Indra Jatra – The Greatest Jatra of Nepal

Indra Jatra, also known as Yenya by the Newars, is one of the biggest street festivals celebrated in Kathmandu. Ye, meaning Kathmandu and Ya, meaning Celebration gives us the gist, that is, celebration in the city of Kathmandu.

Indra Jatra commences every year from the day of Bhadra Dwadasi to Ashwin Krishna Chaturdasi. The celebrations last for eight days from the 12th day of the bright fortnight to the 4th day of the dark fortnight of Yanla (ञला), the eleventh month in the lunar Nepal Era calendar (Nepal Sambat) This year, it starts from September 21, 2018 and lasts through September 29, 2018.

Main attractions of the jatra:

• Majipa Lakhey
• Pulukishi
• Sawa Bhaku
• Ganesh (Chariot)
• Bhairava (Chariot)
• Kumari (Chariot)

How Indra Jatra is celebrated:

indra jatra Bhairab the most vibrant festival in kathmandu Nepal

The festival starts with Yosin Thanegu (योसिं थनेगु), the erection of Yosin or Linga, a pole from which the banner of Indra is unfolded, at Kathmandu Durbar Square.

Another event on the first day is Upaku Wanegu (उपाकु वनेगु) when participants visit shrines holding lighted incense to honor deceased family members. They also place small butter lamps on the way. Some sing hymns as they make the tour. The procession begins at around 5 p.m.

The chariot procession begins three days after the commencement of the Jatra. Three chariots carrying human representations of the deities Ganesh, Bhairava and Kumari, accompanied by musical bands are pulled along the festival route through Kathmandu for three days. On the first day, the chariots are taken from Basantapur to Jaisidewal, Lagan, Bramha Tole, Bhimsen Than and back to Basantapur. On the second day, the chariots are led along Basantapur, Ittkha, Nara Devi, Tengal, Baangemudha, Asan, Indrachowk and back to Basantapur. Following a two-day break, the chariots are taken to Mahankal from Basantapur and then back to Hanumandhoka for the conclusion of the festival. Also, since 2012, the chariots have been pulled by an all women’s team on the third/final day of the chariot festival.

On the last day, the yosin pole erected at Durbar Square is taken down in a ceremony known as Yosin Kwathalegu (योसिं क्वथलेगु). It marks the end of the festivities.

Other important processions for Indra Jatra:

indra jatra festivals


Mata Biye
Mata Biye (मत बिये) means offering butter lamps. On the first day of the festival, Newars honor family members deceased during the past year by offering small butter lamps along the processional route. They also present butter lamps to relatives and friends on the way as a mark of respect.

Route: Maru, Pyaphal, Yatkha, Nyata, Tengal, Nhyokha, Nhaikan Tol, Asan, Kel Tol, Indra Chok, Makhan, Hanuman Dhoka, Maru, Chikanmugal, Jaisidewal, Lagan, Hyumata, Bhimsensthan, Maru.
Day: On the day of Kwaneyā.

The procession of the goddess Dāgin (दागिं) re-enacts Indra mother’s going around town in search of her son. The procession includes a man wearing a mask accompanied by a musical band. It starts at around 8 pm when the chariot of Kumari returns to Maru after completing its journey around the southern part of town.

The procession begins from an alley at the south-western corner of Maru square and passes by the western side of Kasthamandap. The participants follow the festival route north to Asan and then back to Durbar Square. The procession continues to the southern end of town before returning to Maru.

Route: Maru, Pyaphal, Yatkha, Nyata, Tengal, Nhyokha, Nhaikan Tol, Asan, Kel Tol, Indra Chok, Makhan, Hanuman Dhoka, Maru, Chikanmugal, Jaisidewal, Lagan, Hyumata, Bhimsensthan, Maru.
Day: On the day of Kwaneyā.

Bau Mata
Bau Mata (बौँ मत) consists of a representation of a holy snake made of reeds on which a row of oil lamps are placed. The figure of is suspended from poles and carried on the shoulders and taken along the festival route. The procession starts from the southern side of Kasthamandap at Maru. After Dagin procession returns from the upper part of town and reaches Maru, that is the cue for the Bau Mata procession to set off.

Route: Maru, Pyaphal, Yatkha, Nyata, Tengal, Nhyokha, Nhaikan Tol, Asan, Kel Tol, Indra Chok, Makhan, Hanuman Dhoka, Maru, Chikanmugal, Jaisidewal, Lagan, Hyumata, Bhimsensthan, Maru.
Day: On the day of Kwaneyā.

Masked Dance performances during the Jatra:

indra jatra festival

Pulu Kisi (elephant) dance
Pulu Kisi is believed to be the carrier of Indra himself and is believed to go through the streets of the ancient city Kathmandu in search for his imprisoned master. This tradition is performed by the residents of Kilagal tole. People view the masked creature with a roar of excitement. Its is mischievous and runs through the street knocking anyone that comes in its path and swings its tail in an amazing manner. Like other dancers, it also has a team of a musical band and a torch carrier who guides its way.

Majipa Lakhey
The majestic demon dance of Majipa Lakhey is performed on the streets and market squares. The Majipa Lakhey dancer and his band of musicians move with much agility. The Lakhey alongside Pulukisi helps in crowd control before chariot procession through the streets and crowds spreading the festive mood.

Sawa Bhakku
The Sawa Bhakku is a dance group from Halchok and makes its rounds along the festival route, stopping at major street squares to perform and receive offerings from devotees. The dancers consist of Bhairava (in blue) holding a sword and his two attendants (in red). The ensemble is also known informally as Dhin Nāli Sintān after the sound of their music.

Devi Pykhan
Devi Pykhan from Kilagal, is performed at Kilagal, Hanuman Dhoka, Jaisidewal, Bangemuda, Indrachowk, Kilagal . Dancers wearing masks of various gods & goddesses namely Bhairav, Kumari, Chandi, Daitya, Kawan, Beta, & Khya. As per historical sayings, this dance was created for peace among people suffering from diarrhoea.

Mahakali Pykhan
Mahakali Pykhan from Bhaktapur is performed at the Durbar Square and major street squares around Kathmandu. Khyāh Pyākhan (ख्याः प्याखं) features dancers dressed in a costume representing the Khyah, a fat, hairy ape-like creature. Their dance is marked by antics and a lot of tumbling.

Bhairava Exhibition

Masks of Bhairava are displayed at various places in the heart of Kathmandu throughout the eight days of the festival. Bhairava is known to be a terrifying aspect of Shiva. The largest ones are of Sweta Bhairava at Durbar Square, and of Akash Bhairava at Indra Chok. A pipe sticking out of the mouth of Sweta Bhairava dispenses alcohol and rice beer on different days. An image of Bākā Bhairava is also exhibited at Wotu, next to Indra Chok.

The mask of Aakash Bhairava is related to the Mahabharata. Some believe it to be the head of the first Kirat King Yalamber.


How it all started:

As story goes, Basundhara needed parijat (jasmine), a white flower found only on earth, for a ritual. Being a good son, Lord Indra descended onto earth disguised as a farmer in search for the flower. When he was plucking the flowers in Maruhiti, the locals caught him and accused him of stealing the flowers. Poor Indra was tied up to a pole and displayed as a thief at various places in the city for eight days. He wasn’t able to free himself, nor did any one believe his story.

His mother, worried about his long absence, descended onto earth and wandered the streets of Kathmandu in search of her son. When she found him, the city folk realized that they had, in fact, caught and bounded Lord Indra and immediately set him free. Out of appreciation of his release, Basundhara promised them a boon which ensured that Kathmandu would have enough dew to grow healthy crops. Lord Indra returned back to heaven with his mother and since then, he is known as the god of rain and his eight-day long capture is celebrated as Indra Jatra by the folks.

This is how our ancient cultures and traditions have formed and developed alongside our glorious civilization. The greatest jatra of Nepal, Indra Jatra is celebrated not as a compulsion, but as an identification of the proud Newars of Kathmandu.

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