Festivals in Nepal are as number as there are days in a year. Blessed to be one of the most diverse countries in the world, almost everyday Nepal and Nepalese are participating in some sort of festivals and celebrations.
Indra Jatra | An overview on Indra Jatra Festival
Indra is Lord of Rain and the king of Heaven. Jatra is procession. Indra Jatra is celebration of God Indra’s Day. Indra Jatra is festival of Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. Some believes Indra Jatra is thanking day to lord Indra for the rain. According to others, the festival is celebrated in the honor of Bahirab, who is Shiva’s manifestation and is believed to destroy evil.
When do we celebrate Indra Jatra
Indra Jatra begins every year from the day of the Bhadra Dwadasi to Ashwin Krishna Chaturdasi. It is a eight day long festival.
How do we celebrate Indra Jatra
The festival begins with the carnival-like erection of The Linga (Yasingh), a ceremonial pole, accompanied by the rare display of the deity Akash Bhairab, represented by a massive mask spouting Jaad and raksi (Nepali local liquors). Households throughout Kathmandu (especially Newars) display images and sculptures of Indra and Bhairab at this time of year. This thirty-six feet long wooden pole (The Linga (Yasingh)) is chosen with great care from the Nala forest in Kavre district east of Kathmandu.
According to traditional beliefs, Indra had received this flag from Lord Vishnu for protection.
Finally, the Kumari (living goddess), leaves the seclusion of her temple in a palanquin and leads a procession through the streets of Kathmandu to thank Indra the rain god. The main attraction of the festival is the procession of chariots and masked dancers representing deities and demons. Indra is called Yanya in Newari. Jaad (Nepali local liquor) flows from the Bahirab statue, which is remarkable to look at in Hanuman Dhoka.
The procession consists of:
- Majipa Lakhey
• Sawan Bhaku
• Ganesh (Chariot)
• Kumar (Chariot)
• Kumari (Chariot)
Besides these, there are various dances held on the open stages of the city called dabu. There is display of Swet Bhairava as well as various deities of the city.
Story Behind Indra Jatra
Indra’s mother needed parijat, a type of flower, for some religious ritual so Indra disguised as a human being came to the earth to fetch them. But, he was recognized when he was to steal the flowers so the people caught him and tied him with ropes. The statue of which is still worshipped in Maru Tole in Kathmandu. This image is also put on display with others in different parts of the city during Indra Jatra festival.
Indra Jatra is a very interesting festival because for the whole week people enjoy various traditional dances and witness the chariot of Goddess Kumari, Lord Ganesh and Lord Bhairav being pulled through the older parts of the Kathmandu city. A day has been added to the original seven days of celebration and on that day known as Nanicha yaa the chariots are pulled through Naradevi, Nhyokha, Ason, Indrachwok and Hanuman Dhoka. This extra day of chariot pulling was introduced by King Jaya Prakash Malla in 1765 B.S.
In Indra Chowk, the famous Akash Bhairava bust is displayed and it is decorated with flowers. This Akash Bhairava’s head is related to the Mahabharata story. Some believe it to be the head of the first Kirat King Yalamber. In Indra Chowk, every night different groups gather and sing bhajans and hymns.
During Indra Jatra, there are a variety of performances including the dances of Sawa Bhakku Bhairav from Halchowk, Majipa Lakhey from Majipat, Devi Nach and Yeravat hathi (Pulukisi) from Naradevi, Mahakali and Kathi Maka Nach from Bhaktapur. All the dances take place around Hanuman Dhoka area. The Dasavatar or the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu is also staged every night.
The first day of the festival is also observed by the Newars as a day to remember the family members who died during the past year by offering small oil lamps along a traditional route covering all the parts of the old city. It is believed to have been started during the reign of Mahendra Malla.
The Linga (Yasingh) is pulled down signalling the end of Indra Jatra festival. It is taken to the confluence of Bagmati and Bishnumati in Teku to be put to rest.
The end of the Indra Jatra festival heralds the beginning of Dashain and Tihar celebrated with great enthusiasm not only in the Kathmandu Valley but throughout the country.
October 23 – 27, 2020, Dashain
A kid after receiving blessings from elders on the Tika day of Dashain. Picture Courtesy of Subir Thapa (Facebook)
Dashain is the most important festival to Nepalis. It is a celebration of good prevailing over evil. Most families offer male goats, ducks, chickens, eggs and coconuts to the goddess Durga. People return to their home villages and spend the fifteen-day festival with their families. Large swings are set up for children, and from the tenth day, family members receive Tika (rice, red vermillion and yoghurt) on their foreheads from their elders.
November 13 – 17, 2020, Tihar
Girls singing and dancing at Deusi in Tihar. Picture courtesy of Bhas Na Veen (Facebook)
Tihar is Nepal’s second most important festival, after Dashain. In each of the three days, a different deity is worshipped: on the first day the crow, the messenger of Yama (the bringer of death); on the second, dogs, which are believed to be Yama’s custodian; and on the third, the goddess Lakshmi is worshipped, the bringer of wealth. Lakshmi is worshipped by lighting houses with oil lamps, candles and colorful lights.
November 20, 2020, Chhath
Devotees offering prayers to the Sun on Chhath Festival.
Chhath is the most important festival observed in the Terai region and falls on the seventh day after Tihar. Devotees fast and make offerings to the sun by gathering at river banks. The Terai region is the best place to observe this festival or the Rani Pokhari tank in central Kathmandu.
Janaury 25, 2020, Lhosar
Lhosar is celebrated by Nepalese ethnic groups who trace their history to Tibet, namely the Gurung, Tamang and Sherpa people. Lhosar is the first day of the new year, and each community celebrates the festival differently. Traditional dress is worn by young and old, and festivities held in cities and more remote regions.
January 30, 2020, Basanta Panchami
Devotees worship goddess Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge and creator of arts, education and music. Basanta Panchami also marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring.
February 21, 2020, Maha Shivaratri
‘Shivaratri’ means the ‘night of Lord Shiva’. Devout Hindus bathe early in the morning and fast on this day, then visit Shiva temples. The best place to witness the festival is at the Pashupatinath temple of Kathmandu, where thousands of Sadhus (Hindu holy men) and smoke marijuana and hashish, considered dear to Lord Shiva. People also drink Bhang, a drink made by mixing ground nuts, spices, herbs and extracts of marijuana into milk.
March 09, 2020, Holi
Holi; The Festival of Colours
Holi is a very colourful and playful festival. It is celebrated in the Terai on one day, and in Kathmandu and the hill regions on the next day. People smear coloured powders on their friends, relatives and family members, and throw coloured water and water balloons. It’s important not to take any valuables out with you on this day, unless they are sealed in a plastic bag!
March 24, 2020, Ghode Jatra
Godhe Jatra. Picture courtesy of StreetNepal
Ghode Jatra is important in the Kathmandu Valley and is celebrated to ward off demonic Gurumapa. It is said the soul of the demon still lives underground at Tundikhel. To prevent him from rising again, a horse race is organised on this day by the Nepal Army.
April 13, 2020, Nepali New Year (Bisket Jatra)
Bisket Jatra in Bhaktapur
This is a major holiday in Nepal. A particularly lively place to spend the day is Bhaktapur, where the Bisket Jatra festival takes place. A huge chariot carrying the god Bhairab is pulled through the streets, ending with a chariot battle at Bhaktapur’s Khalna Tole.
On this day, children (including adult children!) offer sweets, fruits and gifts to their mothers to show their respect and gratitude. Those whose mothers have passed away visit Mata Tirtha in the west of Kathmandu, take a holy bath and make offerings in their mother’s memory.
May 07, 2020, Buddha Jayanti
Buddhist Devotees Celebrating Buddha Jayanti in Boudhanath.
Buddha’s birthday falls on the first full day of the first month of the Hindu lunar calendar and is celebrated by Hindus as well as Buddhists. It is observed at Buddhist shrines and monasteries throughout Nepal, but a particularly grand ceremony is held at Buddha’s birthplace in Lumbini, on the Terai. In Kathmandu, the Tibetan enclave of Boudhanath is a particularly good place to watch the festivities.
May-June 2020, Rato Machchhendranath
The Chariot of Rato Machindranath
This is Nepal’s longest and largest festival, held in Patan. A large chariot is built on Pulchowk Road over several weeks, and finally, the god Machchhendranath is placed inside. Three days later, the chariot begins its procession all throughout Patan and wider Lalitpur, towards Bungamati. Machchhendranath is the Newar god of rain, and the festival ushers in the monsoon.
July 25, 2020, Naag Panchami
Naag Panchami falls in the middle of the monsoon. It is a Hindu festival that worships the serpent god, Naag. Pictures of Naag are posted in doorways, and milk is offered to him. It is believed that worshipping Naag protects against snake bites. This festival marks respect to serpents as the water guardians, and to ensure regular rainfall in the Kathmandu Valley.
August 03, 2020, Janai Purnima
Picture Courtesy of Prateek Gurung
Janai Purnima is Sacred Thread Festival. On this day, Hindu men, especially the Brahmins and Chettris perform their annual change of Janai and all who celebrates this festival put a sacred thread around their wrist. Gosaikunda, the sacred pond in high altitude, witnesses the great celebration on this day.
August 11, 2020, Gai Jatra
The festival’s name is Gai Jatra (literally meaning the festival of cows) and nowadays it is a fusion of three traditions that came into being in three different periods of time. The first and the oldest tradition incorporates a cult and a worship of the ancient god of death – Yamaraj. Thus, the festival marks the acceptance and celebration of death in a positive way, as an inevitable part of life. Every family who has lost a member, in the previous year, is supposed to lead a carefully and intricately decorated cow through the city. In the absence of a cow, a boy dressed as a cow (the oldest for a lost male memberand the younger for a female) can successfully take on the role.
August 11, 2020, Krishna Janmastami
Krishna Janmastami marks the birth of Krishna. Considered the eighth incarnation of Lord Vishnu, Krishna is the most important character in the Hindu epic, the Mahabharat. On this day Hindu devotees visit Krishna temples. In particular, thousands of devotees gather at the stone Krishna Mandir in Patan Durbar Square.
August 21, 2020, Teej
Teej is a festival celebrated by Nepali women, for the long life of her husband and a long and firm relationship between them until the death this life and all the lives to come. Teej is observed for marital happiness, the well-being of spouse and children and purification of own body and soul. Teej is the most famous festival among Nepali women.
August 23, 2020, Rishi Panchami
Rishi Panchami is a festival that is celebrated immediately after Teej Puja. Hindu women attach undue importance to this festival of Rishi Panchami because they believe that by observing Rishi
Panchmi fast and by paying homage to Rishis (Saints) on this day of the festival, they will be blessed and forgiven for all their sins that they are bound to commit during their menstrual cycle by not following the strictures laid down for them by their religion.
Hartalika Teej and Rishi Panchami are observed by females only. Ghode Jatra, Gai Jatra and Indra Jatra are observed in Kathmandu valley only. Some dates of the festivals are subject to change. In such cases, we will be updating the festival dates.
Tags: festival in nepal, indra jatra in nepal, nepal festival date, Shivaratri in nepal