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Festivals in Darjeeling
Festivals in Darjeeling
New Year's eve and New Years Day is always a special day celebration for the
hill people. They spend the night mostly on local nightclubs like Purple or
with a live band at the Glenarys. Some spend it by drinking and merry making.
Around the middle of the month Nepalis celebrate Maghe Sankrati (first
day of Nepali month Magh) by eating Tarool, tuber of various edible species
of Dioscorea, known collectively as yam.
The end of January marks the end of the Tibetan Year. They have a
festival to avert the negativity of the Old Year, and most of the Monasteries
in the area will have Cham (Tibetan Dance) during this time of the year. In
Thupten Sangag Choling Monastery (also known as Dali monastery) they have a
special Chakrasambhara (Mandala) prayer where one can see the colourful Mandala
made of brightly coloured powder.
Tibetan celebrate Losar (Tibetan New Year), this is the most important
festival in the Tibetan calendar. They celebrate this for about a week with
good food like specially cooked momos, new clothes and dances.
In the Shri Panchami or Saraswati Puja, Hindus of Darjeeling worship
the goddess of knowledge Saraswati and the next day they take the idol singing
and dancing to immerse in the nearest stream. This is an important day in the
Nepalese calendar as this day is meant for a new beginning like a new account,
sowing of seeds, etc.
On 11th January Tibetans celebrate Cho Nga Chopa in order to increase
the merit and aid the devotion of future disciples of Buddha.
In the beginning of this month Hindus in Darjeeling (specially people
from the plains of India) celebrate Holi by smearing each other with coloured
Ram Nawami (Lord Ram's birthday), a Hindu festival, is celebrated
by Hindus of Darjeeling by taking out a procession of the holy chariot with
Lord Ram's idol. This day the business class Hindus start their new account.
This day is also Chaite Dasai (original dasai of Nepali Hindus) and the day
is celebrated with prayer to Devi (Shakti) for the triumph of good over evil.
This day Nepalese put coloured rice (brightly coloured rice mixed with curd
) tika (mark on the forehead) as blessings from the elders of the house.
Around March Muslims of Darjeeling celebrate Id-ul Zuha remembering
Allah's prophet Ibrahim. On this day Muslims in Darjeeling like other Indian
Muslims eat mutton. In India this festival is also known as Bakr (Goat) Id.
Buddha Jayanti, birth anniversary of Lord Buddha, is celebrated with procession
from Buddhist monasteries with Lamas (Tibetan Monks) musical troupe followed
by Lord Buddha's idol, and the procession usually carries the Buddhist holy
books around town.
Sansari Puja, is a Nepali Hindu ceremony for the good of the world.
This day they worship Devi (Mai) (Goddess). They believe that if this Goddess
is angry then you get diseases like measles, small pox, etc.
Muslims celebrate Muharram during the first month of the Islamic year
remembering Hasan's battle against Yezid with street procession depicting mock
At the beginning of May Tibetans celebrate Saga Dawa and other Buddhists
celebrate Buddha Shakyamuni's Enlightenment and Parinirvana. At the age of thirty-five
Buddha attained enlightenment at Bodhgaya. This day also marks the anniversary
of his Parinirvana.
Around the end of June Muslims celebrate Milad-un-nabi Mohammad's
Ashar ko Pandra (15th day of Nepali month Asar) is a special day for
Nepalis to eat curd and chewra (beaten rice). They say that goddess Parbati
had given Lord Shiva curd and chewra on this day, so if you take the same this
day, you get salvation.
On 6th July Tibetans celebrate the birthday of His Holiness the Dalai
During the first week of July Tibetans celebrate Dzam Ling Chi Sang
- Local Deities' Day.
At the end of July Tibetans celebrate Chokhor Duchen - for seven weeks
after Buddha's enlightenment, he did not teach. Finally, encouraged by Lord
Indra and Lord Brahma, he turned the Wheel of Dharma for the first time, at
Saranath, by teaching the 'Four Noble Truths'.
Sawane Sankranti, is the first day of the Nepali month Sawan. This
day they offer prayer to the youngest Devi (Goddess). They believe that if this
Devi is angry with someone then he gets scabies. This evening Nepalis in villages
shout loudly "Dung Dung Raati Sankrati" meaning "go away scabies".
On 8th August Lepchas celebrate Tendong Lho Rumfaat, the prayer of
Tendong mountain. Lepchas believe that they are the descendents of the people
who survived the 40 days and 40 nights of rain by going to the top of this mountain.
The full moon of the Nepali month of Bhadau is Newar's (a Nepali caste)
Kwati Purne. This day they eat a special gruel/broth made of sprouted legumes.
Guru Purnima (Full moon of the Gurus) is a special day for Nepali Shamanism.
This day different Jhankris (witch doctors) come dancing with their special
dress and musical instruments to welcome the gods and goddesses on their return
after the slumber in Sawan(the Nepali month).
On the same full moon day is Hindu's Raksha Bandhan (Thread of Protection)
- this day is celebrated by Nepali Hindus as Raksha Bandhan and the priests
go to different house and bind a thread on the right hand as a mark of Protection
that the Gods will give for another year.
15th August is India's Independence Day and a public holiday. This
day is celebrated with different functions all over the town. Main celebrations
are held at the Public Ground at Lebong, with students march-past and drills
followed by football (soccer) Final match. Kalimpong (a part of the Darjeeling
Hills) celebrates this day in a big way.
In the middle of August is Naag (Snake) Panchami (5th day of the month)
which is celebrated by the Nepali Hindus. Priests go from door to door with
special prayer and paste the picture of snakes protecting Lord Bishnu, as protection
of Naag for that house.
Nepali Hindu's Kushe Aaushi is in the beginning of September. Hindus
believe Lord Vishnu is in the Saligram (stone), Tulsi plant, Pipal tree and
Kush grass. This day priest comes home and gives Kush in every house as this
Kush is needed to signify the presence of Lord Vishnu in all Pujas (special
prayers) done throughout the year.
During early September is Teez, for Nepali Hindus, when the married
women go back to their parent's house and celebrate. Its specially prevalent
with Chettri and Brahmin castes of Nepalis. One can see women in bright red
fariya (Nepali dress like Indian Sari) singing and dancing.
In the middle of September is Biswakarma Puja, a special day for Hindus,
when they worship Lord Biswakarma, the god of machines and tools. This day all
Hindus worship their tools of trade like their car, machines, computers, etc.
This day most Hindus clean the machines and do not run the machine for a day.
2nd October is Gandhi Jayanti (birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi,
father of the nation), a public holiday.
In October Hindus specially Nepali Hindus, have their greatest festival.
It's a continuous celebration for fifteen days. This festival starts from Jamare
Aunshi (Newmoon, the day barley is sown in temples for Dasain. The shrada (remembrance
of the dead ancestors) ceremony is also performed during this period.
From the next day starts Durga Puja, Nepalis also call this Shakti
(Power) puja, when the goddess Durga (triumph of good over evil) is worshipped
for nine days to worship the nine different forms she comes in. Nepalis celebrate
this by worshipping weapons like their traditional Khukuri, etc. On the seventh
day is Phul Pati (Flowers and petals) when flowers of different kinds are taken
round the town in procession and later taken to Goddess Durga in the temple.
The eighth day is Maar (the day of sacrifice), this day is celebrated with the
ceremonial sacrifice of a buffalo at Dali ground.
The tenth day is Tika day. On this day people go to their elders to
get the blessings and the holy food (Prasad) of Shakti puja. This continues
till the fullmoon day.
During the middle of October Tibetans celebrate Tshechu, the birth
anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava (also known as Guru Rinpoche, the person who
brought Buddhism to Tibet). This is celebrated on the 10th day of the fifth
month of the Tibetan Calendar which falls sometime in June/July, but because
of the monsoon Thupten Sangag Choling (Dali) Monastery mostly celebrates it
during October with traditional Tibetan dances and ceremonies.
The next important festival of Nepali Hindus is Tihar or Teohar. The
festival begins with Kag (Crow) Tihar when Crows are given good food as they
are considered as the messenger of the Lord of Death, Yama. The next day is
Kukur (Dog) Tihar. This day the dog is given good food as it is considered the
guardian of Yama. The next day is Laxmi (Goddess of wealth) puja or Gai (Cow,
symbolises Laxmi) Tihar when the Goddess of Wealth and Cow are worshipped along
with money and jewellery. On this day it is customary to gamble. In the evening
young girls go from house to house singing Bhaileni (special songs of Tihar)
and they are offered money and food. Nepalis celebrate this day with lights
and firecrackers in the evening.
The next day is Govardhan puja, when the bull is worshipped. On this
day boys go from house to house singing Deusee (singing special hymns to spread
the message of Dasain), they are offered money and food. This day is specially
important for Newars (a caste of Nepali) when they have Mah (self) puja. This
day they worship self with special ceremony and a good feast.
The next day is Bhai Tika, when brothers go to their sister's house.
There the sisters put a special tika on the forehead and garland them with a
garland made of thread and marigold wishing them long life. Sisters offer them
special food and brothers give them money and gifts. This is a day of merry
making for the Nepalis.
At the beginning of November the Tibetans celebrate Lha Bab Duchen
- Buddha Shakyamuni's Descent from Heaven. Buddha's mother had been reborn in
Indra's Heaven. To repay her kindness and to liberate her, and also to benefit
the gods, Buddha spent three months teaching in the realm of the gods.
End of November, the Lepchas celebrate Leerum (prayer of the house
and prayer of the ancestors), Chenrum (prayer of the nature) and Cheurum (prayer
of the snowy mountains, Kanchenjunga is the guardian deity of the Lepchas).
At the beginning of December Lepchas celebrate Nambun, the day the
demon Lhaso Mung Punu was finally defeated after 12 years of battle. On newmoon
day they make a rice effigy of the demon and after a prayer they take it away
from the house. From the next day they celebrate Nambun with good food, new
dress and dances for another 10 to 15 days.
On 10th December Tibetans celebrate the anniversary of His Holiness
Dalai Lama being bestowed with the Nobel Peace Prize.
At the end of December Tibetans celebrate Ngenpa Gu Dzom - Nine bad
omens occuring together.
Around December Muslims celebrate Idu-al-Fitar to celebrate the completion
of one month of fasting (Roja).
25th December, Christmas, is a special day for Christians and also
a special day for all in Darjeeling. Partying and merrymaking last for a few