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Holi Festival in Nepal: A Cultural Extravaganza
Hawrry Bhattarai comment 0 Comments access_time 12 min read

Holi in Nepal: Celebrate the Festival of Colors!

Imagine a perfect day in Nepal: sunshine warming your skin, excitement crackling in the air. Suddenly, WHAM! A vibrant explosion of colored powder erupts, showering you with a rainbow of joy. Strolling down the street, you are caught off guard, yet before you can react, a well-aimed water balloon whizzes by, leaving you giggling and dripping. Laughter echoes, and a friendly voice calls out, “Bura na mano Holi hai!” (Don’t get mad, it’s Holi!). 

You are greeted with “Happy Holi, which ultimately does not make you happy. But then you realize it’s Holi! Maybe strolling wasn’t the best plan after all. This playful drenching is the heart of the celebration. After you get soaked, you get that energy and temptation to celebrate Holi.

Holi has been celebrated more respectfully lately, but the festival’s true charm lies in its colorful festivities, cheerful laughter, and pure happiness. You are not allowed to get angry. Instead, smile back and enjoy. This festival is not like any other festival you have attended before. It’s a two-day extravaganza where everyone, from wide-eyed kids to mischievous grandparents, lets loose and celebrates life. 

Holi in Nepal 2024 Dates 

English Calendar : 2024-03-24

Nepali calendar: 2080-12-11

  • Beyond Fagu Poornima Holi: What Else Happens in Nepal on this date?

    This day also coincides with:

    • World Tuberculosis Day

Note: Fagu Poornima or Phagu Purnima resemble the same meaning

Overview of Holi

Typical Festive day of holi at basantapur

Holi, a deeply rooted Hindu festival, marks spring’s joyous arrival and winter’s end. Celebrated across Nepal, India, and parts of Asia and Europe, the vibrant tapestry of joy unites communities. The festivities begin with Holika Dahan, an evening bonfire symbolizing the burning away of negativity. 

Nepal celebrates Holi during the full moon day of the Fagu Purnima. People, draped in vibrant powders, exchange them, each color conveying a unique message. This colorful festival celebration transcends religious boundaries, welcoming participants of all faiths – Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, and more – to join the camaraderie. Holi strengthens social bonds, fosters communal harmony, and provides precious time for loved ones to connect, regardless of background.

How does Holi Unfold in Nepal: Typical “Holi Festival” Day

Holi festival in Nepal, basantapur

At daybreak, Holi explodes onto the streets. Playful chaos erupts as people bombard each other with vibrant colored powders and drench each other with water balloons and guns. A kaleidoscope of hues transforms participants, fostering a collective spirit of joy and laughter. As the music intensifies, folk melodies and the rhythmic beat of dholaks propel everyone into a state of uninhibited dance and delight.

But Holi in Nepal goes beyond the colors. During the festival, people consume traditional bhang made with cannabis, milk, and spices. Crispy pakoras, Gujiya, and refreshing Bhang Lassi complete the sensory feast, culminating in a celebration that nourishes not just the senses but also the spirit of togetherness that is the heart of Holi.

Historical Significance of Holi

Historical significance of Holi

“Holi” is a festival that holds a significant place in the history and culture of Hinduism. It is deeply rooted in Indian traditions and celebrated yearly with great enthusiasm and zeal. It symbolizes spring’s arrival and the triumph of good over evil, a season of hope and harmony. Culturally, it is a day for seeking forgiveness, settling debts, and building new relationships. Broken friendships can be repaired, and social divides bridged, emphasizing communal unity.

Particularly significant in the Braj region (linked to Radha and Krishna’s love story), Holi attracts countless visitors, transforming it into a vibrant tourist destination. Holi festival richness transcends borders and is celebrated enthusiastically in Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and the Hindu diaspora globally.

The legend of Holika and Prahlad embodies the core message of the festival. Throughout the celebration, this story reminds participants of the enduring power of virtue and justice, emphasizing the symbolic victory of good over darkness.

Origins of Holi in Hindu Mythology

 Roots of Holi: Mythology and Legend

Holi’s origins lie in a captivating Hindu myth. King Hiranyakashipu, enraged by his son Prahlada’s devotion to Lord Vishnu, hatches a plan to kill him. He enlists his supposedly fire-proof sister, Holika, to help. In a twist of fate, divine intervention protects Prahlada while Holika burns. This story celebrates the victory of devotion and righteousness over arrogance and evil.

Holi’s roots are well-documented in ancient Hindu scriptures like the Jaimini’s Purva Mimamsa Sutras and epic tales in the Narada and Bhavishya Puranas. Historical records, such as King Harsha’s 7th-century play ‘Ratnavali’ and 4th-century accounts by poet Kalidasa, further solidify Holi’s long-standing significance.

Evolution of Holi Celebrations Over Time

In Nepal, Holi’s evolution reflects reverence for Hindu mythology and the embrace of spring. Once centered on dry powders and bonfires, today’s celebration is a lively exchange of water balloons and playful splashes from buckets and guns.

Even more modern are rooftop water fights, an adaptation of ancient traditions to contemporary trends. The practice of egg fights, widespread among youths in the Terai region, detracts from the festival’s joyous nature. 

Holi’s essence lies in fostering community, shedding inhibitions, and celebrating good over evil. As the festival continues to evolve, we have to embrace traditions that enhance its spirit of harmony and leave behind practices that diminish its cultural significance.

Cultural Significance of Holi

Cultural Significance of Holi

Holi, the festival of colors, is a cultural catalyst for ending conflicts and fostering forgiveness. It’s a day to clean the slate – settle debts, mend fences, and forge new connections. Social divides melt away as people come together in inclusivity and harmony. 

Social divides fade away as people come together in a spirit of inclusivity. Nepal’s diverse provinces celebrate Holi uniquely, each adding to the festival’s rich tapestry. This beautiful display of cultural significance highlights the unifying power of Holi.

Explore how different regions embrace the spirit of Holi in their unique ways.

7 Provinces, 7 Vibrant Holi Experiences

Holi celebration

#1. Janakpur, Madhesh Province: A Grand Celebration

Janakpur’s Holi boasts a unique 15-day Parikrama, a daily temple pilgrimage culminating at the Janaki Mandir, signifying devotion and marking the festival’s arrival. People embark on a daily pilgrimage, visiting temples and culminating at the Janaki Mandir. Farmers use mud instead of colors, reflecting the changing seasons and the arrival of spring.

#2. Biratnagar, Koshi Province: Socializing in Style

Unlike other regions, the focus here is less on traditional rituals like Holika Dahan and more on vibrant color play. The influence from neighboring India adds a unique twist to the celebrations, making it a melting pot of cultural expressions.

#3 Sindhupalchok, Bagmati Province: A Blend of Traditions

Sindhupalchok showcases a fascinating blend of customs. While some families light bonfires on the eve of Holi, others with Buddhist roots might refrain from participating traditionally. However, social media is bringing younger generations into the colorful fold!

#4. Syangja, Gandaki Province: A Changing Landscape

Holi in Syangja offers a glimpse into the changing face of the festival. Elders cherish the traditional songs and dances, while youngsters embrace a more modern approach with vibrant colors and water fights.

#5. Rupandehi, Lumbini Province: A Community Celebration

Lumbini celebrates Holi with a strong sense of community. Here, people gather wood and dry plants over two weeks, culminating in a bonfire on the main day. The Tharu community adds a special touch with their traditional “Jhijhiya” dance and visits to each other’s homes.

#6. Surkhet, Karnali Province: A Melting Pot of Traditions

Surkhet’s Holi reflects its diverse population. Drawing influences from both the Terai and Hilly regions, it offers a mild celebration in the hills and a more vibrant experience in the Terai areas. Locals unite for colorful events and the traditional “Deuda Khel” dance.

#7. Achham, Sudurpaschim Province: Eight Days of Fun

The festival is called “Fagu Parba”, and celebrations kick off right after Shivaratri. People gather for games, songs, and dances, culminating in lighting a special “Chir” pole, symbolizing the triumph of good over evil.

Across other districts of the far west, there’s a similar approach; however, Baitadi has a unique style of Holi celebration

The celebration begins with the warm gesture of exchanging tikas (marks of blessing). This sets the stage for the highlight of Baitadi’s Holi – the Deuda dance. People gather in circles, their energy electrifying as they move to the rhythm of Deuda music, a traditional folk style of the region.

Holi in Nepal: key rituals and festivities

On the day of holi local enjoying holi with colors

Chir Haran: Burning Away Evil (One Week Before Holi)

Holi kicks off with a unique ceremony called Chir Haran. A tall bamboo pole adorned with colorful fabrics is raised in Basantapur Durbar Square and other locations. On the eighth day, the evening before Holi proper, the Chir is brought down and burned in a bonfire. This symbolizes the burning of Holika, a demon representing evil. Women in traditional attire perform a puja (prayer) around the fire, seeking blessings for the year ahead.

Basantapur Durbar Square Carnival: A Celebration for All (Holi Day)

Kathmandu’s Basantapur Durbar Square transforms into a lively carnival on ‘Holi’ day. Here, you’ll witness the true essence of the festival – people of all ages joyfully throwing vibrant colors (gulal) and spraying water playfully with pichkaris (water guns). While this lively area is a popular choice, remember – Holi celebrations happen throughout Nepal, in smaller gatherings and family settings too. Even the Terai region (lowlands) and hilly areas embrace the spirit of Holi with their events.

The Drenching Fun: Embrace the Street Party! (Holi Day)

Holi is a national celebration, and the streets come alive! Join the locals and unleash your inner child with water guns and vibrant colors. Traditionally, colors were made from natural ingredients like sandalwood and turmeric. However, these days, readily available synthetic colors are more common. Remember, red gulal is a staple, adding vibrancy to the celebrations.

Culinary Delights of Nepali Holi 

Gujiya: A Sweet Forever Linked to Holi

Photo : Ravi Dhingra

Hailing from North India, Gujiya is a staple Holi dessert. This delightful treat features a crispy Maida flour shell filled with a delectable dry fruit mixture, offering a satisfying burst of sweetness in every bite.

 Bhang Lassi: Brain-eating Drink (For Adults Only)

Bhaang Lassi
Photo: Adam Cohn

Bhang Lassi, or Thandai, is a unique drink for Holi celebrations in Nepal. It’s a concoction of Indian spices, milk, and cannabis (bhang) powder. While some may view bhang cautiously, it’s traditionally considered a festive beverage. 

Note:  Bhang can be intoxicating, so please consume responsibly and only if legally permitted.

Malai Peda: Creamy Delights for All Ages

Malai peda

These melt-in-your-mouth Malai Pedas are a favorite across festivals. Made with rich milk cream (malai) and adorned with various dry fruits like pistachios, almonds, or cashews, they come in multiple flavors, like saffron (kesar), to please every palate.

Bhang Laddoos: A Sweet Way to Unwind (For Adults Only)

bhaang laddu

Bhang Laddoos offers a sweet twist on the traditional Bhang Lassi. These bite-sized treats are made with the same bhang ingredient, following Ayurvedic principles believed to promote relaxation. Remember, responsible consumption is key.

Funny story: I consumed this once and shared it with my family. We were all laughing so hard we were crying, acting nuts! We were starving and ready for real food by the time it wore off!

Note: Please consume responsibly

Lassi: A Refreshing Alternative


For those who prefer a non-alcoholic option, Lassi is a perfect choice. This classic yogurt-based drink is an excellent and refreshing companion to all the delicious Holi treats. This is similar to Indian refreshing drink thandai. 

Holi in Nepal: A Survival Guide for Fun (and Cleanliness)!

Holi in Nepal: A Survival Guide for Fun (and Cleanliness)

But before diving into the rainbow chaos, here’s a quick guide to prepare you for a fun (hopefully stain-free) celebration!

  • Holi Prep: Coconut oil for hair & skin, cheap clothes (white t-shirt!), flip flops.
    • Happy Holi Printed T-shirts are available everywhere in Kathmandu.
  • Post-Holi Hair Rescue: Deep conditioning, pack a travel-sized treatment.
  • Valuables Vault: Leave electronics at the hotel 
  • Cash is King: Many shops close, but some, like Big Mart, stay open. Secure your cash (zip-lock bags, money pouch).
  • Avoid the Drenching: Stay indoors if getting drenched isn’t your vibe. (Law discourages throwing colors at tourists, but hey, it’s Holi!)
  • Limited Shops & Restaurants: Thamel (tourist area) has limited shops open, but cafes and restaurants still serve.
  • Festival Fun: Pokhara (mornings), Kathmandu (9:30 am-4pm), Janakpur(8 am-5pm)
  • Unforgettable Experience! Prepare, embrace the chaos, and create memories!

Frequently asked Questions

Do they celebrate Holi in Nepal?

Yes, they celebrate Holi in Nepal.

What is the festival of Holi in Nepali?

It’s called Fagu Purnima in Nepal. (Fagu Poornima/Poornima Vrata)

In which Nepali month does Holi mostly fall?

Holi mostly falls in the Nepali month of Falgun or Chaitra. This year (2024), it’s on March 24th in the hilly region including Kathmandu.

Where can I celebrate Holi in Kathmandu?

Basantapur Durbar Square is a popular spot for Holi celebrations in Kathmandu.




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