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Festivals


As stated earlier, Nepal is a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic country with more than 100 indigenous nationalities residing in the country since hundreds of years. Going by that, there are many festivals which are celebrated by some distinct ethnic group. However, there are some major festivals that are celebrated by people from all the caste and creed. The two major festivals of Nepal, celebrated by almost all the people, are Dashain and Tihar. Both these festivals are separated by a month’s distance and are celebrated in a remarkably overwhelming way, so much so that all the private and government offices are closed during the festivals as the entire nation is on a festive mood. 
 
Dashain normally falls on the month of October and it is celebrated by worshipping and paying homage to goddess Durga. Goats are typically sacrificed during the 10-day long festival while people enjoy the festival playing cards and devouring on goat meat. It is during this festival that the elders of the family offer tika and blessings to the younger ones, and the younger ones pay respect to their elder ones. Dashain has a special significance in the Hindu culture. Exactly a month after Dashain, falls another festival called Tihar which is the second biggest festival in Nepal. It is celebrated for five days and the festival is unique in that animals like crow, dog, oxen and cow are worshipped on the first four days before the festival culminates on the fifth day with sisters worshipping their brothers. Tihar is special for siblings, especially brothers and sisters when the sisters pray for the longevity of their brothers.Besides these two major festivals, there are several other regional festivals celebrated by some particular ethnic group. Festival like Chhath is celebrated mostly in the Terai region worshipping Sun and it is popular among the people from Terai origin. Chhath is even widely celebrated in the neighboring India. Festival like Mha Puja is celebrated by Newari people. Mha Puja is celebrated on the occasion of their separate New Year called the Nepal Sambat. Festivals like Janai Purnima, Krishna Janmastami, Maghe Sakranti, Holi, Shiva Ratri, among others are also popular and celebrated round the year. Besides all these, there is a special festival for women called Teej, when the married women go back to their maternal home during the festival and share their hardships with their maternal relatives. Women dance and eat delicious food during Teej. Many folk songs are released during the time of this festival, focusing particularly on the hardships they are facing at the house of their in-laws.
 
Buddha Purnima Festival or Buddha Jayanti Festival is the most sacred day in Buddhist calendar. It is the most important festival of Buddhists, and is celebrated with great enthusiasm. Although Buddhists regard every full moon as sacred, the moon of the month of Vaisakh/Baisakh (April - May) has special significance because on this day Buddha was born, attained enlightenment, and Nirvana. This strange, three-fold coincidence, gives Buddha Purnima its unique significance.
Gai Jatra
This entirely Newar festival is held on the 1st day of Bhadon. Newars who have lost loved ones during the year traditionally disguised themselves as cows and danced around the palace of the king. However, in modern times, the ceremony is performed only as a masked dance with the singing of songs. Gaijatra, the festival of cows, (gai means cow and jatra means festival in Nepali: गाईजात्रा, and Nepal Bhasa: सापारु) is celebrated in Nepal, mainly in Kathmandu valley by the Newar and Tharu community. The festival commemorates the death of people during the year. During the festival, cows are marched in the streets and generally celebrated in the Nepalese month of Bhadra (August–September). It falls on the 1st day of the dark fortnight of Gunla according to the lunar Nepal Era calendar. Peoples also distributes food to others. The festival of cows is one of the most popular festivals of Nepal. The whole complex of Gaijatra festival has its roots in the ancient ages when people feared and worshiped Yamaraj, the god of death. However, the ironic sessions synonymous with the Gaijatra festival entered the tradition in the medieval period of Nepal during the reign of the Malla Kings. Hence, the present form of Gaijatra is a happy blending of antiquity and the medieval era. According to the traditions since time immemorial, every family who has lost one relative during the past year must participate in a procession through the streets of Kathmandu leading a cow. If a cow is unavailable then a young boy dressed as a cow is considered a fair substitute. In Hinduism, a cow is regarded as the most venerated among all the domestic animals. It is believed that the cow, revered as a holy animal by Hindus, will help the deceased relative's journey to heaven. According to the historical evidence, when King Pratap Malla lost his son, his wife, the queen, remained grief-stricken. The king was very sad to see the condition of his beloved queen. The king, in spite of several efforts, could not lessen the grief of his wife. He desperately wanted to see a little smile on the lips of his sweetheart, and so he announced that anyone who made the queen laugh would be rewarded adequately. During the festival of Gaijatra, the cow procession was brought before the grief-stricken queen. Then the participants began ridiculing and be-fooling the important people of the society. Finally, when the social injustices and other evils were highlighted and attacked mercilessly, the queen could not help but smile. The queen laughed and the king instituted a tradition of including jokes, satire, mockery and lampoon into the Gaijatra celebration. After the procession is over, in the afternoon, nearly everyone takes part in another age-old tradition in which the participants dress up and wear masks. The occasion is filled with songs and jokes. Mockery and humor of every kind become the order of the day until late evening. Hence, Gaijatra is a healthy festival which enables the people to accept the reality of death and to prepare themselves for life after death. According to Hinduism, "whatever a man does in his life is a preparation leading to a good life after death".
 
Indra Jatra
The Indra Jatra festival begins on the 26th of Bhadon and lasts for eight days. This festival is hold in early to mid September and marks the end of the rainy season. On the first day a lofty wooden post is erected before the king's palace or at other Darbur sites and dancers from all across Nepal perform with masks. If an earthquake ever occurred on the opening day of the festival this was considered a bad omen and the festival would have to be restarted. On the third day, young virgins are brought before the king and worshiped and then carried through Kathmandu, mounted on oars. The highlight is parading the Kumar Devi (living god) through Kathmandu on a special chariot built just this purpose. The chariots are parked outside the Kumar Devi's house at the Kathmandu Durbar Square