In the city full of festivals, Kathmandu, the biggest festival is Indra Jatra. Indra Jatra, the festival of classical dance is also known as Yenya, Ye means “Kathmandu” and nya means “celebration”, together it means “celebration inside the valley, Kathmandu”. The festival consists of two events. Indra Jatra is marked by masked dances of deities and demons, displays of sacred images and tableaus in honor of the deity Indra, the king of heaven. The other event is Kumari Jatra, the chariot procession of the living goddess Kumari.
Every year, the whole city of Kathmandu, Nepal, empties itself onto the streets for over a week to celebrate Indra Jatra. The celebration begins every year from the day of the Bhadra Dwadasi to Ashwin Krishna Chaturdashi. It is an eight-day festival celebrated in the city of festivals, Kathmandu. This year it is going to start from September 3rd, 2017, i.e. Bhadra 18, 2074, and will last for eight days. It is indeed the biggest festival in Kathmandu valley.
Here is everything you need to know about the rip-roaring festival, Indra Jatra.
History of Indra Jatra
It is believed that many centuries ago, Indra (king of heaven)’s mother needed some special scented flowers known as Parijat. Indra searched for those flowers everywhere he possibly could in heaven but could not find them. Indra then discovered Parijat flowers in the Kathmandu Valley and tried to steal them for his mother.
But, while he was taking the flowers for his mother, he was caught and imprisoned by people in the Valley. Indra’s mother came searching for him and people were shocked to know what they had done. Then they released Lord Indra and dedicated one of the most colorful festivals of Nepal to him to calm his anger down. And this is how the biggest festival in the Kathmandu Valley was formed and since then, all the locals in the town celebrate this festival in a very striking way.
Celebration of Indra Jatra
As I mentioned above, Indra Jatra is celebrated for eight days in Kathmandu Valley. The festival begins with the carnival-like erection of The Linga (Yasingh), a ceremonial pole, accompanied by the rare display of the deity Akash Bhairab, represented by a massive mask spouting Jaad and Raksi (Nepali local liquors). Households throughout Kathmandu (especially Newars) display images and sculptures of Indra and Bhairab at this time of the year. This thirty-six feet long wooden pole—Yasingh, is chosen with great care from the Nala forest in Kavre district, east of Kathmandu. According to traditional beliefs, Indra had received this Yasingh from Lord Vishnu for protection.
In Indra Chowk, the famous Akash Bhairav bust is displayed and it is decorated with flowers. This Akash Bhairava’s head is related to the Mahabharata story. Some believe it to be the head of the first Kirat King, Yalamber. Every night during the festival, different groups gather and sing bhajans and hymns at Indra Chowk, Kathmandu.
The first day of the festival is also observed by the Newars as a day to remember the family members who died during the past year by offering small oil lamps.
Finally, the Kumari (living goddess), leaves the seclusion of her temple in a palanquin and leads a procession through the streets of Kathmandu to thank Lord Indra, the rain god. The main attraction of the festival is the procession of chariots and masked dancers representing deities and demons. Indra is called Yanya in Newari. Jaad (Nepali local liquor) flows from the Bahirab statue, which is remarkable to look at in Hanuman Dhoka. The Dasavatar or the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu is also staged every night during the grand festival.
The procession during Indra Jatra consists of:
- Majipa Lakhey from Majipat
- Pulukishi (Yeravat Hathi) from Naradevi
- Sawan Bhakku Bhairav from Halchowk
- Mahakali and Kathi Maka Naach from Bhaktapur
- Ganesh (Chariot)
- Kumar (Chariot)
- Kumari (Chariot)
The Linga (Yasingh) is pulled down signaling the end of Indra Jatra festival on the last day of the festival. It is taken to the confluence of Bagmati and Bishnumati in Teku to be put to rest.
The end of the Indra Jatra festival heralds the beginning of Dashain and Tihar celebrated with great enthusiasm not only in the Kathmandu Valley but throughout the country.
Festivals in Nepal are often associated with deep-rooted religious faiths and traditions, but also have the benefit of bringing people from different backgrounds together and inspiring them to celebrate together. Everyone can take part in this festival. If you also want to experience the excitement of this grand festival, make sure you visit the historic city during the first week of September this year. The grand celebration will surely bring a great dose of excitement and lasting memories, so why get left behind? Visit Kathmandu this September and be a part of Indra Jatra!