Indra Jatra Festival is one of the biggest festivals marked in Kathmandu valley for eight days, has formally begun. It is celebrated with the erection of a sacred Indradhoj lingo (wooden pole) at Hanumandhoka [Kathmandu Durbar Square]. The lingo is generally erected in the morning in front of the statue of Kaal Bhairav on the very first day.
When is Indra Jatra Festival celebrated?
Indra Jatra Festival is observed every year from the day of the Bhadra Dwadasi to Ashwin Krishna Chaturdasi. It is an eight-day long festival.
The king of all Jatras, Indra Jatra is celebrated primarily by the Newar community of Kathmandu. It is referred to as Yenya in the local Newari tongue. The festival of Indra Jatra is dedicated to Lord Indra, who is revered as ‘the God of rain and the King of heaven. The holy occasion of Indra Jatra Festival marks special importance since the chariot procession of ‘living goddess Kumari’, is held along with chariots of Lord Ganesh and Lord Bhairav, around Basantapur area during the celebration.
Initially, Indra Jatra gets started with the erection of a Lingo, a tall wooden pole derived from the trunk of a tree, brought near Nala. Nala, a suburb of Kathmandu Valley lies at some 29 km east of the capital. Lingo is decorated with the banner of Lord Indra, the God of Rain which flutters on lingo’s top.
On this note, one can say that, this, erection of the wooden pole, can be taken as a gesture to notify everybody that the king is in residence. The king rules over a certain periphery without any doubt. Mainly, as a regular trait of most of the festivals in the country, whereby, before getting started festivities, the deceased ones are remembered and honored.
Dashain and Tihar, are drawing near around the corner, immediately following Indra Jatra, hence, it’s a good time to pay one’s respects to those no more alive. Considering that we generally take part in the coming celebrations with a soul full of joy.
On the 3rd day of the Indra Jatra festival, the living goddess Kumari is taken out in a procession in a chariot. “Kumari”, the “living goddess”. The living goddess, Kumari, is considered to be the incarnation of the goddess named “Taleju”.
The story behind the Indra Jatra Festival
According to the Hindu Legend, Lord Indra once secretly paid a visit to the ancient city of Kathamandap [now Kathmandu] to steal parijat (a night flowering jasmine). Unluckily, he got captivated by a ‘Tantric’. Then, the Mother of Indra arrived down to earth to free him and swore to provide well-timed rainfall for the freedom of her beloved son. From then onwards, denizens of Kathmandu commenced celebrating the festival of Indra Jatra.
The story behind Living Goddesses, Kumari
The living, Kumari Goddess is the only alive goddess worshipped by Hindus and Buddhists. The literal meaning of Kumari implies to “Virgin”. The Kumaris are the young pre-pubescent girls who acquire the power of Goddess Kali and Taleju. Kumari Goddess is the sustaining embodiment of Goddess Taleju. Kumari is the human incarnation of Goddess Taleju and symbolizes power and protection.
When it comes to the special attraction of this festival, one can see dancing Lakhey and Pulu Kisi dance where revelers perform by wearing masks of deities on the street. Not only that, but an official of Nepal’s Government also visit Hanuman Dhoka to pay their homage to the gods and goddesses during the festival. This year also, Kathmandu Metropolitan City has invited more than 45 international delegates from several countries to participate in the festival.
If you are dwelling in and around Kathmandu or coming to, in the second week of September (10th to 18th September 2018, this year), you’ll be able to participate in a unique Nepali festival, Indra Jatra.
Indra Jatra continues on and on for eight days. You know what? The grandeur and vibes of the Indra Jatra festival are prepared in one of Nepal’s most famous World Heritage Site, Kathmandu Durbar Square. Kathmandu Durbar Square is also known as Hanuman Dhoka, which is located at the heart of Kathmandu Valley.
Also known as Yenya in the Newari dialect which means “Kathmandu festival”, Indra Jatra is the festival of the Newars, the original settlers of the Kathmandu valley. It is believed to have been established initiated in the 10th century by King Gunkama Dev to acknowledge the founding of Kathmandu. The prime attraction of the festival is the parade of chariots of Living Goddess, Kumari, Lord Ganesh, and Lord Bhairava that takes place over three days amid the alleys of old Kathmandu. Of course, there are also lots of performances such as dances and pageantry throughout the festival. Masked dancers generally perform their random yet interesting and watchful movements who enact various mythical tales of gods and demons. Indra Jatra Festival is a fete during which one can witness most of the popular traditional sway performed by skilled movers and shakers.
Another highlight of the Indra Jatra is the ritual display of the giant domino of Sweta Bhairava in Hanuman Dhoka. It is where the alcohol and rice beer is sprayed over the mouth of spectators. Drinking the sprayed alcohol by revelers is considered as the holy deed in Newari culture. Another equally huge mask, of Akash Bhairava, is also exhibited during this Jatra at Indra Chowk. As the name suggests, Indra Jatra, where every night, the groups of musicians, artists assemble to sing hymns. Certainly, the Indra Jatra festival shines up to its reputation as one of the valley’s biggest festivals. And you can be a part of this thrilling Jatra if you are lucky enough. Brace yourself, Indra Jatra is happening right now. Not only that, the bringing down of the Lingo on the last (eight) day signifies the termination of this greatest Newari festival.
All in all, the termination of the Indra Jatra Festival officially marks the beginning season of Dashain and Tihar which are celebrated with great enthusiasm not only in the Kathmandu Valley but throughout entire Nepal.