Festivals celebrated by Hindus in Nepal


Hinduism is the major religion in Nepal, and there are numerous festivals celebrated by Hindus throughout the year. These festivals are deeply rooted in religious and cultural traditions and hold great significance for the Nepalese Hindu community. Here are some of the prominent festivals celebrated by Hindus in Nepal, along with elaborated explanations:

  1. Dashain (Vijaya Dashami):

    Dashain, also known as Vijaya Dashami, is the most significant and widely celebrated festival in Nepal. It is a 15-day long festival that usually falls in September or October, following the lunar calendar. Dashain holds immense religious, cultural, and social importance for the Nepalese Hindu community.

    During Dashain, people celebrate the victory of good over evil and the triumph of goddess Durga over the demon Mahisasur. The festival is a time of joy, reunion, and renewal of relationships. Families come together, homes are cleaned and decorated, and streets are adorned with colorful lights and decorations.

    Here is a brief overview of the different days and rituals observed during Dashain:

    1. Ghatasthapana: The festival begins with Ghatasthapana, the first day of Dashain. A sacred vessel (kalash) is filled with holy water and planted with barley seeds. This symbolizes the germination of life and the worship of the goddess Durga. The kalash is placed in a sacred altar and worshipped throughout the festival.
    2. Fulpati: On the seventh day of Dashain, known as Fulpati, a procession is held where various sacred flowers, leaves, and fruits are gathered from different parts of the country and brought to Kathmandu. The procession is accompanied by traditional music, dance, and military bands. The Fulpati is received with great reverence at Hanuman Dhoka, the ancient palace in Kathmandu.
    3. Maha Asthami and Maha Nawami: The eighth day, Maha Asthami, and the ninth day, Maha Nawami, are considered the most important days of Dashain. On Maha Asthami, elaborate rituals and animal sacrifices are performed to worship the goddess Durga. Temples dedicated to the goddess, such as the Taleju Bhawani temple in Kathmandu, are thronged by devotees.
    4. Vijaya Dashami: The tenth and final day of Dashain is called Vijaya Dashami. It marks the victory of good over evil. On this day, people receive tika and blessings from their elders. Elders put tika (a mixture of rice, vermillion, and yogurt) on the forehead of younger family members, along with blessings for their prosperity and success. This exchange of tika symbolizes the renewal of love, respect, and goodwill among family members.

    Throughout Dashain, people engage in various activities such as flying kites, playing traditional games, exchanging gifts, and feasting on special delicacies. People wear new clothes, visit relatives and friends, and enjoy cultural programs, music, and dance performances. Many also go on pilgrimages to holy places, especially to the temple of Goddess Durga and the Muktinath Temple.

    Dashain is a time when the entire nation comes alive with festivities and a sense of unity and togetherness. It reflects the deep-rooted traditions, religious fervor, and cultural heritage of the Nepalese people.


  2. Tihar (Deepawali):

    Tihar, also known as Deepawali or Diwali, is a vibrant and significant festival celebrated in Nepal. It is a five-day festival that usually falls in October or November, following the lunar calendar. Tihar is considered the festival of lights and is celebrated with great enthusiasm by the Nepalese Hindu community.

    Here is a detailed explanation of the different days and customs observed during Tihar:

    1. Kaag Tihar (Day of the Crow): The festival begins with Kaag Tihar, the first day of Tihar. On this day, crows are worshiped as messengers of Yama, the god of death. People offer food and sweets to crows and decorate rooftops with flour patterns (rangoli) to welcome them.
    2. Kukur Tihar (Day of the Dog): The second day is dedicated to dogs, which are considered loyal and faithful companions. Dogs are adorned with garlands of flowers, tilaka (vermillion mark) is applied on their foreheads, and they are offered delicious food. They are worshipped and honored for their loyalty and as guardians of the home.
    3. Gai Tihar and Laxmi Puja (Day of the Cow and Worship of Goddess Laxmi): The third day of Tihar is dedicated to cows, which are revered as a symbol of wealth and prosperity. Cows are decorated with garlands, painted horns, and their foreheads are adorned with colorful vermillion. They are fed special meals, and their presence is believed to bring good fortune.

    In the evening, Laxmi Puja is performed to worship Goddess Laxmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity. Elaborate rituals, prayers, and offerings are made to invite her into homes. People light oil lamps and candles to illuminate their surroundings and create a welcoming atmosphere for the goddess. The belief is that Goddess Laxmi blesses homes that are clean, well-lit, and filled with positivity.

    1. Govardhan Puja and Mha Puja (Day of Oxen and Self-Worship): The fourth day of Tihar is dedicated to oxen and is known as Govardhan Puja. Oxen are decorated with vermillion, garlands, and colorful clothes. They are worshipped and thanked for their contribution to agricultural activities and for their strength. Similarly, Mha Puja is performed by Newar communities in Nepal, where individuals worship and purify themselves, symbolizing self-realization and self-worship.
    2. Bhai Tika (Day of Brothers): The final day of Tihar is Bhai Tika, which celebrates the bond between brothers and sisters. Sisters perform a special ritual where they put tika on their brothers’ foreheads, offer garlands of flowers, and perform aarti (rituals with lamps). Brothers, in return, give gifts and blessings to their sisters. This day signifies the love, respect, and strong bond between siblings.

    Throughout Tihar, homes are beautifully decorated with oil lamps, candles, and colorful rangoli patterns. Firecrackers are burst, cultural dances and music performances are held, and delicious traditional sweets and delicacies are prepared and shared among family and friends.

    Tihar is a time of joy, celebration, and the renewal of relationships. It fosters a sense of unity, gratitude, and devotion among the Nepalese Hindu community, and it represents the triumph of light over darkness and the victory of good over evil.


  3. Holi (Fagu Purnima):

    Fagu, also known as Holi, is a vibrant and exuberant festival celebrated in Nepal, usually in March. It is a festival that marks the arrival of spring and is widely celebrated by Hindus across the country. Fagu/Holi is a festival of colors, joy, and camaraderie.

    Here is a detailed explanation of the customs and traditions associated with Fagu/Holi in Nepal:

    1. Holika Dahan: The festival begins with Holika Dahan, which takes place on the night before the main day of Holi. Bonfires are lit in public spaces and homes to symbolize the burning of the demon Holika. People gather around the bonfire, sing religious hymns, and offer prayers. This ritual signifies the victory of good over evil.
    2. Rangwali Holi: The main day of Fagu/Holi is known as Rangwali Holi, the day of playing with colors. People of all ages gather in open spaces, streets, and courtyards, armed with colored powders (gulal) and water-filled balloons. They playfully smear each other with vibrant colors, throw colored powders in the air, and spray colored water, creating a joyful and lively atmosphere.
    3. Pichkari and Lolas: Water guns called “pichkari” are popular during Holi. These are used to spray colored water on friends and family, adding to the fun and excitement. In addition, “lolas” or water-filled balloons are thrown at each other, creating a playful and cheerful environment.
    4. Singing and Dancing: During Holi, people sing traditional folk songs (Holi geet) and perform lively dances. They form groups, move from house to house, and sing and dance together, spreading joy and celebrating the festive spirit. Various cultural programs, music concerts, and dance performances are also organized during this time.
    5. Gujiya and Special Foods: Holi is also a time for indulging in delicious food and sweets. Special delicacies like gujiya (sweet dumplings filled with khoya and nuts), malpuas (pancakes), and other sweets are prepared and shared among family and friends. Thandai, a special drink made with milk, nuts, and spices, is also popular during Holi.
    6. Social Harmony and Reconciliation: Holi transcends barriers of caste, creed, and social hierarchy. It is a festival that promotes social harmony, unity, and forgiveness. People often use this occasion to mend broken relationships, resolve conflicts, and embrace each other with love and forgiveness.

    Fagu/Holi is not only celebrated among Hindus but also embraced by people of other religious and cultural backgrounds in Nepal. It is a time when communities come together, celebrate diversity, and enjoy the festive spirit.

    It’s important to note that while Fagu/Holi is a joyful celebration, it is also essential to respect personal boundaries and consent when applying colors or engaging in playful activities, ensuring that everyone can fully enjoy the festival in a safe and respectful manner.


  4. Janai Purnima (Raksha Bandhan):

    Janai Purnima, also known as Raksha Bandhan, is a significant festival celebrated by Hindus in Nepal. It usually takes place in the month of August, on the full moon day of Shrawan (Shravan Purnima) according to the lunar calendar. Janai Purnima holds religious and cultural importance, particularly for the Brahmin and Chhetri communities in Nepal.

    During Janai Purnima, several rituals and customs are observed:

    1. Changing of Janai: Janai, a sacred thread, is an important symbol worn by Hindu males from the Brahmin and Chhetri castes. On Janai Purnima, these men change their Janai in a ritual known as “Bratabandha.” The old thread is removed, and a new thread is tied around their wrists or across their bodies. This ritual signifies the renewal of their commitment to religious practices and the strengthening of their spiritual connection.
    2. Sacred Thread for Boys: On Janai Purnima, young boys from Brahmin and Chhetri families participate in a ceremony called “Bratabandha.” During this ceremony, boys who have reached a certain age (typically around 9-13 years old) are initiated into the thread-wearing ritual. They receive a sacred thread called “Doro” or “Janai” and are given instructions on its significance and how to wear it. This ritual marks their formal entry into the religious and cultural responsibilities of their community.
    3. Pilgrimage to Gosainkunda: Janai Purnima is also associated with the pilgrimage to Gosainkunda, a sacred mountain lake located in the Langtang region of Nepal. Devotees, especially from the Brahmin and Chhetri communities, embark on a challenging trek to reach Gosainkunda. They take holy baths in the lake and perform religious rituals, seeking blessings and purification.
    4. Holy Dips in Rivers: Taking a holy dip in rivers, especially at the confluence of three rivers known as Triveni (located in Devghat, Chitwan), is considered auspicious during Janai Purnima. Devotees believe that bathing in these sacred rivers purifies the body, mind, and soul, and absolves them of sins.
    5. Rakhi: Janai Purnima is also celebrated as Raksha Bandhan, a festival that celebrates the bond between brothers and sisters. Sisters tie a protective thread known as “Rakhi” around their brothers’ wrists, symbolizing love, protection, and the promise of the brother’s lifelong support. In return, brothers give gifts to their sisters and vow to protect them.

    Janai Purnima is not only a religious festival but also a time for family gatherings, feasting, and cultural celebrations. It promotes unity, love, and respect among family members and reinforces the significance of maintaining social harmony and strengthening familial bonds.


  5. Teej:

    Teej is a popular festival celebrated predominantly by Hindu women in Nepal. It is a joyous occasion that falls in the month of August or September, typically during the monsoon season. Teej holds immense cultural and religious significance and is dedicated to Goddess Parvati, who is revered as an embodiment of marital bliss, strength, and devotion.

    Here is an elaboration on the customs and traditions associated with Teej festival in Nepal:

    1. Fasting and Devotion: Teej is primarily known as a fasting festival, where married and unmarried women observe a rigorous fast for the well-being and longevity of their husbands or to seek a suitable life partner. They abstain from consuming food or water from sunrise to moonrise, displaying their dedication and devotion to Goddess Parvati. It is believed that fasting on Teej purifies the mind and body and brings blessings and marital bliss.
    2. Red Attire and Adornments: Women dress up in vibrant red attire, which is considered auspicious for the occasion. Red is symbolic of marital bliss, love, and fertility. They adorn themselves with intricate henna designs (mehendi) on their hands and feet. Women also wear bangles, jewelry, and accessories, enhancing the festive spirit.
    3. Singing and Dancing: Teej is synonymous with lively singing and dancing. Women gather in groups and perform traditional songs and dances known as “Teej geet” and “Teej dance.” These songs and dances reflect the joys and challenges of married life, express their emotions, and celebrate the bond of womanhood. The festivities are accompanied by traditional musical instruments such as drums, cymbals, and flutes.
    4. Puja and Offerings: During Teej, women visit temples dedicated to Goddess Parvati and offer prayers and offerings. They light oil lamps, offer flowers, fruits, and sweets, and perform aarti (ritual of waving lamps) to seek the goddess’s blessings. Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu is one of the major destinations for Teej celebrations.
    5. Breaking the Fast: At the end of the day-long fast, women break their fast after sighting the moon. They consume a special meal that typically includes various delicacies like rice, lentils, curries, sweets, and fruits. It is a moment of celebration and sharing the joy of completing the fasting ritual.

    Teej is not just a religious festival but also a time for women to come together, share their experiences, and strengthen their bonds. It represents the power, resilience, and devotion of women in Nepalese society. The festival celebrates womanhood, love, and the importance of marital relationships, while also highlighting the social and cultural values cherished by the community.


  6. Maha Shivaratri:

    Mahashivaratri, also known as the “Great Night of Lord Shiva,” is a significant Hindu festival celebrated in Nepal and various parts of the Indian subcontinent. It is observed on the 14th day of the dark half of the lunar month of Falgun (February/March) according to the Hindu calendar. Mahashivaratri is dedicated to Lord Shiva, the deity associated with destruction, transformation, and the ultimate reality.

    Here is an elaboration on the customs and traditions associated with Mahashivaratri in Nepal:

    1. Fasting and Night Vigil: Mahashivaratri is primarily marked by fasting, where devotees abstain from consuming food or water throughout the day. Fasting is believed to cleanse the body and mind and demonstrate devotion and self-control. Many devotees also observe a night vigil, staying awake all night and engaging in prayers, meditation, and chanting of Lord Shiva’s mantras.
    2. Pilgrimage to Pashupatinath Temple: Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu holds immense importance during Mahashivaratri. It is one of the holiest Shiva temples in the world, and thousands of devotees flock to the temple complex to pay their respects to Lord Shiva. Devotees offer prayers, light oil lamps, bathe in the sacred Bagmati River, and perform rituals to seek blessings and attain spiritual enlightenment.
    3. Rudra Abhishek and Puja: Elaborate rituals and ceremonies are conducted in temples dedicated to Lord Shiva on Mahashivaratri. The main ritual is known as Rudra Abhishek, where the deity is bathed with water, milk, yogurt, honey, ghee, and other sacred substances. Devotees also offer bilva leaves, flowers, fruits, and other symbolic offerings to Lord Shiva as a sign of reverence and devotion.
    4. Bhajans, Kirtans, and Spiritual Discourses: Throughout the night, devotional songs (bhajans) and religious hymns dedicated to Lord Shiva are sung by devotees. These melodic chants create a spiritual atmosphere and invoke a sense of devotion. Spiritual discourses and narrations of mythological stories related to Lord Shiva are also conducted to inspire and educate devotees about the significance of Mahashivaratri.
    5. Wearing Rudraksha Beads and Vermillion: On Mahashivaratri, devotees wear Rudraksha beads, which are considered sacred and symbolize Lord Shiva. Rudraksha beads are believed to have a spiritual and protective effect. Many devotees also apply vermillion (red powder) on their foreheads, representing the third eye of Lord Shiva.
    6. Spiritual Austerity and Self-Reflection: Mahashivaratri is a time for spiritual austerity and introspection. Devotees reflect on their lives, seek inner transformation, and strive to cultivate qualities such as humility, compassion, and detachment. It is an opportunity to deepen one’s connection with Lord Shiva and enhance spiritual growth.

    Mahashivaratri holds deep spiritual and cultural significance in Nepal. It is a time when devotees immerse themselves in prayers, rituals, and devotion to Lord Shiva, seeking blessings and spiritual upliftment. The festival exemplifies the reverence and devotion of the Nepalese Hindu community towards Lord Shiva and serves as a reminder of the cosmic forces that govern life and existence.


These are just a few examples of the many festivals celebrated by Hindus in Nepal. Each festival holds deep cultural and religious significance, and they contribute to the rich tapestry of Nepal’s cultural heritage.