One of the many exciting festivals in Lalitpur is Rato Machhindranath Jatra. It is a Newari festival celebrated by thousands of Newari societies in the locality. The festival includes two sacred chariots being pulled around the Patan area. The chariots are pulled by hundreds of men and it is an awesome moment to watch for everyone. The main chariot carries Rato Machhindranath, also known as the ‘red rain god’ inside it. The name Rato Machhindranath means ‘Red Fish God’. Rato as in red, Machhindra or Matsyendra means fish and Nath means god, even the statue of the deity is red in color. It is a very exciting festival filled with enormous amount of fun, entertainment, enthusiasm, and eagerness.
History of Rato Machhindranath Jatra
There are many amazing stories as to why the Rato Machhindranath festival is celebrated. It’s just that they are like different versions of the same story told by different people in their own set of values and beliefs. However, one of the most popular legends goes like this:
Guru Gorakhnath, one of the two disciples of Machhindranath, once came to Patan, but, no one knew his true identity. That is why he was not really welcomed and not given any meals. When he wasn’t given any meals from the locals he found the Nags (serpents), considered as the main source of the rain in the valley. He captured them and went on for meditation. While the nags were in captivity, they could not bring rain, resulting in a severe drought in the valley. So, the advisors of the King Narendra Dev asked him to bring Machhindranath, teacher of Gorakhnath from Assam in hopes to end the drought. When Gorakhnath heard that his teacher was in Patan, he decided to visit him, setting the serpents free. The valley then had plenty of rain. And, being thankful to Machhindranath, the locals started to worship him for saving them from drought and King Narendra Dev started the festival of Rato Machhindranath in 879 A.D.
RATO MACHHINDRANATH JATRA
Rato Machhindranath Jatra is a month-long chariot pulling festival in Patan that takes place during the month of April-May. Rato Machhindranath, the god of rain resides for six months in the temple located near Patan Durbar Square. The god of rain is brought to the chariot that is assembled in Pulchowk. The chariot is drawn through various parts of the town; the route begins from Pulchowk-Gabahal-Hakha- Sundhara-Lagankhel, and finally ends in Jawalakhel. On the last day of the Rato Machhindranath Jatra, Bhoto Jatra (Vest festival) takes place in Jawalakhel, Lalitpur. During Bhoto Jatra, the jewel-studded vest is displayed by the officials from each corner of the chariot so that the entire public will be able to have a glimpse of the sacred Bhoto. After this festival, Rato Machhindranath is then taken to Bungamati temple, where the Rato Machhindranath resides for the rest of the year.
Along with the chariot of Rato Machhindranath, another small chariot is also pulled behind it. It is pulled only by the little boys. This chariot is known as Chwokadyo in Newari and it carries equal importance in the locality as it houses the deity embodiment of Lord Shiva.
One of the best parts of the Rato Machhindranath Festival is watching the guys shout “Haste Haiste” while they pull the chariot with excitement. Everyone involved in the festival shows their best level of passion, excitement, and love for Rato Machhindranath.
Another best part is the thrilling sounds coming from Dhime and Bhusya, the traditional musical instruments used by Newars. Also, the serenading music from the Guruju Paltan’s flutes adds more excitement to the festival.
During this month-long festival, many devotees come to visit the chariot and worship Rato Machhindranath. Also, the atmosphere around the chariot is always exciting and fun. You can see people buzzing around the streets and mostly, many into street-shopping. It is quite a scene to watch hundreds or devotees praying while people shop nearby.
There are so many more rituals and prayers done during this whole festival than I mentioned in this post. I suggest you guys go and feel the real excitement for yourself this week in Patan area. It is a must-go festival for everyone and one should at least once in their lifetime feel the excitement of this Jatra.
I, being one of the Newars in the locality, really enjoy celebrating this colorful festival with my family and friends, and I am very excited about it being started today. If you also want to experience this amazing festival, do visit the Patan area this month; trust me, you’d not be disappointed! And if you’re thinking of watching the chariot pulling during the festival, I suggest you watch it from a safe distance away from the enthusiastic crowd.
Featured Image: Culture of Nepal
Video Credit: F9optic Photography