The Vibrant Vibes of Vermilion

By Amar B. Shrestha 2018-05-09

While the folks in Bhaktapur are making a lot of noise and doing more than just a bit of shoving and pushing and a great deal of hauling and pulling, days before and after the Nepali New Year (April 14) during their boisterous Bisket Jatra, their immediate neighbors in Thimi are also as busy hurling vermilion powder at the many gods in the thirty-two khats (palanquins) being paraded through the town, and smearing each other’s face red, as well. Unlike most festivals, behind which there’s bound to be one or more intriguing myths, including the one in Bhaktapur, which is believed to be based on the dream of a king who loved the myth of the cursed princesses whose newly-wed groom(s) die on the day after the wedding without consummation of the marriage, there’s no story behind the festival in Thimi known as the Sindoor Jatra.

Sindoor simply means vermilion in the Nepali language, and the celebration is to welcome the New Year and usher in spring. Another aspect is, however, similar to other festivals—there’s a lot of music and a lot of revelry. There’s also another town nearby called Bode, where a different kind of jatra takes place on the second day of the New Year. It’s famously known as the ‘Jibro Chedne (tongue piercing) Jatra’. As the name indicates, a selected volunteer’s tongue is pierced in public with a 10-inch-needle at the Pancho Ganesh Temple, and then he goes around town carrying a bamboo rack of oil-lit lamps.