The festival dedicated to the King of heaven also the Rain God, Indra begins on the day of the Bhadra Dwadasi and ends on Ashwin Krishna Chaturdasi according to the lunar calendar. As per the Gregorian calendar, either the festival falls during late September or the early October, which is the beginning of high tourist season (autumn) in Nepal.
As per the Hindu myth, the king of the heaven, Indra visited Kathmandu Valley in search of the sacred flower Parijat for his mother, to perform a holy ceremony in the heaven. Indra was caught stealing the flower and was kept hostage by the Tantric of the valley. When Lord Indra did not return to heaven, and the rainfall stopped to pour across the world, pleads of human on earth grabbed the attention of Indra’s mother, Dakine Devi. In search of her son, she came to the valley and discovered that Indra was imprisoned by the tantric. After the tough negotiation and the oath taken by Indra himself for the timely rainfall in the valley, the lord of the heaven was released. Since then the festival is observed in Kathmandu to please Indra so that he would provide enough rain in the valley.
The festival kicks off by putting up a 36 feet long Linga (Yasingh), a ceremonial pole, which is made by the chosen tree from the woodland of Kavre, the district east of Kathmandu. During the occasion of pole erection the vibrant display from the living deity Akash Bhairab, who wears colorful large mask and spouts Jaad and raksi (Nepali local liquors) from the mouth is worthwhile observing.
Households throughout Kathmandu (especially Newars) display images and sculptures of Indra and Bhairab at this time of year. On the final day of Indra Jatra the Kumari (living goddess) along with other Living Gods of the valley Kumar & Ganesha, leave the seclusion of their temples in adorned palanquins and lead processions through the streets of Kathmandu to thank Indra, the rain god.
The main attraction of the festival is the procession of chariots and masked dancers representing deities and demons. During the festival varieties of masked dancing sequences from different locales of Kathmandu like Sawa Bhakku Bhairav dance from Halchowk, Majipa Lakhey dance from Majipat, Devi Nach and Yeravathatthi from Naradevi Mahakali and Kathi Maka Nach from Bhaktapur add fascinating attractions to all the wonderful highlights of this vibrant festival.
On the final day after the Linga (Yasingh) is pulled down the festival ends. Later on, the linga is taken to the confluence of holy Bagmati and Bishnumati Rivers in Teku to submerge it.
The great festival of Indra Jatra was celebrated with great joy in Kathmandu Durbar Square this year. Though the devastating earthquake shook the country during April this year, the natives of the valley still celebrated the festival with their heads high. Their hearts filled with pride and joy despite the grounded monuments all over the ancient heritage site, the people observed it with great enthusiasm. People were gathered in numbers at the site to enjoy the authentic Newari music and to witness the Living Goddess Kumari processing in her chariot followed by the chariots of Vhairab and Ganesh. Though the celebration site looked bit empty compared to last year celebration, the energy of the people witnessing the festival and the pride they had towards their heritage and culture was remarkable to observe.