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Bisket Jatra

Anisha Rauniyar May 6, 2020

Bisket Jatra, the weeks-long festival of Bhaktapur celebrates the ancient lunar Nava Barsha (New Year) . It is the only festival that does not adopt the Nepal calendar centered on the moon. The jatra starts after a special tantric ceremony in Taumadhi Tole in Bhaktapur at th Bhairab temple.

Bhairav and Bhadrakali are then mounted in large chariots (locally called Rathas) and driven by crowds of cheering onlookers. People recreate a story passed back over the ages during the festival.

File:Bisket Jatra at Taumadhi.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

The chariots, stop for a tuge of battle between the city’s eastern and western sides .Then it travel down a steep road that leads to a river where a lingam (vertical pole) 25 m high is built. The pole is taken off on the evening of the next day. Again in a war tug even then the pole falls as the real new year ends.

Bisket Jatra is also conducted with Jibro Chhedne Jatra and Sindoor Jatra in Thimi and Balakhu, respectively. The celebrations end with a few days of ceremonial entrance, music and merry-making.

On this day, kids (including adult kids!) give their mothers candy, vegetables, and presents to express love and appreciation. Those whose mothers have passed away visit Mata Tirtha in Kathmandu’s west, take a holy bath . They also make offerings in memory of their mother.

History

It concerns a king of the prominent Malla family, called Jagjyoti Malla. The Malla period lasted in Kathmandu Valley from 1200 CE to 1769 CE. Newari art and architecture flourished under the Mallas, owing to enthusiastic royal patronage. In 1482, King Yaksha Malla divided the blessed valley into three kingdoms. With his three sons reigning over Kantipur (Kathmandu), Lalitpur (Patan), and Bhadgaon (Bhaktapur). King Pratap Malla of Kantipur’s reign (1641-1674) was a period of great cultural achievement, with the building of several glorious temples .Such as the Hanuman Dhoka Palace, next to it the Taleju Temple, and the Rani Pokhari in central Kathmandu.

King Jagajyoti Malla of Bhaktapur, while not even similar to King Pratap Malla in terms of creative feats, nevertheless etched his name in history books .He was known as the King who instituted Bisket Jatra, a nine-day festival special to Bhaktapur. He was intrigued by legend and mythology, and the creation of Bisket Jatra as an annual occurrence was attributed to a especially fascinating story.

This was initially named Bisyaku Jatra, which is now more popularly recognized as Bisket Jatra (in Newari, snake laughter means bi and syaku). Besides Lord Bhairab’s main rath (chariot), there is also a rath which is followed by Goddess Bhadrakali.

A procession of the two raths, along with palanquins bearing other deities, starts in front of the Temple of Nyatapola, and travels through various localities of the city, halting on the way at some points. Two lingos (55-ft-tall totem poles) was placed in two separate places on New Year’s Eve. One of the lingos is put down on New Year’s Day crashing symbolizing the serpent’s attack. Similarly, the two raths are rendered to smash into each other to symbolize the effective consummation of the union.

  • Event Date: 11/04/2020
  • Event Place: Kathmandu Valley

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