Exuberance in the Air
Amar B Shrestha
The Nepali New Year (April 14, this year) is a significant day for all Nepalis, no doubt. However, nowhere else in the country are people more enthusiastic, nor more expectant, than the people of Bhaktapur, for it is around the New Year that they have their most exciting festival, the Bisket Jatra. This year, it was held from April 11-18, and as expected, it was a most spectacular event that was attended by tens of thousands of eager spectators, and participated in by thousands of high-spirited revelers.
The centerpiece of this boisterous jatra (festival) is the massive rath (chariot) of Lord Bhairav, with a smaller chariot carrying Goddess Bhadrakali accompanying it on its parade through the ancient city’s streets and alleyways. The jatra begins from Taumadhi Square, near the Bhairav Mandir, and carries on around the city, resting at a place called Ga:Hiti for three days, where the locals come to pay homage. As a part of the jatra, two tall poles, called lingos, are also put up at two different sites, and these are brought down on certain days of the festival.
The mammoth chariots are pulled by hundreds of sturdy young men using heavy ropes, and at one point, they have a veritable tug-of-war, with one group trying to pull the chariots to their side of the city, and the other group doing likewise. Naturally, this is the most spirited part of the festival, and injuries are to be expected. The spirits are pretty high as it is, but more so due to the imbibing of copious amounts of local alcohol. Another highlight of the festival, which is also as exuberant, is the crashing of the two raths against each other. It’s certainly a jatra like no other!