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Indra Jatra - Traditional festival for the Newari community

  • Author: Naba Raj Amgai
  • Posted on: Friday May 11, 2018

Indra Jatra is one of the biggest chariot pulling festivals of Kathmandu Valley. Kumari, the Living Goddess, takes a ride on her chariot during this festival. The 8-day long festival falls in the month of September. The festival is held in honor of Lord Indra and Kumari, the Living Goddess. Masked dances are held and plays are enacted in the evening.

The festival of Indra Jatra is dedicated to the ‘Lord of Heaven’ Indra.  Held just before Nepal celebrates its biggest festival, Dashain, the festival consist of two events, Indra Jatra and Kumari Jatra. Legend has it that Indra was captured by the people of Kathmandu while fetching night jasmine for his mother. Once the people realized that their prisoner was no other than Lord Indra, they released him immediately. Lord Indra’s mother blessed the city for releasing her son and because of the blessing it is said that Kathmandu receives enough dew even in winters for cultivation.

 Held in the Basantapur Durbar Square, Indra Jatra begins with the erection of a single pole called ‘Yosin’, which is obtained from a single tree. Lasting for eight long days, masked dances and tableaus are held. During the festival, the fearsome mask of Akash Bhairav is put on display and the chariot of Kumari, the Living Goddess, is pulled around the old city of Kathmandu.

This exciting festival is celebrated by both Hindu and Newari communities with much pomp and show. The celebrations consist of two events, Indra Jatra and Kumari Jatra and most of the ceremonies take place at Basantapur Square in front of the old Hanuman Dhoka Palace.

Indra Jatra was first started by King Gunakamadeva to commemorate the founding of Kathmandu city in the late 10th century. Kumari Jatra began much later in the 18th century. Indra Jatra begins with the erection of a long wooden pole from which unfurls the banner of Indra at Kathmandu Durbar Square.

An interesting fact about this wooden pole is that people go to great lengths and hardship to carefully obtain this piece of wood from the forests of ‘NALA’, a small town 29 km east of Kathmandu city. Men drag the long wooden pole in stages until it reaches the venue where it will be displayed.

Another important event that happens on the first day is ‘Upaku Wanegu’. In this event people honor their deceased family members by visiting shrines holding incense sticks. They make a procession on the streets singing hymns and celebrating the lives of their ancestors.

‘KUMARI’ or the Living Goddess also leaves the sanctity of her temple home in a palanquin and leads a procession through the streets of Basantapur to thank Indra, the ‘God of Rain’. The chariot of Kumari is followed by two more chariots, that of ‘Ganesh’ and ‘Bhairav’ and a group of masked dancers representing various deities and demons.

The magnificent mask of ‘AKASH BHAIRAV’ is displayed at Indra Chowk and jaad (Nepali local Liquor) is offered by devotees to the Bhairav statue. It is a remarkable sight to behold as the liquor flows through the statue of Bhairav. This statue is believed to be the head of the first Kirati king- YALAMBER.

The festival comes to an end when the ‘Linga’ or the pole is pulled down and taken to the confluence of Bagmati and Bishnumati River to be put to rest. The end of the festival also ushers the beginning of the most important festival of Nepal- ‘DASHAIN’ and ‘TIHAR’.

Experience the rich culture of the valley’s Newari community by being a part of this wonderful chariot pulling festival. Book our Kathmandu Heritage Sites Tour!

  • Author: Naba Raj Amgai
  • Posted on: Friday May 11, 2018
Naba Raj

About Author - Naba Raj Amgai

Naba Raj Amgai, stepped into the world of travel and tourism in 1996. He is Founder and Managing Director of Third Rock Adventures.

Beginning his journey in the tourism industry as a humble Porter Guide to founding hospitality establishments and an adventure travel company, he has come a long way.

In a career spanning more than two decades, he has achieved more than anybody dreams of achieving. Along with his professional achievements, his selfless contribution towards his community and society has won him a lot of accolades and praises.

Having dedicated more than two decades in the tourism and hospitality sector, he has amassed a wealth of experience.

After passing high school, he began helping out some trekking guides and was soon recruited as a porter guide at a reputed trekking agency. Within a short time, he was individually guiding clients across the well-known trails of the Himalayas.

He went on to lead tour groups on multi-country tours to Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan and India. Being a part of mountain climbing expeditions familiarised him with expedition logistics and operations. Later on, he went to become the Executive Director and took over the reins of Operations, Sales and Marketing departments. Spending several years in the tourism field has made Naba Raj Amgai a destination expert.

Travelling is his passion and he has been to many countries across the world – USA, Canada, Australia, Japan, Holland, Germany, Austria and many parts of Asia.

His journeys to different parts of the world have enriched his travel experience and knowledge. This experience has been instrumental in planning and organizing successful trips for several clients.

As of today many reputed travel companies, hotels and restaurants are under his leadership. A dynamic and proactive leader, he continues to inspire and motivate people from all walks of life.

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