With more than 120 ethnic groups populating its mountainous regions and lowland areas, Nepal is a melting pot of cultures. Though Hinduism and Buddhism are the two major religions in the country, each ethnic group has its own customs and festivals. There is at least one festival celebrated each month in the Nepalese calendar. While there are lots of festivals celebrated in the country, the two biggest festivals are Dashain and Tihar. Celebrated over several days, these festivals are occasions for family get-togethers and bonding. Those living far away from home make it a point to be with their families during these auspicious occasions. Holi-the festival of colours, Mahashivratri-night dedicated to Lord Shiva, Losar – New Year for the Buddhist communities, Buddha Jayanti – Lord Buddha’s birth anniversary etc., are some of the other festivals celebrated with much fanfare.
Kathmandu is renowned for its boisterous chariot pulling festivals. Celebrated by the Newars, an ethnic community inhabiting Kathmandu Valley, the chariot pulling festivals are known as rath jatras. These jatrassees the active participation of whole communities. Wooden chariots holding a Hindu deity or Kumari, the Living Goddess, are pulled on the streets by men and sometimes women. Some of the major rath jatras celebrated in the valley are the Rato Macchendranath Jatra, Indra Jatra, Seto Macchendranath Jatra, Bisket Jatra and Handigaun Jatra.
For Bhutanese their country is Druk Yul , the Land of the Thunder Dragon. Surrounded by high mountains, virgin forests and fertile valleys, Bhutan is one of the last surviving kingdoms in the Himalayas. In this faraway kingdom, Buddhism is not just a religion; it is a way of life. Most of the festivals celebrated in Bhutan are dedicated to Buddhist deities or saints. Held at the monasteries, and presided over by the monastic community, people from all walks of life converge at the monasteries to observe these sacred occasions. During these festivals the monks deliver religious sermons, perform masked dances and skits. Some of the important festivals in Bhutan are the Thimphu Tshechu, Paro Tshechu, Jambay Lakhang Drup Festival, Wangdue Phodrang Tshechu and Punakha Drubchen.