Senior cultural expert Satya Mohan Joshi says that life would have been less purposeful and less joyous without culture. Cultural activities keep societies vibrant, polished and civilised. It is the medium to keep individuals connected for common purpose of happiness, joy, wellbeing and fulfillment that form distinct identity, history and way of life. It adds new dimension to human life, with sublime characteristics of spirituality, civilisation and social bonding. Culture has been defined as social behaviour and norms found in human societies, as well as the knowledge, beliefs, arts, laws, customs, capabilities and habits of the individuals in these groups. Our cultural activities shed light on who we are and which historical background we hail from.
Cultural richness has formed a distinct identity of Nepal in the rest of the world, and particularly the cultural superiority of Nepal’s capital city Kathmandu is highly admired. Observation of a western writer made about two centuries ago is that there are more temples in this city than houses and more god images than people. The deep sense of hospitality and politeness of the Nepali people is based on cultural values. Though this country has wide cultural, religious and ethnic diversity within relatively smaller geographical setting, the sense of inter-cultural harmony and tolerance is exemplary in the world. The culture of tolerance and brotherhood is cultivated through the civilised cultural tradition itself. What modern schools have not been able to teach was embodied in people long ago through exemplary cultural practices. These practices guide us through the polished path even today.
Festivals are the integral part of Nepali cultural life, and make our unique identity. In this sense, now is an important time of the year when major festivals are observed with mirth, merriment and family reunion. Great festivals like Dashain, Tihar and Chhath take place during Nepali Sarad Ritu or autumn season now marked by the end of monsoon rains, onset of pleasant moderate weather, excellent natural landscape view and blooming of fragrant flowers. The week-long chariot festival of Indrajatra in the capital valley heralds the beginning of major festivals to say goodbye to the mud and rains and flying of kites from rooftops and open spaces. Main days of the Dashain festival are now over, though the celebrations will continue till Kojagrat Purnima that falls on October 13. Within a fortnight or so, Dashain is followed by Tihar and Chhath that are celebrated in the hills and the Terai plains.
Nepali festivals are more than the occasion for feasting and merry making. Each festival has its meaning and message derived from myths, beliefs and religious scriptures. The Bijaya Dashami day celebrated during the Dashain marks the victory of truth and divine force over the evil. Tihar, the festival of light, represents the bond of love between brothers and sisters. Light signifies end of ignorance and emergence of knowledge and learning. Chhath is the occasion to offer devotion and respect to Sun god. Balance of natural elements for healthy life and collective wellbeing is known to all and in this sense worshipping the Sun as the incarnation of god is prevalent in many societies around the world. Festivals are binding force that attract people to the ancestral home for the joyous reunion and sharing of deepest feelings between dear and near ones.