Tuesday, January 18, 2011

World’s best festivals: Bisket Jatra - Bhaktapur, Nepal

Bisket Jatra is one of the most colorful and boisterous celebration in Bhaktapur.In Thimi, the local crowd celebrate it by carrying the palanquins of Hindu deities across the town square. People smear and throw vermilion , as they carry the palanquin of the deities. Yomaris(Newari rice cake prepared especially during New Year) are thrown from homes towards the Balkumari temple, while the boisterous crowd tries to catch it.According to a local belief, a son will be born to anyone who catches a yomari!

Offerings for the deity
Nepal has its official calendar that begins from the first day of the first month Baisakh. This very first day is observed as Nepali New Year which usually falls in the second week of April. People go for picnics, have get- togethers and celebrate the day socializing in various ways as this day is also a national holiday. The Bisket Jatra Festival of Bhaktapur coincides with Nepali New Year. There is a legend that every man who married the Bhasktapur - 

Vermilion on the palanquin of the deity

Princess died the honey-moon night. So, one brave prince stayed a wake the night to see that two serpents came out of the two nostrils of the princess when she was asleep. The prince quickly took out his sword and chopped the serpents head off the body. The next day morning, the serpents were displayed in a pole and the Bhaktapur amidst the celebration which continues till today in the form of Bisket Jatra Festival. Still the symbolic pole is erected in Taumadhi Tole of Bhaktapur during this festival. After two days of the erection of the pole, images of Lord Bhairab and his female counterpart Bhadra are enshrined in two large chariots and pulled through crowds of cheering onlookers. When the chariot reaches a sloping open square, there is a tug-of-war between the inhabitants of the upper and lower parts of the town. Winners are considered to be blessed with good fortune for the coming year. The festival concludes with several days of dancing and worship. Thimi, another ancient town of the Valley, also celebrates the New Year with special festivities.

Crowds gather to witness the jatra

Bisket Jatra heralds the start of the Nepali New Year and is celebrated with the most aplomb in Bhaktapur. In one of the most exciting annual events in the Kathmandu valley, a huge and ponderous chariot carrying images of the god Bhairab is hauled by dozens of villagers to Khalna Tole. The creaking and swaying chariot lumbers around town, pausing for a huge tug of war between the eastern and western sides of town. After the battle the chariots head to Khalna Tole, where a huge 25m-high lingam (phallic symbol) is erected in the stone yoni (female genital symbol) base.

In the evening of the following day (New Year’s Day), the pole is pulled down, again in an often-violent tug-of-war. As the pole crashes to the ground, the New Year offi cially commences. Variations on the Bisket Jatra theme can also be seen in the villages of Timi and Bode. In the former there’s a parade of images of the gods, with villagers throwing red powder over them. In the latter, there’s a tonguepiercing ceremony, with one villager spending the day with an iron spike piercing his tongue.

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