Fall is not only great for trekking, canyoning and sightseeing in Nepal, it’s also a good time to learn about local culture and traditions. The months of September, October and November offer quite many interesting festivals which are worth seeing.
October 9-23, 2018
Dashain is among key Hindu festivals in Nepal. This holiday emphasizes community building, worshipping gods and getting blessed. The event is quite ambivalent with many community building activities, like flying kites and making bamboo swings called “ping”. The kites are supposed to remind the gods that no rain should be sent anymore. While the swings provide a possibility of community time and fun together. Being a part of local culture, Dashain causes some concerns of animal rights groups. After all, some people believe that the gods may be pleased if thousands of domestic animals are sacrificed for them.
Therefore ground around temples is often covered in the blood of buffaloes, hens, ducks and other animals. So this festival is definitely not for the animals advocates. Dashain is also marked by the Buddhist communities of Nepal on the occasion of the adoption of Buddhism and Ahimsa principles by Ashoka, one of the most powerful emperors of India. The festival lasts for 15 days being a major event for Nepalese.
November 5-9, 2018
In other parts of Asia this festival is known as Swanti or Diwali. In Nepal Tihar lasts for five days and features different rituals and events dedicated to animals and family members. One of the major features of Tihar is that this festival celebrates the end of the year, according to Nepal Sambat. A month before its arrival people start preparations – cleaning and decorating their houses, preparing food. However, the main celebrations happen after the festival starts.
On the first day of the festival, people celebrate the crows as divine messengers of gods, making them offerings. During the second day, people celebrate and worship dogs for their honest service. During the third day, it’s the turn of cows and oxens to get decorated and receive food. The last day of the festival is called the Laxmi puja day. It celebrates the goddess of wealth. People put oil lamps near doors and windows to please the goddess. The last day of Tihar is called Bhai Tika. It’s when brothers and sisters meet to exchange presents.The whole time one can observe dancing and signing, family reunions, when people visit friends and family to exchange blessings and gifts.
November 11-14, 2018
Сelebrated in Terai region of Nepal, this originally Indian festival honours the god of sun. The sun worship festival according to local beliefs ensures good health, prosperity and progress. The holiday includes rituals like fasting, abstaining from drinking water, and standing still in the water long periods of time. There are also offerings made on sunset and sunrise. You can see many people standing in the waters with bamboo trees. The abundance of colourful decorations is astonishing. Nepalese believe that determination and will power of the people who give thanks to the sun is that sustains life on Earth.
September 12, 2018
Teej is the most popular festival among Nepali women. You can see them filling the streets of Kathmandu dressed in red colour. Teej celebrates marriage, prosperity and family. Women usually visit temples to pray for their husbands and children and to purify their own souls. What an incredible sight when women of all ages dressed in scarlet clothes gather near Pashupatinath, the temple of Shiva in Kathmandu! The red colour belongs to brides in Nepal, and it is also a symbol of power. On this day, all women try to look their best and wear best clothes—the traditional outfit is red sari with gold ornaments and green bead necklaces. There is joy and laughter all around the temple. Crowds are singing, dancing and socializing.
Kukur Tihar, Nepal Dog Festival
November 6, 2018
If you like dogs, you won’t be disappointed, as on this day all Nepalese dogs, even stray, receive a special treatment. Kukur Tihar or Kukur Puja dogs should be praised and worshipped. This holidays takes place during large scale Tihar Hindu celebration. According to Nepalese tradition, dog as a man’s most devoted friend and guardian needs a special holiday to be acknowledged. Hindu consider dog a sacred animal due to its special bond with a human. Dogs are supposed to accompany men on their way to the heaven. Even Nepalese Police Dogs get a holiday treatment. They have a day off and participate in a special march held on the occasion.
Kukur Tihar is the day when dogs get plenty of love and admiration. Decorated with flower garland or “malla” around its neck, they get their forehead is painted with a paste named “talik” or “tikka” made from red-colour, rice and yoghurt. This should symbolize their sacredness. And of course there is the feast for dogs with various goodies – fruit, cookies, eggs, milk, cheese, meat – this is probably dogs’ most favourite part of the celebration.