enjoys the finer things in life.
Chaite Dashain

Hence Devi is worshipped on this day.It was Durga who helped Ram (incarnation of Vishnu), the central character of the epic Ramayana, in defeating his arch foe Ravan. It is believed Ram was eventually successful in killing Ravan on the 9th of the Nepali month Chait (Chaitra), so the second day of the festival is called Ram Nawami. (Nawami = ninth day).

An important aspect of this festival as also of Bada Dashain is the animal sacrifices, which are essential to appease Goddess Durga. Hence blood sacrifices are carried out in the temples of the Mother Goddesses who are manifestations of Goddess Durga. Many water buffaloes and goats are sacrificed during this festival. Major sacrifices take place near the Hanuman Dhoka palace at the guardhouse and also at Bhaktapur Durbar Square. Tourists may take photographs of the sacrifices from a distance. 

The story goes that Ravan the demon king kidnapped Ram's wife Sita and disappeared. Ram then invoked Goddess Durga and destroyed Ravan. Another version of the story has Sita taking the form of Goddess Kali, the dangerous form of Durga and killing Ravan with her own hands.



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