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Although the Nepalese cannot be termed as the god-fearing people, they have very astounding ways of paying respect and offering prayers to their deities. What do you make of a parade through the town on a 50-feet high chariot? Well, it is not a performance of “Nepal’s got talent show”! It is just a ritual to be pursued in Nepal during a “Machchendranath Jatra“ festival.

(TRAVPR.COM) NEPAL - October 27th, 2015 - Although the Nepalese cannot be termed as the god-fearing people, they have very astounding ways of paying respect and offering prayers to their deities. What do you make of a parade through the town on a 50-feet high chariot? Well, it is not a performance of “Nepal’s got talent show”! It is just a ritual to be pursued in Nepal during a “Machchendranath Jatra“ festival. Nowhere on earth are the festivals celebrated quite like Nepal. Be it the rice-beer-fuelled antics of “Indra Jatra” festival or the contemplative rituals of Maha Shivaratri, you can witness them only in Nepal.

Most of the big events in the festival calendar are celebrated by both Hindus and Buddhists, who share many of the same deities, but regard them as incarnations of different divine entities. So “Machchendranath”, a Nepali incarnation of the Hindu god of rain, is also “Avalokiteshvara”, the Bodhisattva of compassion in Tantric Buddhism, who is manifested on earth as the Dalai Lama.

Nepal's biggest festivals are marked by frenetic street processions, where ancient, revered idols are hauled through the backstreets in gigantic “raths” (chariots), which are assembled from timbers that spend the rest of the year stacked quietly at the back of temple courtyards. Ritual bathing, anointing with colored powder and animal sacrifices – a legacy of the Shakti cult, which celebrates female cosmic power – also play a key part in the celebrations.

It’s just not all about the show, most of the religious pursuits are blended with plenty of delicious festival food, a cacophony of pounding drums & honking horns and an abundance of public singing & dancing. Visitors will of course be invited, nay expected, to join in the celebrations.


A quick sneak peek on the Nepali festival calendar

It's definitely worth timing your trip to Nepal to coincide with one of the country's frenetic festivals, but with such an action-packed festival calendar, how do you choose? Try our pick of the red-letter days in Nepali calendar to make sure that you don’t miss out the cream.

Losar (January-February)

The Tibetan Buddhist New Year is an excuse for vividly colorful masked dances at Buddhist monasteries across the country, accompanied by the offering of sacred pills and the lighting of untold butter lamps.

Maha Shivaratri (February-March)

One of the most important nights to offer prayers to the supreme Hindu lord, “Shiva”. The temple of Pasupatinath (one of the most revered Hindu Shrines in the world) is literally inundated with pilgrims not only from Nepal but also from the neighboring country of India. The temple premises look absolutely scintillating and flamboyant that night as the pilgrims stay awake offering prayers and singing “Bhanjans”(religious songs that reflect the glory of gods).  Thousands of Nepali and Indian sadhus (Hindu ascetics), indulge in smoking marijuana, which is regarded as a hallmark of a real Shiva devotee. Lingams (phallic symbols) are anointed and hordes of pilgrims bathe in the Bagmati river at Pashupatinath.

Holi (February-March)

“Holi“, the festival of colors as it is often said, is celebrated with wild abandon across Nepal, as locals let fly with water bombs and tons of colored powder to mark the victory of god “Vishnu” over the demon siblings Holika and Hiranyakashyap. There is also a trend of eating “Bhang”, a locally made intoxicant. So the ones that eat bhang just go about frenziedly splashing colors on the people and say “Buraa na maano holi hey”, which means, “never mind, its Holi.   A quick tip for the first time travelers to Nepal  during a Holi is- wear old clothes and expect a dousing!

Seto Machhendranath Jatra (March-April)

Hindus and Buddhists come together in Kathmandu for the annual outing of “Seto Machchendranath”, regarded as the Hindu god of rain and Buddhist lord of compassion. The idol of Seto Machchendranath is paraded across the capital from the Jan Bahal in a 50-feet high chariot while the streets erupt with music and merrymaking.

Bisket Jatra (April)

Marking the Nepali New Year, the Bisket Jatra is welcomed with gusto in Bhaktapur with a chariot parade for Bhairab, the fearsome aspect of Lord Shiva. Shiva is a god of fertility, and the symbolism is laid on thick in Khalna Tole, where a huge wooden Lingam (representing male genitals) is erected on a stone Yoni (representing the female genitals).

Rato Machhendranath Jatra (April-May)

In late spring, the historic city of Patan gets in on the chariot action to honor Machchendranath, lord of rain and compassion. The red-faced idol from the temple at Kumaripati is paraded in a 65-feet-high chariot to the village of Bungamati, where the deity resides for six months before being paraded back to Patan.

Buddha Jayanti (April-May)

As the birthplace of lord Buddha, Nepal is the ideal spot to witness the birthday celebrations of this higly adored and revered “lord of peace”. Buddhists from across the globe gather at Lumbini, where Siddhartha Gautama, the historical Buddha, was born on earth to guide humanity towards enlightenment. Similar crowds gather at the great stupas of Boudhanath and Swayambhunath in Kathmandu on the same day.

Indra Jatra (September)

Celebrating the end of the harvest, the festival of Indra Jatra  is signified by the erection of a huge wooden Lingam outside Kathmandu's Hanuman Dhoka, while a giant mask of Seto Bhairab is unveiled in the Durbar Square. As the festival leaps to its vibrant crescendo, the masked dancers fill the streets as the living goddess, “Kumari” is paraded through the city and gallons of rice beer are served to the faithful through the mouth of Seto Bhairab.

Dashain (September-October)

The victory of the goddess”Durga” over the forces of evil is marked by the sacrifice of several animals like goats, buffaloes, pigeons etc.  The sacrificial altars on the temples of goddess Durga are literally submerged in the animal blood on the eighth day of this biggest Hindu festival; a crimson celebration of the female cosmic power. On a gentler note, the sky fills with colored kites and children swing on towering bamboo swings. The tenth and the final day of this festival is regarded as the most important one as on this day, the families gather up to receive blessings from their elders in the form of “Tika” (a mixture of rice grain, curd and red color powder). The elders put Tika on the forehead of their juniors and give them blessings.

Tihar & Deepawali (October-November)

“The festival of lights” as it it rightly said is marked by the lavish and scintillating display of electric as well as as traditional butter-lamp lights. Animals have an easier time during Tihar as most of the ones like crows, dogs and cows are worshipped and well fed during this 5 days’ festival. Fire crackers are burst and the streets as well as houses are decorated with lights to worship “goddess Laxmi”, the goddess of wealth and prosperity. On the fifth and the final day, “Bhai Tika” is observed, where the sisters and brothers put seven colored tika to each other. While the sisters pray for the long life and well being of their brother, the brothers vow to protect their sisters from the oddities of life.

Mani Rimdu (October-November)

Nepal's biggest Sherpa festival draws vast crowds to the Buddhist monasteries of Solukhumbu, when courtyards become impromptu stages for sacred dances by monks wearing rainbow-colored robes and masks of fearsome protector deities. Head to Chiwong, below Lukla, or Tengboche, on the trek to Everest Base Camp, to join in the spectacle.

Planning festival travel

The first thing you need to know about festivals in Nepal is that Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and tribal people all have their own calendars, all linked to the lunar cycle, but not, unfortunately, to each other. This means that dates for festivals move every year relative to the Gregorian calendar. Because of this, it's essential to verify the dates for festivals before you travel, preferably with a trusted local.

Nepal also follows its own system for counting years – the first Nepali month is Baishakh in April and the last is Chaitra in March, so each year in Nepal crosses over two years in the Gregorian calendar. To make things more complicated, Nepali years are counted from 56 BCE, rather than the Gregorian year zero, following the Bikram Samwat calendar. As a quick crib, the year running from spring 2014 to spring 2015 is 2071 B.S in Nepal.

The good news is that nature lends a hand. Many of the big celebrations are linked to the night of the full moon, which has special significance in the lunar calendar. It's also worth clocking the dates for “Ekadashi” – the 11th day of the waxing moon and the 11th day of the waning moon – which is marked by special events at temples and shrines even outside of festival time.

As anywhere, the usual festival rules apply – book accommodation well ahead of time, and expect massive crushes of people on all forms of public transport. However, the rented tourist vehicles are always on offer, provided that you are modest about paying a bit high.  If you don’t actually bother to go through the booking rigmaroles all by yourself, Marron Treks is at your service. We can tailor the trip as per your requirement. 



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