Festivals of Nepal: Lhosar, Eid, Krishnastami and Christmas

Mrs. Nirmala Pokhrel

Lecturer, Culture Department, TU, Nepal

Sherpa, Gurung, Bhote, Thakali, Magar, Tamang and other community of Tibetan origin of Nepal celebrate Loshar with great admiration on the end of old year and beginning of the New Year day according to the Tibetan Calendar. Loshar is a great festival for the Himalayan communities as Dashain is for the Hindus. In the Tibetan calendar, the years are counted in the cycle of 12 years. The names of the 12 years of the cycles are awarded after different animals and once the cycle is complete, the sequence of the names again starts from the beginning. The years are named after the animals like mouse, cow, tiger, cat, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, deer, dog, monkey, vulture and boar. Among the Loshar festivals celebrated in the mountain region Sonam, Tamu and Gyalbo Loshar are regarded as the major ones. In the recent years, the days of Loshars are being declared as holiday admitting as a national festival. According to the tradition, these festivals are celebrated as a New Year day by gathering family members, relatives, neighbors and friends and exchanging gifts and well-wishes among one another. In this festival it is found that people clean their houses, cook and enjoy delicious and special foods, worship, sing and dance, gather among family members, relatives and friends etc.

In general, this festival begins from the last two days of the existing year and is celebrated till the third day of the New Year. A special dish named ‘Kuthuk’, made from the mixing up of different grains is prepared on the first day among the last two days of the existing year. In another day there is the tradition of cleaning the houses and worshipping. After the worshipping a special dish named ‘Chemar’ made from rice butter and sugar, is taken as blessing. On the New Year day people go to the houses of friends, neighbors, relatives and respected ones with gifts to exchange welt-wishes according to their tradition. While going to exchange such well-wishes there is the tradition of taking local alcohol, Desil (a type of dish made from rice), juice, different types of wines, fruits and ‘Khapse’, a dish made from wheat flour, ghee and sugar into different shapes as gifts. In this way, the people who give the gifts are gifted back with money putting flour of roasted grains in the left shoulder for women and right shoulder for the men.

The Loshar of different communities fall on different days within the month of Poush to Falgun. However, the Loshar of all the communities celebrating Loshar are found to fall at the same time once is 3-4 years. The festivals of communities celebrating Loshar in Nepal had collectively fall on the month of Falgun in the year 2069 BS.

Chhath:

The mankind which has been worshipping nature since ancient times must have started showing devotion towards Sun probably from the beginning. Even after the evolution of the human civilization different religions and communities are found to provide the same respected status to the Sun. The Chhath festival is also a special occasion to worship the sun.

The tradition of celebrating Chhath festival exists especially in the Dahnusa, Mahottari and Sarlahi district of eastern and central Terai region of Nepal. ( And now even in Kathmandu valley).

This festival falls on the 6th day of the moon night in the month of Kartik. On that day, Chhath festival is observed with a great celebration in Janakpur. On that day, the devotees who conduct fast go to Ganga Sagar, Dhanusha Sagar, Ratna Sagar, Agnikunda, Biharkunda and Paapmochani Kunda along with around 300 Sagar(s), Kunda and ponds and 27 rivers of Janakpur and worship and pray the Sun God sinking themselves up to chest under water before the sunrise.

The Chhath festival is started by offering ‘Argha’ (mixture of curd, water, milk oats, grasses etc) to the setting sun in the evening of the previous day and completed after offering Argha and worshipping the rising sun on the next day. In this festival there is the tradition of praying worshipping the sun by sinking oneself into the pond or river. It is believed that the wishes come true if, the sun is worshipped on that way with devotion. Some of the devotees who conduct fast drag themselves on chest to the river or pond to worship the sun so that their wish would be fulfilled.

Various procedures of worshipping are practiced in this festival. Devotees use to be very aware that they should remain pure. There is the tradition of conducting fast before the sun set in the previous day and having the Prasad’ (blessed food) in the next morning after the worship. In the recent years not just only in the eastern Terai, but even in the rivers and ponds of Kathmandu we can have the glimpse of people celebrating Chhath. Due to the diffusion of religion and culture along with the migration of human communities, Chhath festival has been getting a respectful position even in the valley and other parts of the country in the present time. Basically, celebrated by the people of Terai origin, the people of Nepali origin have also started involving in this festival.

Krishna Janmaastami:

The birth anniversary of Lord Krishna is celebrated with special importance among the Hindu society. The birth anniversary of Lord Krishna falls on the 8th day of no-moon night in the month of Bhadra (Krishna pakshya aastami). That day is also known as ‘Moharatri’. At the time when Lord Krishna was born, his father Bashudev and his mother Devaki had been imprisoned. At the time of the marriage of his sister, Devaki, the king of demons Kansha had heard the oracle-‘You will have your death from the hands of the eight offspring of your sister Devaki’. Therefore, he imprisoned his sister and her husband and killed their seven newly born offspring. When Krishna, the eighth son was born his father Basudev secretly took him to Gokul without being noticed by the guards of prison. Krishna was brought up in Gokul. Later, when this fact was revealed to Kansha, he tried several ways to kill Krishna but did not succeed. At last, he had to die from the hands of Lord Krishna.

The context of Krishna has been mentioned in Mahabharat also. He was involved in the war of Mahabharata from the side of Pandavas. But, since he had vowed not to raise any kind of weapon in the war, he had become the charioteer of Arjun-the warrior. It is believed that he had defeated and destroyed the side of Kauravas creating dilemma with his Mayajal (one short of magic). Krishna was especially voluptuous in nature. The stories of his love with the Gopinis (girls who look after cows) are very popular.

The mythologies have mentioned Krishna as the 8th incarnation of Lord Vishnu. ‘Whenever the truth and just declines in the world, at that time I will have incarnation in this world’, according to this statement mentioned in Bhagwat Geeta, it is believed that Lord Vishnu incarnates into the world as and when he deems it fit.

On the occasion of Krishnaastami, people take bath early in the morning; go to the temple of Lord Krishna and worshiping and fasting also use to be conducted. The programmes like chanting of solemn verses of Geeta, prayers and demonstration of the dances related to the activities of Lord Krishna also use to be organized in different places. In almost all the parts of Nepal this festival is celebrated for 8 days with great respect. On this day there is the tradition of placing the idol of Lord Krishna in a chariot and pulling it around the city by thousands of devotees. Likewise, people worship the idol of Lord Krishna at home and demonstrate it by placing it on decorated throne at Pati or Sattal (public sitting place) in the city squares according to the tradition popular in Kathmandu. A great gathering could be observed in Krishna temple of Patan on that day. From the early morning that place use to be crowded with thousands of devotees. On that day, ‘Shovayatra’ or travel of Krishna in a chariot is also being organized. In the Shovayatra, by moving his idol in a chariot around the city devotion towards him would be presented. The devotees coming from distant places return their home the next day visiting Krishna Mandir after a bath in the nearby stone taps. According to the tradition, on this day the President of the country also go to worship the Krishna Mandir in Patan in the evening.

It is believed that the birth anniversary of Lord Krishna motivates each and every Hindu to be conscious towards their duties.

Eid:

Paigambar Mohammed who was born in Mecca of Saudi Arabia is regarded as the profounder of Islam. The followers of Islam are known as ‘Muslim’ or ‘Musalman’. The holy book of Islam is known as ‘Kuran Paak’ or ‘Kuran Sharif’ whereas the temple where they pray is known as ‘Mosque’. Muslims have great devotion towards Allah believing him to be the only god. They regard Mohammed, founder of Islam, as the messenger of Allah. The beliefs like keeping some part of earning to help others, compulsion of helping the needy and the poor by the able ones, restriction on the discrimination and untouchable system among the different castes and communities are the positive aspects of Islam. But, the orthodoxy regarding the religion and the very low status of females in the society seems to be the main weakness of Islam.

The Muslims inhabiting in Nepal also celebrate the two festivals like Eid and Bakar or Bakra-Eid, which are celebrated by the followers of Islam all around the world. The Muslims conduct fasting known as ‘Ramjan’ by making a control over their sense organs around the first month of Hajarat calendar and after the fasting they celebrate the festival of ‘Id-ul-fitra’ for two days, the last day of first month and the first day of the second month. Within these two days they exchange the New Year’s wishes among one another by saying ‘Eid Mubarak’. In this festival, believed to be celebrated with the permission from Muhammad, the rich people donate 2.5 percent of their savings as ‘Fitra’ (Charity) or ‘Jakat’ to the poor people so that they could also celebrate this festival. While conducting the fasting of Eid, Namaz is to be read every day. After the completion of Eid-ul-fitra or fasting everybody gather for feast with admiration and happiness. After two and a half months from Eid-dul-fitra the festival of Baker Eid or ‘Idujjuha’ falls on the tenth day of the month of Jilhila according to Hajrat calendar. The followers of Islam offer goats and male buffaloes by slaughtering them from under the neck known as Halal. After slaughtering them the flesh is to be divided into three parts and one part is to be kept for oneself. Among the two remaining parts, one is to be kept for relatives and neighbors and the other part is to be given to needy and poor people.

Who was Hajrat Ibrahim? The Muslim belief explains about him as follows:

“Hajrat Ibrahim was a great devotee of Allah. One day Allah came to his dream and asked him to offer the thing he loved most. As an offering to Allah he blindfolding the eye of his most beloved started to behead him. This made Allah pleased very much. When Ibrahim opened his eye he found that his son was still alive and a goat was beheaded instead.”

Christmas:

Jesus Christ or ‘Ishamasiha’ who was born in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, is regarded as the founder of Christianity. The holy book of Christianity is Bible and the place for praying or temple of Christians is known as Church. Among the followers of all the religions in the world the followers of Christianity come to be the highest in number involving a population of about 2 billion.

In this religion also there are different sects. Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Protestants etc. are the major sects of this religion. The trinity of the Father, son and the Holy Ghost is regarded as the final truth in this religion. This religion which believes the knowledge, love and to serve the almighty as the goals of life has given two religious orders- (1) ‘love the almighty from heart, soul and mind’ and (2) ‘love the neighbors as much love yourself’. Re-birth, the Judgment, Heaven and Hell are regarded as the final four elements in this religion. In the seven deadly sins, also known as the capital vices or cardinal sins are given as wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony.

As the Christians of other countries of the world, the Christian of Nepal also observe Christmas with a great celebration on 25th December of the international calendar. This festival is celebrated in the memory of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ who had been hung on a cross for the sins of mankind and hence, the followers of Christianity go to church and pray for peace, love and hope in the world. In this festival there is also a tradition of exchanging gifts and well-wishes among one another. In Nepal the day of Christmas is also declared as a public holiday. In the recent years, along with Christians, the youths following other religions are also being finding celebrating Christmas, exchanging wishes and gifts and enjoying eating and drinking till midnight.

Next week on Nepalese economy: Ed. 

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Comments

  • Posted on - 2014-08-26    by     Ashesh Shrestha
  • Thanks for sharing! Also check out Nepali Calendar with upcoming festivals and events here: http://www.ashesh.com.np/nepali-calendar/
  • Posted on - 2014-05-01    by     Aslam Pravez
  • the orthodoxy regarding the religion and the very low status of females in the society seems to be the main weakness of Islam. Orthodoxy: a belief or way of thinking that is accepted as true or correct. Dear Author/ Editor, An orthodox is weakness of human mind not the religion. So I hope that this correction would me made. Islam has far more greater respect for women. The real respect and status of women can be understood by going through The Quran-e Sharif.