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.
“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.”
Nepal celebrates numerous unique festivals every year. Unique in terms of practice in the other parts of the world; Nepal shares its cultural bond somewhat with India however, the celebration of festivals having same religious importance are different. Among many unique festivals of Nepal, Janai Purnima-the festival of holy thread stands out unique as mantra poured strings are considered powerful protection bonds.
Janai purnima, a holy thread festival for the Hindus most of the years fall on full moon day of August. On this day Hindu men, especially the Brahmans and Chettris perform their annual ritual bath and change their old holy thread (janai) with the new one diagonally across their torso. However, this holy thread is granted to only Hindu males during the religious ceremony, Bartabandan that indicates them of entering the manhood from the childhood. Devotees throng to Kumbeshowr Mela Lalitpur on Janai Poornima to offer prayers to Lord Shiva and tie the thread knot around the wrist. This knot is also called as Rakshya Bandan. Hence, the festival is also celebrated as Rakshya Bandan.
Rakshya refers to “protection and bandhan refers to “bond” so the knot tied around the wrist is basically a protection bond as per Hindu myth. Regardless of gender and caste, every Hindu ties this protection bond around their wrists during Rakshya Bandhan. Males tie it on right wrist whereas; females tie it on left. Pashupatinath in Kathmandu, Kumeshowr in Patan, Gosain Kunda in Rasuwa, Dudh Kunda in Solukhumbu, Ganga Dhanusagar in Janakpur, Dansadhuma in Jumla, and Vageshowr in Dadeldhura among others, are the major destinations where Janai Purnima or Rakshya Bandhan is celebrated hugely. The major dish during the festival is kwati (a sprout dish of nine types of beans)
The same festival is celebrated as Rakhi in Terai Regions of Nepal. Sisters tie colorful threads on their brother’s wrists. They exchange gifts and brothers vow to protect their sisters lifelong on this revered festival. The Indian communities living in Nepal also celebrate Rakhi.
Our trek guide (Maule Tamang) was very informative and knowledgeable of the area and rather amusing company. The services in lodges during the trek were better than expected