Tamang Culture Tour -3 Days
Majhi Culture Tour - 3 Days
Gurung Culture Tour - 5 Days
Tharu Culture Tour - 3 Days
Nepal Shamanism Village Tour - 3 to 7 Days
It is a well known fact that Hinduism and Buddhism are the two major religions of Nepal, each having it's own rules and rituals. However, like most festivals of Nepal, both Hindus and Buddhist unite to celebrate the festival of Indra Jatra. This festival is celebrated by both Hindus and Buddhists with great enthusiasm. It is also believed that Indra Jatra is a festival of classical dances. It is on this very day when one is able to observe numerous varieties of traditional dances. The festival is named after Lord Indra who is known as the god of rain and also as the king of heaven.
The festival of Indra Jatra continues for eight days with much rejoicing, singing, dancing and feasting. People
from all over Nepal, mostly those who live within the Kathmandu Valley, gather at the Hanuman Dhoka in Kathmandu. The first day of the festival is viewed by a large number of people. On that day, a long wooden pole is erected in front of the ancient Royal Palace at Hanuman Dhoka, in order to propitiate Lord Indra, the"god of rain". Classical dancers also assemble at the spot, wearing different kinds of traditional masks and costumes and dancing around the courtyard of Hanuman Dhoka to celebrate Indra's visit.
Kumari at Indra Jatra festivalOn the third day of the festival of Indra Jatra, the living goddess Kumari is taken out in a procession in a chariot. "Kumari", the "living goddess", is considered to be an
incarnation of the goddess "Taleju". Chariots of Kumari, Ganesha and Bhairav are taken around the city for three days. According to Hindu beliefs Ganesha is the son of Shiva and Parvati who has a head of an elephant and Bhairav is another form of Lord Shiva himself.
The President and the hereditary King of Nepal also pay homage to the Kumari during this period. The festival's many interesting dances, including the Procession of Living Goddess-
Mahakali, Mahalaxmi and Dasha Avatara masked dances are staged in Kathmandu Durbar Square, near the Kumari Temple. The "Dasha Avatara" refers to the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu
who is one of the Hindu's Holy trinity. The excitement of the festival of Indra Jatra comes to an end on the last evening of the festival when the long wooden pole erected on the first day is lowered
with a number of religious ceremonies and rituals.
The belief and the practice of Buddhism in Nepal dates back to the time of Prince Siddharth Gautam, who was born in the southern Terai region of the country in about 543 BC. Till he was 29, the young prince led a very sheltered life in the royal palace of his father. He was completely unaware of the tragedies of everyday life. One day, he convinced his charioteer to take him outside the walls of his palace and he was shocked to see the sight of an old man, a cripple, and a corpse.
The realization that there was more to life than the lavish and luxurious life he was leading, made him abandon all the worldly pleasures and search for enlightenment and the true meaning of life.
After much wandering and searching, Gautam finally attained enlightenment while meditating under a pipul tree. Henceforth, known as the "Buddha" or "the enlightened one" he began to preach "The Four Noble Truths" to all who would listen. According to this doctrine, people suffer because of their desires and the root cause of all misery is desire. These desires and consequently all problems can be totally eliminated by following the "eightfold path"- right views, right intent, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right meditation.
Buddha journeyed from place to place, teaching and converting hundreds of followers. He died at the age of eighty. However, his disciples continued to spread his teachings. Because of his wise teachings Lord Buddha is revered by many Nepalese and Buddha Jayanti is celebrated with much enthusiasm throughout the Kingdom.This day falls on the full moon of the month of Baisakh
and is celebrated to commemorate the birth, attainment of knowledge and the death of Lord Buddha.Thus, it is a thrice blessed day.
Prayers are sung and the Buddhists offer worship in all the major Buddhist shrines such as Swayambhu and Boudhanath.At Swayambhunath, for example millions of devout Buddhists gather to
chant prayers and to burn butterlamps. The next morning a giant figure of Lord Buddha is displayed to all the followers and hundreds of small shrines are visited and worshipped. Large groups of people parade through the streets praising the Lord and his teachings. Special flags, usually red, blue; yellow and white can be seen flying high above all the Buddhist households.
The festival of "Gai Jatra", the procession of cows, is generally celebrated in the Nepalese month of Bhadra (August-September). The festival of cows is one of the most popular festivals of Nepal. The whole complex of Gai Jatra festival has its roots in the ancient age when people feared and worshipped Yamaraj,"the god of death". However, the ironical sessions synonymous with the Gai Jatra festival came into tradition in the medieval period of Nepal during the reign of Malla Kings. Hence, the present form of Gai Jatra is a happy blending of antiquity and early 14th century.
According to the traditions since times 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.
In terms of historical evidences, once when King Pratap Malla lost his son, his wife, the queen remained dumbstruck. The king was very sad to see the condition of his beloved queen. The king,
in spite of his several efforts, could not lessen the grief of his wife. By all means he wanted to see little smile on the lips of his sweetheart. He announced that someone who ever made the queen
laugh would be rewarded adequately.
During the festival of Gai Jatra, the cow procession was brought before the griefstricken queen. Then the participants began ridiculing and befooling the important people of the society. Finally when the social injustice and other evils were highlighted and attacked mercilessly, the queen could not stop smiling. The queen laughed, and Pratap Malla, the king ensued a tradition of including jokes, satires,mockery and lampoon in the Gai Jatra days.
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 occassion is filled with songs,jokes,
mockery and humour of every kind become the order of the day until late evening. Hence, Gai Jatra is a healthy festival which enables the people to accept the reality of death and to prepare oneself for the life after death. According to Hinduism,"whatever a man does in his life is a preparation to lead a good life, after death".
Maghe Sankranti is the beginning of the holy month of Magh, usually the mid of January. It brings an end to the ill-omened month of Poush (mid-december) when all religious ceremonies are forbidden. Even if it is considered the coldest day of the year, it marks the coming of warmer weather and better days of health and fortune.
This day is said to be the most significant day for holy bathing despite the weather. This ritual usually takes place at the union of sacred rivers and streams. Sankhamole, on the banks of the holy Bagmati river, below Patan, is thought to be amongst the most sacred sites for this purpose, though there has been a decline in the fulfillment of this ritual in the recent years due to water pollution in the river. But people still go in the wee hours of dawn just to sprinkle themselves with the water. They pay homage to various deities specially the temple of Red Machindranath and Agima Ta.
In addition to holy bathing and worship of shrines, certain auspicious foods like till laddoos seasame seeds ball cakes), chaku(molasys), ghee (clarified butter), sweet potatoes, khichari (mixture of rice and lentils) and green leaf spinach are taken on this day. Families come together and share these delights. Married daughters and families are invited to parental homes for festivities and blessings. Yet another occasion to renew family ties. Many homes have pujas (religious ceremonies) conducted by priests with chanting from holy books, for which they receive alms.
Like any other holy celebration Maghi Sankranti also has a legend of its own. It recalls that once a merchant from the town of Bhadgoan despite of his thriving business noticed that his supply of
sesame seeds hadn't diminished. When looking into the matter he found an idol of the Lrod Vishnu hidden deep beneath the seeds. Since, then on this day the Til Madhav idol is worshipped with the belief that god will continue to be generous in the supply of food and wealth on the Bhadgoan community. It's also the day commemorating the death of Viswapitamaha, the elderly grandfather of two families of Pandavas and Kauravas, between whom the famous battle of Mahabharat took place. He was determined not to die until the way to the region of gods opened. While lying on the bed of arrows he discovered words of wisdom on life and death. Eventually, through his free will he succumbed to death. Hence it's believed that those who die on this day go to heaven, released from the burden of rebirth.Maghi Sankranti, is yet another occasion which renews the faith of Nepalese people in the heavenly powers.
Nepal is the only Hindu kingdom in the world and thus the land of Lord Shiva, Lord of all Lords, for here you can feel his presence everywhere. Even in the sacred texts of the Hindus it has been
stated that holy Mt. Kailash in the Himalayas is the abode of Lord Shiva or Mahadeva as he is also known. Shiva the Destroyer of Evil is among the most praised and worshiped of all the gods in the Hindu religion. Hindus all over the world know him through different names and forms. The country has thousands of idols and monuments, which glorify his name, the most common one being the Shiva Linga or the phallus of Shiva that represents him. For it is the Shiva linga that Hindus regard as the symbol of creation, the beginning of everything.Shiva Ratri is the night of Lord Shiva when He himself was created by His own Divine Grace and Hindus all over the world celebrate this day with a lot of zeal and enthusiasm. Shiva Ratri literally means ' the night consecrated to Shiva'. This auspicious festival falls on the fourteenth day of the waning moon in the month of Falgun, (February - March in the Gregorian calendar ).
The temple of Pashupatinath in Kathmandu which is considered as one of the holiest shrines of the Hindus, glorifying Lord Shiva, thus receives more than 100,000 worshipers during the festival of Shiva Ratri. These worshipers come from far and wide to pay their respects and homage to Mahadev on his sacred day.Pashupatinath temple is located at the eastern part of the Kathmandu valley on the banks of the holy river Bagmati. Pashupatinath, which literally means ‘the Lord of animals’, is one of the many forms of the Lord. He is the guardian deity, protector of our Hindu Kingdom of Nepal, thus Shiva Ratri is one of the major festivals of Nepal. Pilgrims from all over Nepal as Pashupatinath Temple well as India come to Pashupatinath to worship and pray to the deity on his birthday and wash away all the sins committed by them. Only Hindus are allowed inside the temple and tourists are only permitted to observe the festival from across the Bagmati river.Shiva Ratri is a much anticipated festival by all Hindus. Pilgrims and yogis (holy men), from all over Southeast Asia come to Kathmandu weeks before the festival. On this holy day people fast through out the day. At dawn, worshipers take a holy bath or dip in the river and go to the temple to worship.
One of the interesting aspects of Shiva Ratri is that on this day devotees and non-devotees alike freely indulge in smoking intoxicating substances such as marijuana for it is the only day in the annual calendar when marijuana is legal. Many people take these intoxicants in the belief that it pleases Lord Shiva for he too is said to be fond of it. Thus marijuana is taken as prasad, holy food blessed by the Gods and one can see eager tourists and faithful Nepalese flocking around the temple complex of the Ram Janaki Mandir across the Bagmati river opposite to the main temple complex of Pashupatinath lingering around sadhus and babas in the hope for some prass from them.
The Puran, one of the many holy texts of the Hindus, tells us that if you worship Lord Shiva on this day all your sins will be forgiven. Giving an example the puran talks about an event that occurred ages before about a hunter from Benares. This man worshiped Lord Shiva unknowingly on Shiva Ratri and he was forgiven for all his sins.On Shiva Ratri the temple of Pashupatinath is filled with worshipers. Devotees are not distinguished as poor or rich but treated equally for Lord Shiva treats us all equally. Even the King of Nepal and the royal family pay homage to the Pashupatunath on this day along with the thousands that gather to celebrate the festival. Thus the festival of Shiva Ratri shows the devotion and faith Nepalese have towards the Hindu religion.
Dashain Festival (The main festival of Nepal)
During the month of Ashoj/Kartik (late September and early October), the Nepalese people indulge in the biggest festival of the year, "Dashain". Dashain is the longest and the most auspicious festival in the Nepalese annual calendar, celebrated by Nepalese of all caste and creed throughout the country. The fifteen days of celebration occurs during the bright lunar fortnight ending on the day of the full moon. Thorough out the kingdom of Nepal the goddess Durga in all her manifestations are worshiped with innumerable pujas, abundant offerings and thousands of animal sacrifices for the ritual holy bathing, thus drenching the goddess for days in blood.
Dashain commemorates a great victory of the gods over the wicked demons. One of the victory stories told is the Ramayan, where the lord Ram after a big struggle slaughtered Ravana, the fiendish king of demons. It is said that lord Ram was successful in the battle only when goddess Durga was evoked. The main celebration glorifies the triumph of good over evil and is symbolized by goddess Durga slaying the terrible demon Mahisasur, who terrorised the earth in the guise of a brutal water buffalo. The first nine days signify the nine days of ferrous battle between goddess Durga and the demon Mahisasur. The tenth day is the day when Mahisasur was slain and the last five days symbolise the celebration of the victory with the blessing of the goddess. Dashain is celebrated with great rejoice, and goddess Durga is worshiped throughout the kingdom as the divine mother goddess.
In preparation for Dashain every home is cleansed and beautifully decorated, painted as an invitation to the mother goddess, so that she may visit and bless the house with good fortune. During this time the reunion of distant and nearby relatives occur in every household. The market is filled with shoppers seeking new clothing, gifts, luxuries and enormous supplies of temple offering for the gods, as well as foodstuffs for the family feasting. Thousands of sheep, goats, ducks, chicken and water buffalo are prepared for the great slaughter. All types of organisations are closed for ten to fifteen days. Labourers are almost impossible to find; from the poor to the rich, all enjoy the festive mood. Anywhere you go the aroma of 'Vijaya Dashami' is found.
The first nine days of Dashain are called Nawa Ratri when tantric rites are conducted. In Nepal the life force is embodied in the divine energy and power of the female, depicted as goddess Durga in her many forms. All goddess who emanated from goddess Durga are known as devis, each with different aspects and powers. In most mother goddess temples the deity is represented simply as a sacred Kalash, carved water jug or multiple handed goddess holding murderous weapons. During these nine days people pay their homage to the goddess. If she is properly worshiped and pleased good fortunes are on the way and if angered through neglect then misfortunes are around the corner. Mother goddess is the source of life and everything.
The first day of Dashain is called Ghatasthapana, which literally means pot establishing. On this day the kalash, (holy water vessel) symbolic goddess Durga often with her image embossed on the side is placed in the prayer room. The kalash is filled with holy water and covered with cowdung on to which seeds are sown. A small rectangular sand block is made and the kalash is put in the center. The surrounding bed of sand is also seeded with grains. The ghatasthapana ritual is performed at a certain auspicious moment determined by the astrologers. At that particular moment the priest intones a welcome, requesting goddess Durga to bless the vessel with her presence.
The room where the kalash is established is called 'Dashain Ghar'. Generally women are not allowed to enter the room where Dashain puja is being carried out. A priest or a household man worships the kalash everyday once in the morning and then in the evening. The kalash and the sand are sprinkled with holy water everyday and it is shielded from direct sunlight. By the tenth day, the seed will have grown to five or six inches long yellow grass. The sacred yellow grass is called 'Jamara'. It is bestowed by the elders atop the heads of those younger to them during the last five days when tika is put on. The jamara is taken as a token of Goddess Durga as well as the elders blessing.
As days passes by regular rituals are observed till the seventh day. The seventh day is called 'Fulpati'.
In fulpati, the royal kalash filled with holy water, banana stalks, jamara and sugar cane tied with red cloth is carried by Brahmans on a decorated palanquin under a gold tipped and embroidered umbrella. The government officials also join the fulpati parade. With this the Dashain feasting starts.
The eighth day is called the Maha Asthami: The fever of worship and sacrifice to Durga and Kali increases. On this day many orthodox Hindus will be fasting. Sacrifices are held in almost every house through out the day. The night of the eighth day is called 'Kal Ratri', the dark night. Hundreds of goats, sheep and buffaloes are sacrificed at the mother goddess temples. The sacrifice continues till dawn. While the puja is being carried out great feasts are held in the homes of common people where large amount of meat are consumed.
The ninth day is called Nawami: Temples of mother goddess are filled with people from dawn till dusk. Animals mostly black buffaloes are slaughtered to honour Durga the goddess of victory and might and to seek her blessing. Military bands play war tunes, guns boom and officers with beautifully decorated medals in full uniform stand there. When the function ends the courtyard is filled ankle deep with blood. On this very day the god Vishwa Karma, the God of creativity is also worshiped. All factories, vehicles, any machinery instruments and anything from which we make a living are worshiped. We also give sacrifices to all moving machinery like cars, trucks etc. to get the blessing from goddess Durga for protection for vehicles and their occupants against accidents during the year. The entire day is colorful.
The tenth day is the Dashami: On this day we take tika and jamara from our elders and receive their blessing. We visit our elders in their home and get tika from them while our younger ones come to our home to receive blessing from us. The importance of Dasain also lies in the fact that on this day family members from far off and distant relatives come for a visit as well as to receive tika from the head of the family. This function continues for four days. After four days of rushing around and meeting your relatives Dashain ends on the full moon day, the fifteenth day. In the last day people stay at home and rest. The full moon day is also called 'Kojagrata' meaning 'who is awake'. The Hindu goddess of wealth Laxmi is worshiped. On this day the goddess Laxmi is given an invitation to visit each and everyone.
After Dashain everyone settles back to normal. After receiving the blessing of goddess Durga, people are ready to work and acquire virtue, power and wealth. Dashain thus is not only the longest festival but also the most anticipated one among all the festivals of Nepal.