This article article is part of a series entitled The Wild and Wonderful Nepal:
- The Wild and Wonderful Nepal: Festivals you shouldn’t miss
- The Wild and Wonderful Nepal: Boudhanath Stupa – the largest Buddhist monument outside Tibet
- The Wild and Wonderful Nepal: Trekking in Nepal
Probably everybody who visited Nepal who haven’t asked themselves how come a country with such propensity towards infringements such as minor crimes and offenses is at the exact same time the place to find the most spiritual and guileless people. The name of the republic comes from the name of Ne, the sage who as thought in the Ancient times to protect the people, for which the word back then was “pala”. Of course, now, many things have changed – but Nepal remains a highly traditional country.
Buddha Jayanti (early-mid May)
The personality of these people might seem strange at first and if you choose to stay for more than a couple of days all their simplicity will start to make sense. One thing the Nepal people surely keep is the sacredness of the rituals and festivities, which represent one of the most important touristic attractions. As history endowed them as Buddha’s descendants, the annual ceremony recalling the wisdom and the immaculacy takes place in a high-spirited manner, gathering pilgrims from all around the world. If the Buddhist philosophy represents interest to any level to you, the Vesak holiday commonly known as ‘Buddha Jayanti’ in Nepal is one of the events to be attended. It is the moment of the year when Gautama Buddha’s birthday and enlightenment are celebrated and the most visited place is, naturally, Lumbini, the birthplace of the thinker.
The socio-cultural differences between the Nepal people of dissimilar backgrounds are the cornerstone of this heterogeneous society within its distinct layers. This is why not only the spiritual, headed for thought people go to Nepal, but also the young lively, vibrant, bustling. The ones seeking colorful lights, crowds and playful mise en scenes. The festival called Fagu Poornima (Holi) is known all around the world as being the holiday of water and colors.
Fagu Poornima, aka Holi (March)
Celebrating the death of Holika, the good demoness in Hindu scripture, people throw water and colored powder at each other.
The commonly accepted symbols are also important, as the color someone throws towards another is wishing them what the color means to come true. For instance, if flinging red at someone represents you wish them victory, yellow symbolises happiness, blue means peace, orange stands for joy, pink is love, purple is health, while green means health. Blending all these colors the shade then obtained stands for life itself.
The purpose for which people get together on this day, during a spring day is the celebration of good over evil, about which people think that it is unnecessary to be powerful as long as you feel powerful. As the spiritual side of Nepal people blends, just like the colors do, with the jocular, ludicrous one people from all corners of the world gather to manifest together on a feast of joy and color.
This is probably the festival which you’ll find most shocking, but it’s also extremely fascinating. Flocks of people with their faces and sometimes entire bodies painted white, conducting all sorts of rituals, occasionally inflicting pain on themselves, smoking, singing, bathing, walking nude – you’ll see all this and many more at the Shivaratri festival. Yep, you really don’t want to miss out on something like this!
Shivaratriis the third very important festival in Nepal. It is also related to religion, since the population belongs to two different beliefs, yet very rooted in the collective mind – Hindu and Buddhist. Lord Shiva, also known as The Lord of the Lords is believed to have lived in the Himalayas in Mountain Kaitash. The celebration of his wedding with Parvati.
Since the translation of ‘Maha ShivaRatri’ is ‘the night of Shiva’, the ceremony never takes place during the day. And sometime between the end of February and early March people bathe in the holy river and start bonfires, as the weather is still cold and unfriendly. This doesn’t stop them however from coming to Nepal a few weeks before the event takes place. During this night, the Shiva lingam (the word meaning mark, inference, representation) is washed, once at every three hours with rose water, milk and honey. Some of the devotees don’t drink water all day long, not to mention the whole night while the ceremony takes place.
No matter what religion you are, being interested in different cultures living together peacefully, although they’re so heterogeneous and distinct, Nepal is the place to go. These people can give a consummate example of humanity. Their rituals, cultures and traditions as they participate ones to other religion’s celebrations out of respect for otherness.