With its bright colors and fun energy, the festival of Holi has gained a good deal of attention in the U.S. and now brings travelers to Nepal and India regularly each spring. Participating in any of Nepal’s festivals is an engaging way to learn about the culture and religions, as well as to meet local people. They often bring people out to public spaces for celebrations and include feasts and special foods, as well as important traditional ceremonies. Many of Nepal’s festivals occur in the fall and spring, and we often suggest timing a trip to coincide with one. Here are a few to consider:
Held over fifteen days in September or October, Dashain or Bijaya Dashami is the longest Hindu festival in Nepal and one of the most important. It celebrates the victory of good over evil and honors the Hindu goddess Durga. Many people return home to celebrate with their families and receive tika (a dab of red vermillion on the forehead) from their elders. Kites are commonly flown; large swings are set up for children; new clothes are purchased and worn; and various rituals, including sacrifices, are held on specific days. The Taleju Temple in Kathmandu’s Durbar Square, typically closed to all, opens to the Hindu people one day a year during the festival.
Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death fell on the same day and are celebrated by Buddhists and Hindus throughout Nepal on the full moon of Vaisakha, a month on the Hindu calendar (usually April or May). The grandest ceremony occurs at Buddha’s birthplace in Lumbini in the western Terai plains. In Kathmandu, Buddha’s devotees pay respects at the Boudhanath Stupa, one of the holiest sites in Nepal and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And in Kathmandu Valley, Swyambhunath Stupa and the city of Patan also draw Buddha’s disciples and admirers. Continue reading