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Festivals of Nepal in 2022 – 2023

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Nepal festivals and dates throughout the year

Festivals have played an important part in Nepali life and culture for centuries, and it seems like almost every day there is celebration happening somewhere in the country. These can range from small-scale local festivals held by one of the country’s many tribes and ethnic groups, right up to nationwide Buddhist and Hindu celebrations, full of colour and music.

If you’re lucky enough to be in Nepal at the right time to experience these festivities, it can add a truly unique experience to your vacation.

The pandemic has put a dampener on some of the celebrations over 2020 – 2021, but as Nepal recovers and begins to move forward again, 2022 – 2023 promises to be a big time for Nepali festivals once more.

Here is our list of the major festivals of Nepal coming up in 2022 and 2023, as well as a little information about the most significant events in the calendar.

NOTE: Nepal follows the lunar calendar, meaning that the Western calendar dates for these festivals are slightly different each year.

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Lhosar

2022 - February 2
2023 - January 22
Nepali women in traditional dress

Lhosar is widely celebrated by Nepalese ethnic groups who trace their heritage to Tibet – namely the Gurung, Tamang and Sherpa people. Lhosar is the first day of the new year, and each community celebrates the festival in their own way. Traditional dress is worn by young and old, and festivities are held across the country in cities and more remote regions.

Basant Panchami

2022 - February 5
2023 - January 26

Devotees worship the Hindu goddess Saraswati – goddess of knowledge and creator of arts, education and music. Celebrated by both Hindus and Sikhs across Nepal and India, people often dress in yellow on this day, and kite-flying is also common. Basant Panchami also marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring.

Maha Shivaratri

2022 - March 1
2023 – February 18
Holy man celebrating Maha Shivaratri

‘Shivaratri’ literally means the ‘night of Lord Shiva’, and on this day devout Hindus bathe early in the morning and then fast, before visiting Shiva temples for worship. The best place to witness the festival is at Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu, where thousands of Sadhus (Hindu holy men) gather to 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.

Holi

2022 – March 17-18
2023 – March 6-7
tourists joining Holi festival

Perhaps the best-known festival on this list, Holi is a crazily colourful and playful event held over 2 days. 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, as well as taking part in giant water fights using coloured water and water balloons.

There are few more vibrant and photogenic festivals in the world……but be careful to try and keep your camera and valuables dry!

Ghode Jatra

2022 - April 1
2023 – March 21
Soldiers on horseback at Ghode Jatra festival

Ghode Jatra is particularly important in the Kathmandu Valley and is celebrated to ward off the 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.

Nepali New Year (Bisket Jatra)

2022 – April 14
2023 – April 14

The New Year is always a lively time to be in Nepal, with mass celebrations taking place all over the country. 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.

Crowds celebrating Biskt Jatra in Bhaktapur

On this day, children (and many adults too!) 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.

Buddha Jayanti

2022 – May 8
2023 – May 26
Night scenes at the Buddha Jayanti festival

The Lord Buddha’s birthday falls on the first full day of the first month of the Hindu lunar calendar, and is celebrated by Hindus and Buddhists alike. It is observed at Buddhist shrines and monasteries throughout Nepal, but a particularly grand ceremony is held at Buddha’s birthplace in Lumbini. In Kathmandu, the Tibetan enclave of Boudhanath is a particularly good place to watch the festivities.

Rato Machchhendranath

2022 – May – June
2023 – May – June
The streets of Kathmandu during Rato Machchhendranath

This is Nepal’s longest and largest festival, held in Patan (or Lalitpur). A giant chariot is built on Pulchowk Road over several weeks, before an effigy of 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.

Naag Panchami

2022 - August 2
2023 – August 21

Naag Panchami falls right in the middle of the monsoon. This Hindu festival worships the serpent god, Naag, and pictures of Naag are posted in doorways, as well as offerings of milk. It is believed that worshipping Naag protects against snake bites. This festival marks respect to serpents as water guardians, and to ensure regular rainfall in the Kathmandu Valley.

Janaipurnima

2022 – August 11
2023 – August 31
Local man working with threads at Janaipurnima festival in Nepal

Janai Purnima is the Sacred Thread Festival, when Hindu men, especially the Brahmins and Chettris, perform their annual change of Janai. Everyone who celebrates this festival puts a sacred thread around their wrist. Gosaikunda, a sacred pond at high altitude, is the hub of this festival and sees a hive of colour and activity on this day.

Gai Jatra

2022 – August 13
2023 - September 1
Young festival goers at Gai Jatra in Nepal

Gai Jatra (literally meaning the festival of cows) 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 worship of the ancient god of death – Yamaraj. Despite the deathly theme, it is actually as time full of music, dancing and laughter!

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 an intricately decorated cow through the city. In the absence of a cow, a boy dressed as a cow can take on the role.

Krishna Janmashtami

2022 - August 18-19
2023 – September 6 - 7
Young girls at the Krishna Janmastami festival

Krishna Janmashtami is a celebration to mark the birth of Krishna. Considered the eighth incarnation of Lord Vishnu, Krishna is the most important character in the Hindu epic – the Mahabharat. During this festival, Hindu devotees visit Krishna temples. In particular, thousands of devotees gather at the stone Krishna Mandir in Patan Durbar Square.

Teej

2022 - August 30
2023 – September 18
Nepali women dressed in red for Teej festival

Teej is a festival celebrated exclusively by Nepali women, with festivities often stretching over 3 days around the month of August. Dressed in red saris and a red tika, the women sing and dance for the long lives of their husbands, and a long and firm relationship until death parts them. Teej is observed for marital happiness, the well-being of spouse and children, and the purification of own body and soul. Teej is the most famous festival among Nepali women.

Rishi Panchami

2022 - August 31
2023 – September 19
Local woman at Rishi Panchami festival in Nepal

Rishi Panchami is a festival that is celebrated immediately after Teej Puja. Hindu women attach a lot of importance to this festival because they believe that by observing the 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.

Dashain

2022 - September 26 – October 8
2023 – October 15 - 28
Young boy receiving a tika at Dashain in Nepal

Dashain is the most important festival to Nepalis, and stretches over 2 weeks with various stages and events. It is a celebration of good prevailing over evil, and most families offer male goats, ducks, chickens, eggs and coconuts to the goddess Durga.

Many Nepali people return to their home villages at this time to 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.

Tihar

2022 - October 25 – 27
2023 – November 13 -15
Girls dancing at Thar festival in Nepal

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 and 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 colourful lights.

Chhath

2022 - October 30
2023 - November 17
Local man taking part in Chhat 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 festival is dedicated to the Hindu solar deity, Surya, and the goddess Shashthi.

The Terai region is the best place to observe this festival, or the Rani Pokhari tank in central Kathmandu.

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