Nepal is a land made up of multi-cultural and multi-ethnic communities, all of which have their own customs and traditions. Many of these cultures have their own calendar. Currently, Nepali people celebrate 9 different New Years at different times of the year based on the calendars followed by different ethnic and religious groups.
However, Nepal officially follows the Bikram Sambat calendar and hence, the official Nepali New Year is celebrated on the first of Baishak, the first month of the Bikram Sambat calendar.
The 1st of Baishak, the Nepali New Year, is an official holiday for everyone in Nepal. All governmental offices, educational institutions and even many private businesses, factories and industries remain closed on this day.
This date falls around mid-April, though the exact date according to Gregorian calendar (AD) differs slightly every year.
The Bikram Sambat is a Hindu calendar that uses lunar months and solar sidereals. In Nepal though, it is calculated using the tropical year. Bikram Sambat is 56.7 years ahead of the Gregorian calendar.
According to legend, The Bikram Sambat was established by the Ujjain king Vikramaditya. According to writings from a Jain sage Mahesarasuri, the powerful Ujjain king Gandharvasena abducted a nun named Saraswati. Her enraged brother, a month named Kathanaka sought the help of the Saka King Sahi of Sistan.
King Sahi defeated King Gandharvasena and held him captive before finally forgiving him and exiling him to the forests. He was killed by a tiger. The nun, on the other hand, was sent back to where she came from.
King Vikramaditya grew up in the forest and ruled from Pratishthana. He later led an army which invaded Ujjain and drove away the Sakas, reclaiming his father’s lands. To commemorate his victory, he started a new era and named it Vikram Sambat or the “Vikram era”.
In Nepal, the Rana rulers introduced the use of Birkam Sambat. In the beginning, it was used unofficially along with the Saka calendar. Bikram Sambat came into official use in 1958 BS.
New Year is celebrated with a lot of pomp and grandeur in Nepal. The day is considered an official holiday and most people in Nepal tend to celebrate it with their friends and family. There is an increasing trend of going for picnics on this day, either with your friends, your family, or even as an office outing.
Many people also tend to use this event as an occasion to eat, drink and party. Many people these days, especially young men and women hold or attend parties that last beyond mid night. It is a popular tradition in these parties to countdown the seconds till midnight strikes and then scream “Happy New Year!”.
A lot of clubs and restaurants also hold New Year’s parties where tons of youngsters come to dance, drink and enjoy. Hotels, restaurants and clubs also offer special New Years packages when it comes to food, drinks and even performances at their venue.
Some ethnic groups also celebrate the advent of a New Year with their own traditional festivals. For instance, in Bhaktapur (and Tokha and Dhapasi, to a lesser degree), a festival known as Bisket Jatra is held on the occasion of New Year. This two day festival starts on New Year’s Eve and ends on New Year’s Day. During Bisket Jatra young men erect a huge wooden pole and hang banners off of it in New Year’s Eve and then pull the pole to the ground on New Year’s Day. Also, Newari people eat their special dish known as Kwati on this day.
Nepali New Year is a great opportunity for Nepalese and even foreigners currently in Nepal to enjoy a day of celebrations with their loved ones.
The upcoming Nepali New Year 2074 is on April 14th, 2017.