“After the vibrant festival, Gai Jatra and the festival of holy thread Janai Purnima, Nepalese are once again in the festive mood to celebrate the biggest festival of Hindu women, Teej.”
The insect that gave name to the festival – Teej
Teej, the festival that symbolizes “Dancing in Red” can be observed in Shiva Temples across Nepal. Traditionally Teej celebrates the union of Goddess Parvati, with the supreme Hindu God, Shiva. The festival that normally falls during August or September of the Gregorian calendar blends grand feasts, non-stop dances and the tough fasting.
“The religious myth associated with Teej involves supreme couple of Hindu God and Goddess, “Shiva-Parvati”. Shiva and Parvati has been the most ideal couple among Hindu devotees. According to Hindu myth, Parvati with the quest to have Shiva as her husband went through many hardships and hence was blessed to have Shiva soul mate.”
Dancing in Red, largest festival of Hindu women in Nepal, Teej
Four-day long celebration, Teej got its name from the small red insect that emerges out of soil after the rainfall during summer. The idea celebrating in red came from the color of the same insect as per the myth.
Tradition of Teej in Nepal
” Traditionally, Teej used to be the festival that reunited married women with their maternal families. The festival also observed grievances women had in their husband houses through the lyrical melodies, which women sang and danced. These days the celebration of Teej has transformed a bit as the communities have transformed eliminating discrimination based on gender. However, the roots of celebrating Teej are still the same. Dancing in the traditional lyrical melodies, attired red and worshipping Shiva for the well-being of husband and entire family after the heavy feast has been the basics of celebrating Teej for ages.”
Devotees at Pashupatinath during Teej
Day 1 – Dar Khane Din
“The first day of Teej symbolizes the grand feast. “Dar Khane Din” observes the heavy feast on the eve of Teej. Women enjoy midnight feast, which is heavy enough to let them fast the following day for the well-being of their husbands and the entire family. The unmarried women feast and fast for with the hope to be blessed of having ideal husband like Lord Shiva.”
Colorful hands of a devotee on Teej
Day 2- the day of tough fasting
“Dressed beautifully in red sari, adorned with ornaments that symbolize their married status, Hindu women on this day go through rigid fasting. Some prefer water and fruits but many prefer to fast without a drop of water and fruits. However, the lyrical melodies and dancing in these tunes go on everywhere and the temples of Lord Shiva are the destinations where women throng to observe this day.”
Observing the thrid day of Teej
Day 3- breaking the fast
“Women wake up early morning sanctify their body and mind and offer prayers to Lord Ganesha and his parents (Shiva- Parvati). Banana and basil leaves (Tulsi) are mandatory during this prayer. After the prayer, they break the fast eating pure cuisines.”
The final day of Teej – bathing with red mud and Datiwan
Day 4- Rishi Panchami
“The festival ends with the holy red mud bath and revered leaves of Datiwan. The bath signifies that women are forgiven from all the sins they have committed.”
“Death of the beloved ones is hard to take but Nepalese know the ways to celebrate deaths. After all, death is as certain as the life itself.”
Colorful people observing colorful festival, Gai Jatra
Gai Jatra, the festival that celebrates death in the most beautiful way in Nepal has the long history. In the ancient days, the festival worshipped the lord of Death “Yama”. In the medieval era, the celebration of this festival experienced huge transformation. Attempts to please the queen of King Pratap Malla, who was devastated by the death of her young son, the festival emerged to become one of the most entertaining festivals in Kathmandu that blends the biggest tragedy of life, which is death with the unlimited humor and fun.
Kids attired Godly leading the procession during the festival
The procession of cow that goes around the city demonstrating death of family member the previous year was Gai Jatra in the past. These days’ young kids dressed funnily represent cows. During anarchy in Nepal Gai Jatra, offered freedom to satire against the government and bureaucrats. The festival falls on the day after the festival of threads Janai Purnima, which is normally on August as per the Gregorian calendar.
The image of the deceased one displayed during the Jatra
In today’s post, we have posted few photographs of the celebration of Gai Jatra in Bhaktapur. No place in Nepal celebrates Gai Jatra as enthusiastically and as energetically as Bhaktapur does. Surprisingly the entire city submerges into it.
Every street of Bhaktapur on this day has such performances
“The Newar Community of Bhaktapur celebrates the festival with colorful procession led by the kids and the chariot with the images of their beloved ones who died the previous year.”
The amazing stick dance being performed in the narrow streets of Bhaktapur by young girls traditionally attired
The stick dance that goes slowly at the beginning and increases its pace as the tempo of the traditional music goes faster is fascinating to observe. The entire town painted with different colors of fascinating human activities has so much to say.
The beats of traditional instruments manifest the energy and passion for celebrating the festival
“This year the celebration was more meaningful because Bhaktapur lost many lives during the devastating quake 2015. The most heartbreaking part was the natives had pains in their faces but still they had accepted the reality of death and were involved in the celebration, which is after all the part of life in the amazing town of devotees.”
The glimpse of Bhaktapur Durbar Square during the festival
The day in Bhaktapur during Gai Jatra is an opportunity to see the highest degree of human energy, unity within communities together paying delightful tribute to their loved ones who died the preceding year and the wonderful colors of natives involved in the jatra rituals.
Little girl traveling to Nepal with her dad observing Gai Jatra in bHAKTAPUR
In a country where festivals are the ways of life, “Janai Purnima” also known as the festival of threads is one of the most religiously significant celebrations of Nepal.
“According to the Gregorian calendar on the fortnight, full moon of August the festival is celebrated with great joy every year.”
Ethnics groups like Brahamins, Chettries and Newars celebrate this festival by tying the sacred thread around the wrist by the priest with the enchantment holy Mantra which signifies peace and prosperity. The holy thread tied around the wrist shall be untied on Laxmi Puja, the major celebration after almost three months after Janai Purnima and re-tied on the tails of cows, which signifies the devotion towards holy animal cow and Goddess Laxmi.
“The males who have gone through bratabanda “the holy ceremony that makes Hindus eligible of performing holy rituals change the thread they put around their shoulders on this day by dipping into the holy pond or river.”
The major Shiva temples all over the country are filled with devotees and priests surrounding it to tie the holy thread on the wrists of as many as devotees. Devotees believe that bathing in the holy Goshaikunda Lake in Langtang region on this day cleans their mind and soul getting rid of all the sins they have committed till the day.
“In Newar community, the festival is also known as “Kwati Purnima”. Kwati is a special soup made by nine different beans using various spices, which gives a significant taste to the dish. It is believed that after the completion of the plantation season, consumption of this special dish is good for one’s immunity system.”
Kwati, the special Newari cuisine during Janai Purnima
The beginning of festive season in Nepal, Janai Purnima shall be observed in the major Hindu Shrines across Nepalese mid-hills. However, in the lowland plains of the country the natives celebrate this day as Rakhi Festival. Rakhi observes sisters tying the colorful threads on the wrists of their brothers and brothers offer gifts or cash to their sisters.
When it comes to celebration of Jatras or Festivals, the people of Kathmandu Valley manifest amazing energy, the Bisket Jatra itself is the festival of highest level of energy, and truly speaking it is the festival of devoted aggression.
Bisket jatra is one of the major jatras in Nepal celebrated in Bhaktapur. This jatra is celebrated for 8nights and 9days. This festival is held annually during the New year of Nepal i.e. Bikram Sambat. This jatra is devoted towards two major deities, Bhairav and Bhadrakali. Few days past the New Year, these deities are preserved in the sacred chariot (Rath) and pulled to Bhaktapur Durbar Square through cobbled maze streets by the energetic crowd. The Rath stays there for a certain period and people from the city come to worship their deities.
The day before New Year, a huge wooden pole (Lingo) is raised at a corner of the town with a long banner hung, which symbolizes the victory of mythological battle. On the day of New Year, the Lingo is pulled down to the ground marking the end of old year.
Here we have few photographs of Bisket Jatra- have a look.
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.
We had a wonderful journey through the Himalayas.Our trip was to fly from Kathmandu to Lhasa and then journey overland in a 4×4 back to Kathmandu. The truth is that the organization was perfect at all times.