Kojagrat Purnima is a national festive day in Nepal. It is not a separate holiday, however, but is the final day of the 15-day Hindu festival of Dashain. Dashain is the longest and most important of all holidays on the Nepali calendar.
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Dashain begins in the Hindu month of Ashvin and ends on the full moon of that same month, the full moon and the day on which it occurs being referred to as “purnima.” Kojagrat Purnima will be on October 16th in 2016, but its date will vary on the Gregorian Calendar.
Kojagrat Purnima, also called simply Purnima, is the day on which the Hindu goddess Maha Laxmi is worshiped in accordance with the instructions found in the Hindu scriptures. Maha Laxmi is the goddess of wealth in Hinduism, and on the night of Purnima, she is said to wander about looking for those who have kept themselves up all night in her honour in order to grant them future prosperity.
When the goddess arrives at a house, she is thought to utter the words, “Ko jageko chha?,” meaning “Who is awake?” From this phrase came the “kojagrat” portion of this holiday’s name. Maha Laxmi is especially pleased if she finds devotees up engaged in gambling. Some also fast all day on Kojagrat Purnima, and many try to stay up throughout the entire night.
On the first day of Dashain, called Ghatasthapana, a vessel filled with holy water called a “kalash” is set up in a prayer room called a Dashain ghar. Barley, jamara, and other seeds are planted in it and allowed to grow during Dashain. On the final day, Kojagrat Purnima, the kalash’s contents are removed from the house and thrown into a holy river nearby. This act is symbolic of the Dashain festival coming to an end.
Also on Kojagrat Purnima, a new festival of lighting lamps and giving special offerings to the Hindu god Bishnu begins.
Much of the activity for Kojagrat Purnima is highly religious and somewhat private in nature. However, there are many beautifully adorned temples throughout Nepal for tourists to see, and Purnima is a very appropriate time to visit them.
Here are three locations where you can see many of the most famous temples in Nepal, along with some other nearby attractions:
- In Kathmandu, visit Durbar Square, where many centuries-old temples are found. Also in Kathmandu, you will find the Pashupatinath Temple, considered the holiest temple in Nepal, the world-famous Boudhanath Stupa, and the Narayanhiti Palace Museum.
- In Bhaktapur, a small town around six miles from Kathmandu, there is also a high concentration of temples. First, there is another Durbar Square in Bhaktapur, where many temples are shaped like animals, including elephants, cattle, and camels. The Nyatapola Temple, at five stories high, is notable for being the tallest temple in the country. Also in Bhaktapur, you will find the Royal Palace, with its “Golden Gate,” and the National Art Gallery.
- In Patan, just south of Kathmandu across the Bagmati River, the temples are even more highly concentrated than in Kathmandu or Bhaktapur. There is the Golden Temple, where live tortoises roam in the courtyard, the 14th-Century Kumbeshwar Temple, and the Red Machhendranath Temple, which has animals carved into its facade. Additionally, Patan has 3rd-Century B.C. stupas set up at the city limits and over 200 Hindu and Buddhist statues on display in the Patan Museum, which is housed in an old palace.
If in Nepal for Kojagrat Purnima, you will find there are numerous relevant tourist stops to visit, besides any glimpses you may catch of Hindus engaged in their religious ceremonies.