Bisket Jatra – Unique To Only Bhaktapur & It’s Myths
This year Bisket Jatra (Biska Jatra), one of the most important festivals of Bhaktapur, will be held from 10th-18th of April, 2019. The main event of this Jatra will be held from 13th – 14th April, 2019. This week long festival is unique to Bhaktapur itself, and It marks the beginning of the New year of Nepal, Not Nepal Sambat, But Bikram Sambat Nepali Calendar that is widely accepted by all the Nepalese. During this week long festival , A Rath in the name of various gods and goddesses are erected, the Rath is made up of huge wooden tyres, a thick wooden base and on top of that base resides the shrines of various gods. A lingo ( A long wooden pole) is also erected as it marks the beginning of a new year. In Bhaktapur the festival is celebrated with gusto. And in kathmandu and Lalitpur there are various Raths erected as well, these Raths normally belong to the Kumari, Bhadrakaali and other deities. As it is the New year, the environment is filled with a different happiness and aura.
As this Festival is a huge one , there are times when news like people losing there lives due to being crushed by the huge rath or due to fights or simply being crushed to death by the mass of people is relatively common, though there haven’t been any kind of such news in previous year bisket jatra , This year the festival will be surely celebrated with much gusto and happiness among the people of Bhaktapur.
Table of content:
- How Bisket Jatra started
- Where to be held
- Myths Of Bisket Jatra
How Bisket Jatra started:
The Jatra unique to only Bhaktapur started during the reign of King Jagajyoti Malla of Bhaktapur. Though he isn’t as popular as King Pratap Malla, Just like all other Malla kings , he too was very fond of Newari traditions and cultures, It was during the reign of the Mallas, Newari culture flourished and was known widely around Nepal. Theres a story that goes with Bisket Jatra, That there was a young princess who remained unmarried because everytime she got married the groom would be dead the next day, this had caused her to remain unmarried after a certain time, and then a young lad who was brave enough to marry her came , even though his elderly mother had said not to, though a lady had told the lad to wait till the princess had fallen asleep and see what happened, little did they know this lady who had given the advice was Bhadrakaali herself in disguise and the lad had done so according to the suggestion and waited until the princess had fallen asleep in the night and then as the princess slept , two snakes came out of her nostrils, this had shocked the lad but as soon as he gained his composure , he took his knife and killed both the snakes. This event is said to lifted the curse from princess and had made them live happily. This story had always fascinated the King Jagajyoti Malla and he always loved this legend, so he wished that it would be remembered for prosperity , so he ordered that a festival would be held every year in Bhaktapur to commemorate this story.
Originally this festival was called “Bisyaku Jatra” (Bi and Syaku meaning snake laughter, In Newari language). But As time passed by , this Jatra came to be known as the Bisket Jatra. You can see clearly that the main Rath ( chariot) is always accompanied by the chariot of Bhadrakaali as per the deduction of the legend and the story because of which this marvellous festival came to happen. There are more stories about this very festival but this one is the main one, the other stories are linked here
Where to be:
The Biska Jatra is always held in Thimi, Bhaktapur. The people of Bhaktapur, put out various food stalls and other Newari cultural items and arts for sale during this festival, As it is also a time when the people of Bhaktapur get to show their cultures in full bloom, there are young Newari Ladies and Guys in traditional Newari dresses ( Haaku Potaasii) clothing , with vermilion tikas on their foreheads playing various Traditional Newari Music along side the Raths , there are even Laakhes who dance during the procession to show the prowess of the Deities that embody them. People are fed the traditional Rice wine as a blessing of the deities by the people who are on the Raths, It is at this time that people become violent to just get a taste of the blessings of the deities. And various fights break out during this time.
To get to the event you can simply take a bus or just ride towards Sidhapokhari , or through the road that goes towards Banepa, You can even take Buses and Micros that take you to Bhaktapur. The atmosphere is filled with gusto and people are very friendly there. Various roadside shops, Food stalls and other shops are also present in the event itself, It is a place where you can experience the Newari Culture to its fullest , Just like in every Jatra that is held in Lalitpur or Kathmandu.
Though the differences between the taste of the places may vary you can still taste the authentic taste of Newari culture, see the Traditional dresses, Hear the Traditional songs being played, the Instruments and you can also see people dancing to the tunes of the Newari songs , especially ladies , the dances of ladies in Newari traditional dances are mesmerizing and beautiful.
Newari Culture itself being a beautiful culture, Being able to experience it first hand through these various cultural events that hold so much meaning through the course of time something to behold. So, If you do want to watch this event that goes for a whole week, take a bus or a micro or use the various facilities of traveling that are available now to head out to thimi, And you will for sure have a great experience of Newari tradition, Cuisine, Music, History and its rich art.
Other Newari & Nepali Festivals
Myths Of Bisket Jatra
There are various myths about Bisket Jatra and there are a few listed below as well. Though Bisket Jatra is a unique Jatra in itself, It has a lot of stories, myths and other traditional belief.
Bisket Jatra is celebrated a whole nine-days and eight-nights event that is celebrated with a lot of gusto and witnessed by thousands of visitors , this event also involves erecting of a Lingo (pole), pulling of chariots of deities , worshiping them, and giving certain offerings to the deities.
Myth 1: Pythons and Rice Grains:
The exact date of Bisket Jatra is still unknown, Though there are a lot of legends associated with the first happening of Bisket Jatra. One of the legends goes as , During the rule of the Shivadev Kings, Bhaktapur was attacked by the Kirants where the people of Bhaktpur were looted and beaten up severely, Many were killed as well. So, to handle all these attacks, the king had consulted a tantrik called, Shekharacharya , who had transformed himself into a tiger and had chased away all the Kirants. Bhaktapur became a free and peaceful place, and harmony prevailed once again.
Though, One day, the tantriks wife wanted to see the an azingar (a Python), so , she asked the tantrik to become one. The tantrik obliged, but before turning into one , he gave his wife holy rice grains, and told her to sprinkle it on him after he had transformed into the python , so that he could transform into human again. But as the tantrik turned into a python, his wife became scared and ran off, all the while eating the rice grains herself, this transformed her into a python as well, and they understood that there was no way that they would be transforming back to their human selves, both the Tantrik and his wife committed suicide. The king then started erecting the lingo of this couple during Bisket Jatra.
Myth 2: The Suggestion of Bhadrakaali:
There was a young princess who remained unmarried because every time she got married the groom would be dead the next day, this had caused her to remain unmarried after a certain time, and then a young lad who was brave enough to marry her came , even though his elderly mother had said not to, though a lady had told the lad to wait till the princess had fallen asleep and see what happened, little did they know this lady who had given the advice was Bhadrakaali herself in disguise and the lad had done so according to the suggestion and waited until the princess had fallen asleep in the night and then as the princess slept , two snakes came out of her nostrils, this had shocked the lad but as soon as he gained his composure , he took his knife and killed both the snakes, This event is said to lifted the curse from princess and had made them live happily. This story had always fascinated the King Jagajyoti Malla and he always loved this legend , so He wished that it would be remembered for prosperity , so he ordered that a festival would be held every year in Bhaktapur to commemorate this story,
Myth 3: Bhairabs Wrath:
Bhairab is supposedly one of the forms of Lord Shiva. It is believed that Bhadrakali is the wife of Kashi’s Shiva. Bhadrakaali hadnt return and , Bhairab had went to search for her, while taking a human form, He had found out that she was being worshiped in Bhaktapur and had watched the ceremony in his human form. He was taller and different from all the people of Bhaktapur and one the Tantriks had deduced that this different person was Bhairab himself, This Tantrik wanted to catch Bhairab , a deity. Whilst trying to catch Bhairab, some of the Bhairab’s strands of hair (tuppi) came into the tantriks hand while Bhairab’s body vanished in thin air.
This act is considered to be a crime, and Bhairab was furious , to please the Bhairab , During Bisket Jatra, A chariot (Rath) in name of the Bhairab is pulled. There was a temple in name of the Bhairab constructed which was destroyed in the massive earthquake of 2015. Though the temple is supposedly being constructed soon, the statue of Bhairab is kept near the temple for devotees to worship. Theres a popular belief that anyone who visits the chariots during Bisket Jatra will have a prosperous and fulfilling life.
Myth 4: The Pole ( The Lingo):
The Lingo (The pole) is erected during the Bisket Jatra. The lingo represents the life of the son-in-law of the king of the legends , who had triumphed and killed the snakes that came out of the princess’s nostrils, the two red cloth pieces that are attached to the lingo represent the two snakes.
People go to the lingo to butter lamps, as snakes are a connection to the rain and water and as the New year approaches, so will the time to harvest , and pleasing the snakes is believed to give ample rain in that very year. People gather around the lingo and pray and light butter lamps , hoping their wishes come true. And just like the triumph of the young lad over the snakes, the devotees also belief to triumph over any hurdles that come into their lives. The lingo represents hope and prosperity, This very belief has been passed down generations and generations now and the belief still stands strong.
Bisket Jatra is a way of welcoming the New Year and celebrating the new beginning of the coming days, leaving behind past events and pain. And the belief of praying to the chariots, the lingo, the Bhairab, and believing in the legends , for a prosperous and happy year has been a very strong belief, even though a myth, belief in these very myths has kept the tradition going strong and long. Wishing you all a happy and prosperous New year.
Wishing you all a Happy New Year !!
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