Dashain is the most important and celebrated festival in Nepal in the months of September, October. The day starts from the lunar night of Shukla Paksha and lasts for 12 days till full moon or Purnima. Dashain also is known as Dussehra means good over evil. It celebrates the death of the Demon called Mahishasur by Goddess Durga and the death of Ravana by Lord Ram.
The first day is called Ghatasthapana which marks the arrival of the Dashain festival. On this day barley seeds are sown and a puja ritual to Goddess is performed. The puja should be conducted every day for ten days the seventh day is Phulpati that is carried from Gorkha Durbar to Hanuman Dhoka Dashain Ghar. The seventh day is called Saptami then the eighth day is Maha Asthami and on the ninth day of Navami the worship of Goddess Kal Ratri the fiercest manifestation of Lord Durga is worshipped and animals like buffaloes, ducks, goats are also sacrificed. The holy temple of Taleju Bhawani is opened only on this day at Kathmandu Durbar Square. Living Goddess Kumari is also worshipped during Dashain along with Lord Bhairav. Vehicles are also worshipped. The tenth day is called Vijaya Dashami on this day elders put tikas and jamaras sown on Ghatasthapana on the foreheads and this the celebration of triumph over evil like Goddess slaying Mahishasura and Ram killing Ravan. On the social part, this season actually marks the reunion of the family who has been away from home come back together to worship and feast. In villages, people play swing including the children. They spend time gathering and sharing their thoughts and life experiences with one another. It is a delight to have everybody in their home with their kin. Soldiers only miss their families as they don’t get off from their duty. Wives and family often miss them and people have gone overseas on foreign employment but are not able to return on Dashain also makes the family nostalgic.
Tihar is another auspicious festival of Nepal. It is also known as the festival of lights as each household performs Lakshmi puja to please the Goddess of wealth and abundance also light lamps and decorative lights outside their homes for the Goddess to enter and dwell in their home. The popular food of this festival is sel roti made by the housewives. Tihar lasts for four to five days. The first day is Kaag Tihar. On this day people worship crow. Crows are known as messengers of death and on this day people offer food to the crow to make them happy. The second day is kukur Tihar.
On this day Dogs of Households are worshipped. They are regarded as “ Gatekeeper of Death” and people feed them well. Even patrol dogs get their due on this day. The third day is Gai Tihar and Lakshmi puja. On this day people worship cows. In Hinduism, the philosophy cow is a sacred animal. In the evening people clean their home and porch. They make rangoli and start making necessary preparations for Lakshmi puja and later do puja to the Goddess of prosperity by all family members of the Household. Various offerings are contributed to make Goddess happy and dwell in their home. Neighbors and children start singing Deusi and Bhailo songs. The fourth day is Govardhan puja. People worship ox on this day. Newari people also celebrate their new year. Yama Panchak the god of death is also worshipped. The last day is the Bhai tika and it holds special bondage between brother and sister. Sisters put multicolored tika on the forehead and put garlands and give shagun to brothers praying for their longevity and brothers also give them Dakshina and gifts to please their sister who has prayed for their health and long life. Tihar comes after a fortnight of the end of Dashain and brings lots of delight in the family and spend leisurely eating well home-cooked food, playing cards. In Nepal, Great poet Lakshmi Prasad Devkota born during Lakshmi puja is commemorated.
Teej festival is actually Women’s day in Nepal. It falls on the months of August to September and runs till three days. Teej is actually worshipped and fast by Hindu women to God Shiva and Goddess Parvati re-union. The deities are worshipped to honor Lord Shiva and have a happy married life. Unmarried girls also fast and offer prayers to have their husband like Lord Shiva. Parvati was a true devotee who always wanted to marry Shiva more than anybody else.
Even Lord Shiva was impressed by her sincerity and worship. Women come to bathe in the holy river, wear bright red clothes and ornaments, do rigid fasts, sing and dance Teej songs and worship Shiva. They don’t eat till they perform the puja the next day and break their fast after drinking water from their husband’s hands. Hindu women are true devotees and don’t deter from their spiritual inclination to God. Pashupatinath Temple is flocked with Hindu devotees in a long procession to worship Pashupatinath. It is believed that taking the Shivaratri brat actually secures a happy married life and makes their bonding deeper. Besides, the husband would live longer and in good health. According to the Lunar calendar, it falls in the month of Shravana and the third day of dark night of Bhadrapada. It is also celebrated in Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Bihar, and Jharkhand in India.
Indra Jatra Festival:
Indra Jatra is the day that comes after the monsoon season ends. It falls in the month of September. On this day Indra-the God of rain and Dagini are worshipped for good harvest of the seeds sown on monsoon and also to remember the deceased people.
This day marks chariot processions, mask dances by the lakheys, worshipping living Goddess Kumari in Front of Hanuman Dhoka Palace. The large image of Akash Bhairav is also put out on display with the chariots. Ganesh chariot is also accompanied with the rest and is a major crowd puller for the locals and tourists. In many temples fishes, nuts, goats, roosters are offered to worship God and goddesses. Dignitaries of the nation including President Mrs. Bidhya Devi Bhandari and Prime Minister, Commander in Chief of Army arrive at Gaddi Baithak and observe the chariot pull and military parade procession. Attendants scatter flowers to the public. Butter lamps are lit during the beginning of the Indra Jatra festival. It is one of the main festivals and shortly after some days the main festival of Dashain arrives in full swing. This is the perfect time to visit UNESCO world heritage sites and especially Kathmandu Durbar Square courtyards.
Janai Purnima or Rakshya Bandhan falls on the month of Shrawan of the lunar calendar. On this day a sacred thread is adorned by the Hindus mainly the Brahmins and the Chhetris. The Janai a cotton string thread is worn after the Bratabandha by the men. This symbolizes his manhood stage and the formal process of accepting someone in the religion.
The guru makes the chant of sacred mantra while tying a knot in the hands. Holy Gosaikunda Lake sees many devotees during this festive season. On this day before adorning Janai, the men should make themselves clean by bathing, shaving or cutting hair, go vegan and stick to satvik foods prescribed during religious festivals. The priest who put Janai and tie a knot called Doro which is the sacred thread are offered food and Dakshina. The Doro can only be pulled off and tied to the tail of the cow on Lakshmi puja day. This ritual is called Baitarni for the Hindus.
Another special occasion is the Rakhi day which is celebrated in Nepal and India. Sisters tie a knot made from different colorful rakhis and offer them sweets and brother also give Dakshina or presents and swear to look after her. People also eat lentil soup called Kwati which gives all the vital nutrition to the body. It is religiously linked with Gods and Goddesses like Ganesh, Santoshi Mata, Goddess Lakshmi, Lord Yama and his sister the Yamuna who bestowed immortality to her. Newars also celebrate this day as Gunhi Punhi. Families and friends gather on this day and it is also a holiday in Nepal.