Spectrum's of Festivals
Nepal is a multi-lingual, multi-religious and multi-ethnic country. As a result the number of festivals exceeds that of the days of a year. For some foreigners, these festivals are mysteries, colorful and peasant. Moreover, they have a great deal more about them. They emerge from the depth of the socio-cultural aspects of life. The festivals have ythological, religious and historical backgrounds. The ceremonies as a whole reflect a way of life, unique in its own place. They Mirror the value system established by age long socio-cultural and religious conventions, they strengthen the social and family relations, they show awe and reverence of the unknown people, they make it clear how Nepalese people pay homage to every element of nature, they make the change of seasons and rejoice sowing seeds and harvesting. Some of the major festivals are described in brief:
Janaipurnima(The sacred thread festival): Janaipurnima or Raksha Bandhan commencing on the full moon day of August, is the day when annual changing of the sacred thread, a yellow string worn about the neck and underarm beneath the clothing of higher caste Hindus-Brahaman, the learned priestly class Chettris, originally rural and warriors. The wearers observe certain religious rituals and undergo through fasting to make themselves clean and worthy enough to receive the sacred thread since to wear such a thread symbolizes that the person has control over body , comes chants mantras according to Vedic traditions and gives the thread to the wearers. Those incapable of being clean according to the Brahaminic values and women aren't allowed to wear it. On the same day, men women and children of every caste, Hindus and Buddhists alike wear the sacred yellow thread called Raksha Banhdan. Raksha means protection and Bandhan means bond about the wrist. It falls in the month of September.
Gai Jatra(the procession of sacred cows): Gai jatra very like a carnival, begins on the day after Full moon day of August September. Pratav Malla, a king of Malla dynasty, is said to have started the conversion of celebrating the festival in the 18th century to console his bereaved queen by showing her that every householder is compelled to depart with his /her kinsfolk. Then eight day festival begins when the householders whose family members have died within the year send a small procession consisting of people impersonating cows, a priest and a band of traditional musicians. Along the traditionally prescribed path march gorgeously costumed boys representing cows closely followed by the family priest and a band of musicians. The cow procession is sent thus to arrest the departed soul to get to the heavenly abode as it is believed that it has to cross a river called Vaitarani, the river of fire, blood and pun. One should, it is believed cross the river with the help of cows.
Teej(the fasting festival of women only): This three day festival ends on the fifth day of the waxing moon. Heavy fasting of the first day is followed by a very strict fasting of 24 hours. The fasting which is called Teej is performed for the well-being of one's husband. Even the unmarried girls take part in the rites with great enthusiasm because of the belief that the great god Shiva blessed then enabling them to find a good husband. According to Hindu mythology goddess Parvati performed severe penance on the occasion and she got great Shiva as her husband. The festival ends with Teej pooja in which they invoke the gods on behalf on the husband. Women take bath in holy rivers in preparation for the pooja. Folks of women dressed in the bright red saris and gold ornament offer worship to Shiva Linga the sacred phallus. It falls in mid September.
Bada Dashain(Durga Pooja): Dashain also called Vijaaya Dashami and celebrated during the bright lunar fortnight, is the greatest and the grandest of all the festivals in Nepal. People of all casts and creeds celebrate it with equal enthusiasm. The festival is celebrated to commemorate the victory of goddess Durga over hideous demons, Ravana. This festival is the symbol of the victory of good over evil. During the festival various forms of Goddess Durga are worshipped, animal sacrifices are made, blessing from the elderly kinsfolk sought and public parades, ancient processions and traditional pageants are held. This festival is observed for ten days. The concluding day is called Tika in which the elders of the family give Tika to their junior members and to other relatives who come to seek blessings. This festival is observed in the month of October.
Tihar(festival of Lights): Tihar: also known as Dipawali and Yama Panchak, is celebrated for five days. Dip means light so the festival is called the festival of lights. All the houses and even the street corners are illuminated by butter lamps and electric bulbs. The five days are called Yama Panchak because the whole period is dedicated to the worship of Yama the God of death. The festival begins with worship of crow and concludes with Bhai Pooja(worshipping brothers) at the end October.
Holy festival(the festival of color): The eight day festival begins with the installation of chir(a tall bamboo pole tapped with their umbrella- like tires each fingered with colorful strips of the eighth days of the waxing moon in March and concludes the full moon day. People throw colored powder and water at each other during the days. According to Hindu mythology, the festival is observed to celebrate the examination of a demon called Holika who had tried to burn Pralhad a devout devote of Lord Vishnu.