Patan, a city with narrow and confusing lanes of ancient houses is so rich in cultural heritage that a new tradition or custom seems to hide behind its each corner. It is also known as ‘The City of Fine Arts’ for its ancient and traditional arts, stone and wooden sculptures and statues. Due to the deep-rooted traditional beliefs and customs, countless ancient festivals originating from both Hinduism and Buddhism are still celebrated in Patan year-round. We have researched and hand-picked a list of festivals which will be interesting for travelers and tourists:-
Kartik naach is a religious dance performed during Nepali calendar month of Kartik. Devotees wear masks to resemble gods and dress up accordingly in traditional attires and ornaments. The dances, performed only in nights, each portray unique stories of different deities. In the last day of Kartik naach, the story of victory of Lord Vishnu(supreme deity in Hinduism) over Hiranyakashyap(an evil demon) is portrayed. In the olden days, the man dressed up as Lord Vishnu used to actually kill the person who dressed up as Hiranyakashyap. In modern times however, the man dressed up as Hiranyakashyap only faints.
Mataya is a day-long festival unique to Patan and is always held the day after Gaijatra(festival of cows-one of major festivals of Nepal). Similar to Gaijatra, this festival shows the devotion and love of people for their recently deceased relatives. However, Mataya differs from Gaijatra as devotees go on a pilgrimage-like journey . One can see crowds of people performing sacred rituals, tossing rice grains, flowers and lighting candles. Devotees wear sacking over their near-naked bodies to protect them as they prostrate themselves before each shrine that they visit with the belief that this helps their dead ones rest in peace.
Krishna Janmashtami is a festival to celebrate the birthday of lord Krishna, a famous Hindu deity. The date of Krishna Janmashtami is fixed by referring to traditional scriptures and it will be held on 25 August, 2016. During this festival, crowds of devotees are seen around Krishna Mandir in Patan. A fair is also organized during the festival which includes traditional foods, drinks along with sacred rituals. Devotees mainly consisting of women stay huddled together to keep vigil through the night of Krishna’s birth (An interesting fact:Krishna was known to be a ‘playboy’ who loved to flirt and prank girls).
This dance occurs only during the Dashain festival in premises of Patan Durbar Square. During this Astamatrika Naach, devotees represent 13 distinct deities by wearing traditional dresses, ornaments, makeup, and accessories like khukuri. Observers become spellbound watching traditional and divine dance of the gods. The dances performed represent the attainment of eight kinds of perfections according to Buddhist beliefs.
5.Bhimsen Rath Jatra
Bhimsen Rath Jatra is celebrated to worship the deity Bhimsen who Newars(historical inhabitants of Patan) worship as a ‘God of Commerce’. Like the Rato Machindranath Jatra, a chariot is prepared for this occasion. However, the chariot is very small in which a wooden statue of Bhimsen is placed. During this festival which happens in front of Bhimsen Mandir in Patan Durbar Square, devotees burn incense sticks and the aura gets so thick that the air can be suffocating. Those who stay till the end of the ceremony and bring back the burning incense sticks to their homes are said to be blessed by god Bhimsen.
Originated from Buddhism beliefs, Panchadaan literally translates to ‘giving away five’. The five things are wheat, grains, rice grains, salt and fruit which are given to Buddhist priests as offering. Visitors can witness Buddhist traditions and culture as Buddhist antiques are displayed in public and gigantic effigies of Dipankar Buddha are paraded around the town.
The festival of Tihar is celebrated throughout Nepal. But Newars have a unique festival in Tihar known as Mha puja. Mha puja is a festival dedicated to celebrate and worship oneself. A sacred mandap(temporary small platform for sacred rituals) which represents oneself is prepared inside households and puja along with different rituals are done on the mandap.
The festival of Samyak Mahadan is celebrated once in five years in Patan. A special feature of this Buddhist festival is the display of many large images of Dipankara(one of Buddha's past according to Buddhist beliefs) in the courtyard of Nagbahal of Patan. The essence of this festival is the giving of offerings to monks and to Buddha. Gifts of different types of food are also made to the gods and Buddhist communities.
Festivals are not only religious celebration but they have also served to preserve ancient cultures and customs of the people in Patan. More recently, festivals of Patan are also gaining popularity and becoming tourist attractions.