Indra Jatra is the biggest religious street festival of Nepal. This festival is mainly known as yenya by the locals of Kathmandu. Yen translets to Kathmandu and ya means celebration. The two main celebration falls during yenya. The first one is KumariJatra. KumariJatra lasts for three days and three chariots representing three deities are pulled to different festive routes of Kathmandu each day. The chariots of goddess Kumari, lord Ganesh and lord Bhairava are pulled by groups of people and accompanied by the musical bands during the march. The other celebration is called IndraJatra.Indrais the name of lord of heaven and lord of rain in Hindu mythology. people celebrate this festival with wish of enough rain for the year. Mostly local farmers have been involved in this festival for centuries.IndraJatrausually last for 7-8 days but the you will see the spectacle on the beginning days of IndraJatra.it usually falls on the last day of summer on the night of full moon. Crowds from different community as well as foreigners gathered in front of Kathmandu durbar square area to observe the celebration. The president or prime minister attends the festival with the other foreign dignitaries each year.
History and tales:
This celebration was started by king Gunakamadeva, founder of city of Kathmandu in the 723 AD. He started this festival in the remembrance of founding of the Kathmandu valley. This festival has been celebrated with the same authenticity since then. There are many folk tales relating to this festival. The famous one among them is about lord Indra. Lord Indra came down to earth from heaven in search of parijat (night Jasmin) for his mother. He was caught stealing the flower from garden and bounded like a common thief. He was put on display in the town square of Kathmandu. His mother worried about his late return came to Kathmandu and wondered around the valley. After people found out that they have bounded the lord Indrahimself, they were horrified about that fact and immediately released him. Out of appreciation of Indra’s release his mother promised to provide enough dew throughout the winter so that the crops will grow properly. It is believed that after that time Kathmandu started to have misty morning in the winter.
Highlights of the festival
towering of lingo:
lingo is a ceremonial pole selected to be erected and worshipped during different festivals in Nepal.it is chosen from the straight trees found in kavre of Nepal. The tree is cut down, branches cut off and stripped of its bark. The towering of lingo marks the starting of the IndraJatra festivals. People use thick ropes to erect the 36-foot wooden pole. The banner of lord Indra is place on the top of the pole, showing that it is the land of lord Indra.
lighting incense sticks:
the people who have lost loved ones in the past year the incense sticks are burned at various temples around the Kathmandu valley. This ritual is to pay respect to the deceased one so that other can whole heartedly involve in the celebrations to come.
Unveiling of the Sweta Bhairava in Kathmandu Durbar square:
Bhairava is the more terrifying form of lord Shiva. It was built to protect the city from all the threats. The huge mask of Bhairava is kept behind wooden windows throughout whole year. It is unveiled on the first day of IndraJatra till the ending of the festival. A long pipe is placed on the mouth of the Bhairava during the festival. In the evening traditional Nepalisliquors and rice beer is distributed to the public through the pipe while crowd of men
Kumari Jatrawas the tradition formed around 1756 AD.it was started by the king Jaya Prakash Malla. Kumari Jatra starts from the third day of the IndraJatra. The head of the country visit the Kumari and receive blessing for their rule. They bow before the living goddess and receive tika from her hand. The chariots of Ganesh, Bhairava and Kumari is pulled by men to different parts of Kathmandu. the march is accompanied by the traditional music bands and dances. The march usually starts from 3pm.on the first day of KumariJatra, the chariots are pulled to downtown area following the route starting from Basantapur ,Maru, lagan, Wonde, Kohity, Bhimsenthan and returned to Basantapur.on the second day of the Jatra the chariots are pulled through the uptown area following the route starting from Basantapur,Pyaphal, Nyata, Tengal, Asan, Indrachwok,Makhan and returned to Bansantapur. On the third day the chariots are pulled through mid-town areas following the routes starting from Basantapur ,Pyapal, Yatkha, Nyata, Kilgal, Indrachwok, Makhan and returned to Basantapur.
Different traditional dances performed by the possessed men wearing colorful clothes is the most interesting activity of IndraJatra. Some of the masked dance are performed by certain community or neighborhood.
Pulukisi (elephant) dance
This dance is performed by the residents of kilagal tole. They create straw woven and wooden masked elephant representing it as the ride of lord Indras . It is carried in the streets of Kathmandu enacting the search of the Indras elephant during hisimprisonment. People cheer and dance while carrying the elephant andusually accompanied by the musical band. A person runs in front carrying a torch. Elephant runs through the streets knocking anyone on its path.
A Lakhey is a man-eating demon wearing a huge red mask with scary big eyes, sticked out fangs, jagged teeth and a dark wig. Peoplebelieve that the spirit of Lakhey resides within the mask of Lakhey.as a dancer puts on the mask he is possessed by the spirit of Lakhey and his movement is controlled by the demon. The Lakhey starts to dance while intimidating the people all around him. Lakhey dance has a swift movement of hands while running on the beat of music.Lakhey pushes anyone on its path while crowd following him with fascination.
The lingo erected on the first day is taken down on the last day of IndraJatra. The Indras flag (Indradhwaj) is floated away in Bagmati river. This marks the end of the IndraJatra festival. IndraJatra bring the people from all over the country from different culture and community. Not only Newars of Kathmandu but the other people outside the valley gather together to see the festival. There is no restriction toward any community or religion to observe the festival. It is an amazing experience to be in durbar square during the festival of IndraJatra. IndraJatra also marks the starting of the two biggest festival of Nepal, Dashain and Tihar. If you are planning your trip to Nepal around September October you can consider to make plan accordingly. For any more information on Nepalese culture and Nepal travel, you can contact us at redcarpejourney.