A Living Heritage - That's What It Is

Features Issue 108 Oct, 2010
Text by Amar B. Shrestha / Photo: ECS Media

Kathmandu Durbar Square (also known as Hanuman Dhoka) is one of the seven Monument Zones that go to make the Kathmandu Valley a World Heritage Site. You should see the crowds in this square during the eight-day-long Indra Jatra festival which, going by the open shrine of Akash Bhairabh (represented by a massive bronze mask) that you see on the right side, is when this photo was taken. The icon is kept hidden inside shuttered doors for the rest of the year. And, while this famous square is always crowded, it is especially more so during this annual event to thank Lord Indra, the God of Rain, for having blessed the valley with ample rains and to keep him appeased so that he continues to do so in the coming year as well.

On the first day, a 36-feet-tall flag-topped pole known as Linga or Yasingh is erected in front of the palace gate to signal the beginning of the festival. It is a festival during which many events take place simultaneously. One of the main attractions are groups of Lakhey dancers (masked men representing various deities and demons) performing a variety of dances that are more vigorous than Zumba, more exotic than Kathakali, and more stylish than ballet. The other major attraction is the procession of chariots (raths) led by that of the Living Goddess Kumari followed by those of Lord Ganesh and Lord Bhairabh. In addition, a drama called Dus Avatar (ten incarnations) of Lord Vishnu is also staged every night in the square during the festival.

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