Kathmandu Valley is not only the capital city in administrative terms but also the historical center of Nepal. The city boasts with ancient cultures dating back to centuries-old traditional practices, customs, and religion with artistic and articulate monuments, showcasing the striking architectural definition of that era.
Those monuments standing even to this date is not just an ancient building; every piece of wood is a witness of our becoming throughout the years; Nepal’s history is engraved in them. Along with admiration and awe, these monuments also acts as a center of culture and celebration.
Bisket Jatra, one of the greatest street festival in Nepal, is celebrated along the complex of the medieval monument of Bhaktapur Durbar Square. As Kathmandu Valley is the living museum of history and art and culture of Nepal, Bisket Jatra is a major cultural part of the Valley denizens.
Bisket Jatra in Kathmandu Valley
The celebration of Bisket Jatra takes place in Bhaktapur of Kathmandu Valley for nine days and eight-night. As popular as the festival of Bisket Jatra, originally it was called Bisayaku Jatra, as per Newari language and translated as Bi meaning “Snake” and Sya meaning “Kill”.
Although the festival unfolds a different story to its celebration, it is also marked as the celebration of New Year according to Nepali calendar (Bikram Sambat); however, the festival of Bisket Jatra itself is not related to Bikram Sambat.
The chariot procession of deities Bhairav and Bhadrakali followed by other deities in khats (palanquin) is the major event of Bisket Jatra. Beginning from the front of Nyatpola temple, the chariots then moves through different parts of the city while stopping occasionally so people can worship.
How and who started Bisket Jatra in Bhaktapur?
Many rulers reigned Bhaktapur over the years. It was especially during King Pratap Malla time (1641-1674) when Bhaktapur witnessed great cultural achievement with the construction of monuments like Hanuman Dhoka Palace, Taleju temple and Rani Pokhari.
However, the credit to Bisket Jatra is given to King Jagajyoti Malla, even though the cultural feats is not even close to King Pratap Malla.
King Jagajyoti Malla became fascinated by the legend of Bisket Jatra and engraved his name as the king who initiated Bisket Jatra.
As per the famous legend, once there was a beautiful princess, whose husband would die the very night of the wedding. All the young men were in terror to marry her; however, a son of an older woman came forward to marry the princess despite her mother’s denial. It was from the advice of another old lady that encouraged the boy.
On the night of the wedding, even when the princess fell asleep, the boy remained awake as per the advice of an old lady. Then, around midnight, two snakes were slithering out of princesses’ nostril. Before they could grow any further, the boy cut the snakes into pieces.
Later, it was known that the other old lady was Goddess Bhadrakali, who then, was kept in a chariot and pulled around in celebration for saving the country. So, during Bisket Jatra, one of two main chariots is of Bhadrakali.
What happens during the celebration of Bisket Jatra?
Bisket Jatra is an annual event celebrated with much devotion and vigor in different parts of Nepal, especially in Bhaktapur, Timi, and Bode. Of all the different place of celebration, Bhaktapur witness the major group of audience.
On the very first day of Bisket Jatra, Bhairab and Bhadrakali are worshiped in their respective chariots in Bhairab temple in Taumadi Tole in Bhaktapur amid various special tantric rituals.
The same evening both chariots are pulled by hundreds of people as a tug of war between the upper and lower part of Taumadi Square.
They try to pull the chariot to their direction because the first day is Deo Kwayo Bijaayegu meaning “God comes down to the mass of people from his own sacred home.” But as per the ritual, chariots are pulled towards west from Taumadi Square.
Then, on the second day, locals visit the chariot and offer their prayers, while a particular group take care of chariots and performs various rituals.
The third day of Bisket Jatra follows the same as in the second day. People also offer their prayer and worship the God and Goddess, whose chariot was pulled on the first day.
The fourth day is the last day of the year (Nepali New year) when the major event of Bisket Jatra takes place.
Two lingos (poles) are erected in two different areas of Bhaktapur; one in the Pottery square around noon and another with two extended arms (representing snakes) in Bhelu Khel in the evening.
Thousands of people gather around to witness this unique celebration. The pole in Bhelu Khel is crashed down symbolizing the killing of the snake after the 24 hours of its erection. However, the pole in Pottery Square is kept for another five days.
On the fifth day, people gather around Bhelu Khel and Pottery Square to worship the deities while sacrificing animals like goats and cocks.
Along with Bhairab and Bhadrakali, other deities like Mahakali, Mahalaxmi, Barahi, and Ganesh are worshipped.
The sixth day of Bisket Jatra is celebrated as Sindur (vermilion) Jatra in Thimi. People throw vermilion power over each other in the joy of welcoming New Year and spring.
Tongue Piercing event is also observed in this day in Bode. A male volunteer gets his tongue pierced in a spiritual trance with an iron spike and walks around the town with a round bamboo rack with flaming torches in the shoulder. This event takes place during the chariot demonstration.
Kha Lawayaakeu Jatra meaning “God and Goddess from two opponents getting together” is celebrated on the very same day in different locations. Lord Ganesh and Bhairab’s chariot are brought together from two different places in Pottery Square, while people throw vermillion powder to each other marking Sindur Jatra.
Likewise in the eastern part of Dattatreya Temple in Suryamadi tole, the festival is celebrated with small chariots of God Bramayeni and Maheshwari.
On the seventh day of Bisket Jatra, the festival is celebrated worshipping local God and Goddess in different areas. Friends, family, and relatives come together to celebrate the festival and have a special feast too.
Eighth Day is rather a colorful day when people wearing traditional dresses come in the street and visit the whole city in a chariot procession.
They also offer food items like fruits and sweets to local God and Goddess. The whole ambiance gets filled with joy as traditional music and dance starts taking place.
The Last Day
The last day of Bisket Jatra marks the pulling down of lingo (pole) erected five days ago in Pottery Square. The pole is drawn amid the various rituals.
Then, as evening falls on, Deo Tha Bijaayegu meaning “God now returns to his own sacred home” is observed when chariots of Bhairab and Bhadrakali are pulled towards an upward direction.
As the festival of Bisket Jatra is now coming to an end, people come together playing various traditional music instruments.
When is Bisket Jatra 2020?
Although we are around the mid-year 2019, the festival of Bisket Jatra is long gone. As the New Year, according to Nepali calendar is usually in the month of April, Nepal has already celebrated Bisket Jatra 2019.
Coming to the Bisket Jatra 2020, it starts from 9th April. The main event takes place on 13th April when two lingos are erected, and it also marks the New Year of Nepal.
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