Saturday, March 13, 2010

Some Important Festivals

Saturday, March 13, 2010

1. Chhat

The Chhat festival is celebrated in the Terai, especially by Maithili people in the central Terai. It is celebrated on the sixth day of Kartik Shukla, fourth day after the Bhaitika.

Chhat is a festival of the Sun-God. On the fifth day of Kartik Shukla, people fast throughout the day and worship the setting sun. On the sixth day, they go to a nearby river, lake or pond early in the morning, take bath and worship the Sun-God when the Sun is rising. This festival is celebrated by both men and women. After the worship of the Sun-God is over, all the family members sit together and eat variety of food. Those who are away from home also come home to join the feast. This festival brings happiness to all the members of the family.

The scene of worshipping the Sun-God by flowers and lamps is worth watching. The pond near Janaki temple in Janakpur is filled with tiny lamps and flowers. Varieties of popular sweets like Thekuwa, Bhusuwa, Jalebi, and Khaja are prepared. During this festival, meat, fish, or eggs are forbidden. To observe fasting for the whole day and to take bath at sun-rise in the cold season of October-November is scientifically beneficial for health. It is believed that people get rid of their skin-diseases after this festival. Moreover, this festival helps to develop national integration. All the people in the surroundings join together to celebrate it. It is said that even some members of the Muslim community share the happiness of this festival. Though they do not worship the Sun-God, they spend sweets and other things through the ones who worship. So, they take part in the celebration of Chhat festival indirectly. Thus, this festival brings everyone together. It brings happiness and joy in the family and the community. It fosters friendship, brotherhood and peace among different races of people and contributes to the national unity and integration.

It is said that the main aim of this aim of this festival is to teach the people the importance of sun-bath. It is good to worship the sun because the whole world is charged with the power, heat and light of the sun.

2. Buddha Jayanti

This festival is also known as ‘Buddha Purnima’ which falls on Baisakh Shukla Purnima. It is celebrated by the followers of Buddhism. There are three important events associated with this day in the life of Gautama Buddha. It was the day when he was born in 560 B.C., got enlightenment at the age of 36 and died at 80.

In a Buddhist book called Lalitbistar, it is written that ‘on the day of Baisakh Purnima dedicate yourself to the Buddha and rejoice. Give money, grain and food to Buddhist monks. Give alms to the beggars, poor and disabled people, like food, clothes and money. By doing so, your heart will be purified and you would attain the enlightenment and salvation.

Gautama Buddha was a preacher of peace. He taught his disciples to live a simple life. Not to kill others, not to harm others, love everyone, be kind to the poor, old and sick people, have friendship with all and live a peaceful life, are some of his teachings. We are proud of ourselves because we belong to the country where Gautama Buddha was born.

The highlights of Buddha Jayanti are: visiting Buddhist Vihars and Stupas, singing devotional songs like ‘Buddham Saranam Gachchhami’ giving alms to monks, beggars, poor and disabled people and eating rice pudding in every house. This festival is celebrated in every Buddhist family. At Lumbini, the birth place of Gautama Buddha, the followers of Buddhism from different countries gather together for mass celebration.

3. Lhosar

The festival of Lhosar is celebrated by the Bhutias, Sherpas, Tamangs and Gurung mainly in the Himalayan region. They celebrate it in the same name but in different ways and on different dates. Hence, there are three different Lhosar: Tapa Lhosar, Sonam Lhosar and Gyalpo Lhosar. Some celebrate it on the 15th of Pousha, some on Magh Shukla Pratipada and some on Falgun Shukla Pratipada.

Lho” means year and “Sar” means new. The festival of Lhosar signifies change of year. So, it is celebrated as a New Year Day. It is believed that the Lhosar Day was the day when the first human being was created. Thus, apart from being a new year day, this festival signifies the celebration of birth anniversary of human beings. Buddhist community throughout the world pray for peace, friendship and general welfare of human beings, on this day. The system of associating year with the names of animals was, perhaps, originally practiced by the Chinese. Now others like Tibetans, Sherpas, Gurungs, Lepchas and some others also follow this cycle of 12 years.

During this festival, people eat bread, roots and a special type of bread called ‘Alum’ which is prepared from flour boiled in water. Among the Gurung community, young men of a village go to the other village carrying with them buffalo, goat, cock, etc. They have big feasts with girls of the village. They sing and dance together and spend the night. This practice is called ‘Khaja Chawa’. In this way, the Lhosar festival is celebrated by different people of the Buddhist community in different ways and on different dates. However, the basic purpose is the same, i.e. change of a year and celebration of the New Year Day.

4. Janai Purnima

Janai Purnima is called Rakshya Bandhan or Rishi Tarpani also. It takes place on Shukla Poornima of Shrawan month. Bahun and Chettri go to a nearby river, shrine or pilgrimage to perform religious rites by bathing and wearing a new Janai. People take a special soup called Kwati made from 9 different varieties of seeds. Many people go to Goshaikunda in Rasuwa district to have a holy dip. In the terai belt, sisters tie Raakhi to their brothers. Brothers provide some gifts to their sisters. Bahuns go to the house of Yajamans and tie a yellow or red thread around the right wrist of all family members.

5. Maha Sahiva Ratri

Maha Sahiva Ratri is observed on Falgun Krishna Chaturdashi. It is the greatest festival for the Hindus. People fast and visit Shiva’s temple for worshipping and prayer. Devotees bathe Him with holy water and milk offer sweets, flowers and Belpatra. Santa, Sanyasi and Sashu from different parts of Nepal and India visit Pashupati’s temple in Kathmandu. People burn firewood in front of temples and in the courtyards in the evenings. They prepare varieties of dishes in the evening and distribute to the people enjoying the heat of the fire. A special function of ‘Badhain’ is organized at the Army Pavilion in Tundikhel by the Nepal Army. Prime Minister visits Tundikhel and accept the guard of honour offered by the Nepal Army. There is a national holiday in Nepal on that day.

6. Shree Panchami

Shree Panchami is also known as Basanta Panchami which is celebrated on Magh Shukla Panchami. Students worship Goddess Saraswati. She is the Goddess of learning and music. Students in the Terai install the clay idol of Saraswati at school and enthusiastically perform the pooja. Students also swallow seven grains of rice without touching with teeth. People enjoy Basanta verses and hymns in the Hanumandhoka Palace. People also recite Basanta hymn in their homes. Farmers in the terai area worship their ploughs to get good crops. This is observed as a national holiday.

7. Teej

Teej is known as Haritalika celebrated by Hindu women. It falls on the Bhadra Shulka Tritiya. Women observe fasting for the whole day for the sake of fulfilling their wishes. It lasts for 3 days. Parvati, the daughter of Himalaya, took this fasting and performed the pooja to get Lord Shiva as her husband. Married women perform it for the successful conjugal life, long life and prosperity of their husbands. Women eat ‘dar’ along with family members. Women get up early in the morning, take bath and wear red brocade clothes. They go to a Shiva temple and perform pooja. They sing and dance and make merriment for the whole day. They brush their teeth with 360 pieces of Datiwan. There are 2 days government holidays for women.


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