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September 11, 2019

Mystical Indra Jatra festival of Kathmandu valley

Celebrating the captivity of Lord Indra

  • Sushant Lama
Indra Jatra

Lord Indra is considered as the god of rain and heaven in Hindu mythology and Indra Jatra is the celebration of God Indra’s day or thanking day to Lord Indra for rain. According to some people, it is also the festival celebrated in the honor of Bhairab, the reincarnation of Shiva, who is believed to destroy evil. Indra Jatra is one of the major and exciting festivals of Kathmandu valley celebrated mostly by the Newari community. Newars celebrate Indra Jatra as Yenya Punhi.

Indra Jatra is an annual festival that is celebrated for eight days. The festival begins every year from the day of the Bhadra Dwadasi to Ashwin Krishna Chaturdasi. Indra Jatra is also liked by many tourists. During Jatra tourists from various places come in Kathmandu to enjoy the exotic view of the procession of the chariots, Various cultural dances, and to take the blessing of the living goddess Kumari.

Indrajatra
Indra Jatra

Indra Jatra is an eight-day long festival that begins every year from the day of the Bhadra Dwadasi to Ashwin Krishna Chaturdasi in September. It begins with the erection of thirty-six feet long wooden pole made up of pine called The Linga (Yasingh), a ceremonial pole, at Basantapur Durbar Square in front of the old Hanuman Dhoka palace. For pole raising ceremony hundreds of people gather at the Basantapur square surrounding the temples. The Pole bears Indra’s flag which is believed, Indra received from Lord Vishnu for protection.

Newari people observe the first day also by remembering the family members who died in the past years and igniting oil lamps for them. Due to this during Indra Jatra palace, buildings and roads around Kathmandu Durbar Square are illuminated with oil-wicks and view is truly spectacular.

Finally, the Kumari (living goddess) is taken out from seclusion of her temple in a palanquin and a procession through the main streets of Kathmandu in the chariot is lead by Kumari to thank Lord Indra for rain. Kumari takes a peek out of the window from one of the historical sites in Kathmandu Durbar Square during various days of Jatra. The procession of chariots takes place for the week and is accompanied by small chariots of lord Ganesh and Bhairab. Chariots are pulled through various older parts of the city.

Indrajatra
Indra Jatra

Deities like Swet Bhairab and dances of Majipa Lakhe from Majipat, Devi Nach and Pulukishi from Naradevi, Sawan Bhaku Bhairav from Halchowk, Mahakali and Kathi Maka Nach from Bhaktapur are also displayed during Jatra. All the dances are displayed around the Hanuman Dhoka area and the ten reincarnations of Lord Vishnu also is staged every night.

History of Indrajatra

Once Indra’s mother ‘Dakini’ needed Parijat-a kind of flower- for some religious ritual so Indra disguised as a human being and came to earth to pick them. But, he was caught stealing flowers and people tied him with ropes and didn’t let him go. Then Indra’s mother Dakini was worried about her son who didn’t return for a long time. She came to earth, found him and requested the villagers to let him go. After villagers found who they were, they agreed to let Indra go on the condition that every year Lord Indra has to come to the earth at the same time and he will be displayed as a prisoner for seven days. Also, the farmers made Dakini promise to provide them with enough rain for better productivity of crops. They also made sure that Dakini would take the deceased members of their family to heaven with her.

Indrajatra
“Goddess Kumari” being carried during Indra Jatra

The statue of Lord Indra tied as prisoners is still worshipped in Maru Tole in Kathmandu. This image is also put on display in different places during Indra Jatra.

King Jaya Prakash Malla introduced extra one day in 1765 B.S called Nanicha yaa. On this day chariots are pulled through Naradevi, Ason, Indrachowk and Hanuman Dhoka. In Indra Chowk Akash Bhairav decorated with flowers is displayed and every night different groups of people gather and sing bhajans and hymns.

Indra Jatra ends by pulling down the Linga (Yasingh). It is taken to the junction of two rivers, Bagmati and Bishnumati in Teku to be put to rest. The end of Indra Jatra also marks the beginning of the main festivals of Hindu: Dashain and Tihar celebrated with great joys throughout the country.

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