Among the many local festivals in Bhaktapur, “Bisket Jatra” is one of the main enthusiastically celebrated festivals, which falls on the month of April. It is observed annually, four days prior to Nepali New Year (Baisakh) and last for next nine days. It is a festival of chariot pulling, erecting a large wooden pole (Yoshin Deo/Lingo) in two different places of Bhaktapur, one is in Pottery Square, which is locally known as “Talako” and next is in Yoshin Khel/Bhelukhel. Tongue-piercing and Sindur Jatra are other highlights of Bisket Jatra celebrated in Thimi, Bhaktapur.
First day of Bisket Jatra begins by enshrining the wrathful God Bhairab and Goddess Bhadrakali in their respective chariots, which brought out from the sacred temple. It takes place in Taumadi Sqaure, near Nytapole Temple (Five storied Temple) with the various ritual processes. In the same evening, both the chariots are being pulled by hundreds of people as tug of war from eastern (upper) and western (lower) part of the Taumadi Sqaure. Both the parties try to draw the chariot to their direction, but as this first day is Deo kwayo Bijaayegu, which means “ God comes down to the mass of people from his own sacred home” as a ritual, the chariots are to be pulled down toward the west direction from Taumadi Square.
On the second and third day, the particular group who takes care of these chariots performs various rituals. Local people visits and offer Puja to the God and Goddess, which was pulled on the first day.
The fourth day is the last day of the year, according to the Nepali Calendar and the very special day of the festival. On this day, two poles are erected in two different areas of Bhaktapur. The first pole is erected in the morning in the Pottery square (Approx time is at around 11 AM to 1 PM). All the local peoples actively participate in the process of erecting the pole successfully. Once, it is erected, people perform various ritual and offer puja.
Similarly, another pole with two extended arms is erected in the evening in Bhelu Khel (Approx time is at around 6 PM-12 PM) with great excitement. The huge crowd gathered for this occasion and sings songs of joy during the procession. Energetic youths attempt to climb the pole, using big ropes in order to get the plants placed on its top. It is believed that anyone who is able to do so will increase his chances of siring a male child. On the same evening, the chariots are also being pulled into this area.
The pole in Pottery Square remains standing for another five long days, while the wooden pole of Bhelu Khel is kept for only 24 hours.
Another day is the fifth day of the festival, which begins with gathering of huge masses of devotees in Bhelukhel and in Pottery Square. Devotees from the whole city in the early morning sacrifice cocks and goats to the chariots of God Bhairab and Bhadrakali. Apart from that, people offer puja to other Gods and Goddess like Ganesh, Barahi, Mahakali, Mahalaxmi in their own locality. Afterwards this event is followed by a big feast all over Bhaktapur. In the evening, the lingo in Bhelu Khel is pulled down. This is the moment of danger and excitement too.
The following day is the sixth day of the festival. On this day, devotees in Thimi celebrate the Bisket Jatra by welcoming the advent of spring and New Year by throwing vermilion powder over each other, as Sindur Jatra. Beside this, tongue piercing Jatra is also observed. One of the volunteers from the Shrestha family gets his tongue pierced in a spiritual trance with an iron spike and walks around the town shouldering a round bamboo rack with flaming torches. With this extreme ascetic practice, the person is supposed to secure his place in heaven. Tongue piercing is the ceremony that takes place during the chariot demonstration.
In the same way, Kha lawayaakeu jaatra(God and Goddess from two opponents getting together) is celebrated in various areas. In Pottery Square, small chariots of Lord Ganesh and God Bhairabs’ from two different places are brought together and throw vermillion powder to each other marking as Sindhur Jatra. Further, In the Suryamadi tole (which is the eastern part from Dattatreya Temple), Jatra is observed by carrying the small chariots of God Bramayeni and Maheshori. In this way, Bisket Jatra is celebrated in different places of the city on their own local god and goddess.
The seventh day of the festival is also celebrated by worshipping their local God and Goddess in different areas. People from different places gather together to celebrate the festival. They invite their friends, family and relatives for the special feast.
The second last day of the festival is celebrated by offering the various delicious food items to all the local God and Goddess of Bhaktapur city. On this day, most people wear their own traditional dress and visit the whole city in a procession and offer varieties of food items, sweets, fruits to all the local God and Goddess. This day is full of crowd with the traditional music, dance with great enjoyment.
The ninth day is the last day of the festival. The pole, which was erected before 5 days in Pottery Square, is drawn down today performing various rituals. In the evening, chariots of God Bhairab and Goddess Bhadrakali are pulled towards the upward direction, as “Deo tha bijaayegu” which means “God now return back to his own sacred home”. All the peoples gather together and play various traditional musical instruments marking as the end of the festival “Bisket jatra”.