Observers waiting for the glimpse of Living Goddess, Kumari during Indra Jatra, Kathmandu Durbar Square
Known as “Yenya” in Newari dialect, Indra Jatra the biggest carnival of Kathmandu Valley is dedicated to the king of heaven also the provider of rain, God Indra. Celebration of Indra Jatra in Kathmandu is associated with interesting myth of Indra being captured by the natives of Kathmandu. The eight-day long festival is celebrated from Bhadra dwadsahi to Ashwin Krishna chaturdashi according to the lunar calendar, which falls during the months September or October as per Gregorian calendar.
Artistic medieval monuments, pigeons, devotees and the Linga- Kathmandu Durbar Square during Indra Jatra
The myth- “Holding the provider of Rain captive, the natives of Kathmandu desperately wanted rain”
Indra’s mother Dagini wanted jasmine tree in the gardens of heaven to perform some ritual and hence Indra disguised as human and came to Earth to fetch the plant. While Indra was stealing the plant from a garden in Kathmandu Valley, the natives captured him. Unknown to the fact that the God of Rain was captured Kathmandu suffered extreme dryness; however, the capturers would not free Indra. Dagini came down to the earth in search of her son and discovered that the people of Kathmandu held him captive. Upon Dagini’s request, the people of Kathmandu agreed to free Indra. Pleased with the generosity of the people of Kathmandu, Dagini promised for the timely rainfall and good harvest. She also took all the people of Kathmandu who died that year to the heaven. Since then Indra Jatra is observed enthusiastically in Kathmandu.
When it is a festival time the people of Kathmandu do not care about anything- Rain??? Their kingdom was conquered when they were celebrating Indra Jatra
Devotees offering prayers to Sweta Bhairav during Indra Jatra- a part of ritual of the festival
“History of Indra Jatra in Kathmandu”
King Gunakamadeva introduced the festival in Kathmandu during 10th century. With time, the celebration of this carnival modified. During 16th century, King Mahendra Malla established the ritual of “Mata Biye” where the Newar Communities of Kathmandu honored family members passed away in past year by small butter lamps processions that covered the traditional routes through the old part of the city. In 18th century, King Jaya Prakash Malla added the processions of Living Gods and Goddess, which include the beautifully carved and adorned chariots processions of Kumari, Bhairab and Ganesha. The degree of fun during Indra Jatra is manifested by King Prithivi Narayan Shah’s conquer over the kingdom while the entire town was celebrating Indra Jatra.
Kumari leaves her home during Indra Jatra- An opportunity once a year to watch this sacred beauty being carried to her chariot before her procession
Religious dance performed by Blue Bhairav at Kathmandu Durbar Square during Indra Jatra
Celebration of Indra Jatra in Hanuman Dhoka Durbar Square (Kathmandu Durbar Square)
The festival starts with the erection if 36 feet long pole carved from a tree and dragged from the forest of Nala, 29 km North of Kathmandu to the erection site at Hunamandhoka Durbar Square. This pole “Yasingh” symbolizes Shiva Linga and dragging the pole to the valley eventually signifies the arrival of lord Shiva in the valley. The festival is also dedicated in honor of “Bhairav” the fearsome form of Lord shiva and the destroyer of evil. This event is followed by the display of head “Aakash Bhairav” in Indra Chowk. It is believed that “Aakash Bhairav” was the first Kirat King, Yalamber who witnessed the battle of Mahabharat. Simultaneously, “Sweta Bhairav” is manifested at Hanumandhoka. The Bhairav with large red mask pours “Rakshi” (Nepali local liquor) from his mouth. Similarly, “Baka Bhairav” is demonstrated at Wotu- next to Indra Chowk. The integral part of Indra Jatra is the procession of the three golden chariots, which are pulled by locals along the trails of the old city for three days. As the processions arrive at Indra Chowk, Goddess Kumari bows down before Aakash Bhairav that shows her devotion towards the masked deity.
Lakhey performance during Indra Jatra
Masked dancers known as Lakheys who are believed to be the protector of the city children perform spiritual dances symbolizing the human incarnation of lord Bishnu. Majipa Lakhey along with his musical band performs flawlessly through the crowds and into the city spreading the festive mood. The “sawa bakkhu” dance group from halchok, located in the east of the city also performs during the festival, which consists of the dancers and a impression of Bhairav in blue carrying a sword and his two disciples dressed in red. Majipat Devi Nach , Yeravat Hathi (pulu kishi) from Nardavi , Mahakali and Kathi Maka Nach from Bhaktapur are also performed around Hunaman dhoka Durbar Square during Indra Jatra. High Government Officials, including the Prime Minister and the President of Democratic Republic of Nepal and expats of several countries living in Kathmandu also attend the third day function of Indra Jatra at Hanuman Dhoka Durbar Square.
The army parade to welcome GoN high officials and international expats to the Hanuman Dhoka Palace
The festive mood continues
The Linga “Yasingh” is pulled down and taken to Teku where Bagmati and Bishnumati Rivers confluence. At the site, the linga is submerged declaring the end of Indra Jatra. The end of Indra jatra also announces the beginning of “Dashain” and “Tihar” which is celebrated with a great gusto in Nepalese culture.
Article researched by: Anmol Shakya