Top 5 Underrated Festivals of Kathmandu Valley
- Author Kiran Bista
- Published June 21, 2023
- Word count 666
Having over 80 ethnic groups and 123 languages, it is evident that Nepal has plentiful of traditions, cultures, and festivals that are celebrated throughout the year. Nepal is rich in terms of culture, but there are also several festivals that aren't well-known among the Nepalese though they have deep-rooted significance for the past hundred centuries. Discovering these festivals and their underlying values can undoubtedly open a different spectrum to our perspectives.
Bisket Jatra and Sindoor Jatra
The Bisket Jatra is believed to be started since the Malla dynasty and is celebrated in Bhaktapur valley to commemorate the beginning of Nepali New Year; this is the only festival that does not follow a lunar-based Nepali calendar. A gigantic chariot is pulled to mark the beginning of this event where images of God Bhairab is carried.
Whereas in the tenth day of Bisket Jatra, a procession is brought out with 32 palanquins having images of various gods and goddesses. Then vermillion powder aka Sindoor is hurled at them. Similar to Bisket Jatra, this too is commemorated to celebrate the arrival of the spring season and to mark the beginning of Nepali New Year.
This festival is commemorated on the first of Magh (in Nepali Calendar), around January. It is observed to celebrate the end of midwinter. On this day, Nepalese feast on sweet potatoes, ghee, sweets made of roasted sesame seeds and molasses syrup, yam, and apply mustard oil on their foreheads. There is a belief that after consuming these food items and after using mustard oil on your head, they will keep you warm and you will be free of cold and diseases. The Tharus also consider this day as the beginning of their New Year.
Ghode Jatra aka Horse Parade is organized by the Nepalese Army and Nepalese Police every year on a large ground called Tudikhel. Many deities are taken into processions in the area on chariots during the primary day of celebration. These deities meet together every year, and the community also organizes a grand feast at this time called the Gurumumpa.
The army and police officers perform a variety of horse races, cycle races, competitions and acrobatic shows. Ghode Jatra is said to be organized to celebrate the victory over a demon named Tundi who was a terror for the people of Kathmandu. And after Tundi died, people danced onto his body with horses.
Sakela Ubhauli Parba
It is one of the biggest festivals of Kirats where Ubhauli means upward, and Udhauli means downward. According to Kirat's holy book, a year is divided into two phases where birds and the people used to migrate uphill and downhill depending on the seasons. According to myths, a beautiful girl named Sumnima was happy to find out her husband has meditated and visited the entire universe. After her husband vowed never to leave her again, she became comfortable and started dancing which is known as the great Sakela dance and to protect this tradition; people perform Sakela dance under a sacred tree to find the true love of their life. People wear their cultural attires and offer prayers to their kitchen first, the source of food and energy. Then they dance to the beat of their national instruments.
This day is also known as Metal Day or Ghantakarna Chaturdasi. Here, people worship and offer sacrifices to the natural elements of life (water, wind, fire) and to demons and supernatural powers to get rid of evil forces and legendary demons. A demon named Ghantakarna used to spread havoc amongst the people; thus the festival is celebrated to remember the end of the Ghantakarna demon. Dummies of demons are erected, and they are fed food. People also wear metal rings called Gathemangal rings which are believed to protect them from all ills and evil spirits.
Though these festivals haven't been able to gain the spotlight, they are indeed festivals that carry great significance to the various ethnicities of Nepal and are grandly celebrated every year.
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