Makar Mela

Heritage Issue 100 Jul, 2010
Text by Shraddha Bhattarai / Photo: ECS Media

Makar Mela is celebrated once in every 12 years and is among the most important religious carnivals for Hindu pilgrims all over the country as well as India.

Did you visit Panauti this Magh (January 15 to February 12) where the carnival, Makar Mela, which takes place once every 12 years, took place? The beauty and significance of the carnival is beyond mere words. An example of great religious faith, Makar Mela has its own significance. 

Panauti is an ancient city 32 km east-west of Kathmandu. Emblazoned with numerous temples, monuments, statues, patis and pauwas (public resting places), this place has its own cultural and historical significance. Panauti is believed to be made up of a single rock. So no earthquake has taken place in this area till date. To reach Panauti you can take local buses that leave every three to five minutes, making their way on the Arniko Highway. Or micro buses are available as well but are a little more expensive in comparison. Anyway, it’s your choice, whichever you prefer.

Talking about Makar Mela, it is believed to be the same as the Kumbha Mela, which takes place in Prayag, India. Hindu pilgrims from all over the country as well as India take part in this carnival. It is celebrated according to the solar system of the calendar when the sun enters from Kumbha to Makar rashi. It is believed that during this Mela, taking a dip in the holy river, Triveni Ghat (junction of three rivers: Rudrawati, Lilawati and Padhmawati), is believed to wash away all your sins as well as cure skin diseases. according to mythology, Lord Indra, the God of Heaven, was suffering from an incurable disease. He meditated for 12 years to please Lord Shiva in the hope that his disease would be cured. As Lord Indra used to bathe in the Triveni Ghat, Shiva decided to mix the nectar of his cure in the waters of Rudrawati. When Indra bathed in the holy water of this river, he was instantly cured from his ailment. Since then, it is said that every 12 years, the nectar of cure for all diseases flows through this river. It is also believed that if you take a bath in Triveni Ghat, you will be relieved from all your earthly sins and receive salvation. Another mythology has it that if you mix the water of Triveni Ghat with oil during the time of Makar Mela, then the oil will settle on the base whereas the water will float! Tradition has it that after taking a bath in the Ghat, you must visit the Indreshwor Mahadev Temple and offer the holy water to Gorakhnath so that your wishes will be fulfilled.

Panauti is also known as the city of Nagas (snakes). These serpents are believed to have come from Taudaha, Chobar to visit the temple of Lord Shiva during the Makar Mela. These snakes stay there for one whole month and leave after the completion of the Mela. So this year as well, like during the last festival 12 years ago, devotees witnessed these snakes around the Shivalaya. During Makar Mela, Panauti becomes a hotspot with its inviting environment. And additionally, there are other things you can explore there – from museums, wooden carvings, old monuments, chawali art (made from stems of barley and wheat) to various temples. A book exhibition was also organized this year by the tourism board of Panauti while the Makar mela lasted. Lalitpur Maha Yagya also organized the “Dance with thirty-five devotees’’, while a photo exhibitions, along with many more programs, were held there.