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Navadurga Jatra

Subash Shrestha May 25, 2020

Navadurga Jatra is a festival introduced from Malla dynasty in which the various demonic manifestation of goddess Parvati is represented through mask dance. This mask dance ceremony represents Nine Durgas. This indidenous around Bhaktapur city and nearby localities. Mallas were the followers of Shakti gods and believed Shakti gods protect their nation,  King and countrymen.

Navadurga

The dance ceremony includes thirteen mask participants out of which seven represents Durgas namely Kumari, Mahakali, Maheswari, Vaishnavi, Bramhayani, Barahi and Indrani and the remaining six masks includes:

Shiva

Ganesh

Bhairab

Seti Bhairab and

The Guardians: Sima and Buma Mahalaxmi lead the procession of masked dancers who draw power from Taleju and give to Navadurga. Hence, Mahalaxmi is known to be a paramount deity.

History

People believe that Navadurga inhabited the forest Jwala near Bhaktapur and they killed and drank the blood of people who passed by the forest. However, one day a priest named Sunanda bound the Navadurga using his mantra. Sunand is believed to have  excellent tantric knowledge. He worshipped and he took the Navadurga to his home and hid them. Worshipped and made sacrifices to Durgas.

It was said that if anyone sees them apart from Sunanda and Sumara, the Navadurgas would be free from the spell. And out of curiosity, Somara’s wife peeped the dancing Navadurgas one day which resulted in the escape of Navadurga. They then began to capture and eat pigs.

Costumes & Mask

Special mask makers from Chitrakar caste make the masks of Navadurga ritually and they prepare the masks four weeks earlier to Dashain. The Navadurga costume uses five colours namely black, green, gold-yellow, red and white.

New masks are made at the beginning of the Navadurga cycle every year and then cremate at the end . The dance is performed without a mask at Ganesh Chaturthi because the mask is not completed at that moment.  The dancers practice the dance for one to two months before Dashain. And the masks dancers are treated as God.

Sacrificing

Once the masks are completed, they are displayed after initial rituals at the Taleju temple in Bhaktapur Durbar Squares. Then Bramhayani is worshipped on the tenth day of Dashain by sacrificing buffalo.

At Brahmani temple followed by the procession of Navadurga towards the Taleju temple in Durbar Square. Karmacharyas hand over the mask to the mask dancer which symbolizes the handing over of Navadurgas in the hands of Ban Mala

Handing over to Gatha

Somara was able to bind them again but since they ate pig, it make them ritually impure and restricted at Brahmin’s home. They couldn’t risk the Navadurga to escape and kill people and animals.

Later Somara handed over the authority and responsibility dance to the Gatha community and this dance ceremony is being performed each year. Since then pigs are mostly sacrificed. Apart from pigs, other sacrifices include goats, chicken, sheep, buffalo and ducks.

  • Event Place: Bhaktapur

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