Story behind the festival
As many as 29 Guthis come together for the Kathmandu Valley's longest festival Indra Jatra that began on Sunday. There are various mythical stories related to the festival. One such popular story is about the King of Heaven, Indra who came down to earth to get a special flower parijat and Karkalo (taro) for his mother, who was fasting and worshipping Goddess Basundharadevi.
Upon landing in the Kathmandu Valley, Lord Indra is said to have intruded into a garden to pluck the special flower for his mother. When the owner of the garden found this out, he used Tantrik powers to capture Indra and tied him with ropes in public for humiliation.
Knowing her song is tied up, Indra’s mother came down to the earth and promised the garden owner that she’d provide fog for a better harvest in return for her son. Since then, it is believed that fog ensures a better harvest.
Twenty-one lingos erected in Bhaktapur
Indra Jatra, one of the biggest festivals of the Newar community, has begun from Sunday amid much fanfare. The festival dedicated to the god of rain and king of heaven, Indra, formally began with the erection of a lingo (sacred wooden pole) at Hanumandhoka in Basantapur Darbar Square.
Similarly, 21 lingos were also erected at different places of Bhaktapur to mark the festival. Every year during the festival, these lingos having similarity with the lingos of Bisket Jatra are erected on Bhadra Shukla Pakshya Duwadasi as the symbol of Lord Indra. In Nepal Bhasa, these lingos are known as Yaama Dyo.
The locals of Bhaktapur jointly erected 20 to 30 hands-tall Yaama Dyo at places such as Suryamadi, Datatreya, Golmadi, Sukuldhoka, Chasukhel and Nasamana. According to the elderly locals, earlier the lingos were erected in 32 different areas but their number diminished with time due to the inactiveness of various Guthis.
Locals worship these lingos every evening from Monday till the end of the eight-day long festival. Krishna Prajapati, a Bhaktapur local, shared, "After four days of regular worship, Mupatra (main artist) and Yaamataa (one who carries the oil lamp) from different areas of Bhaktapur circle the city on the fifth day of the festival."
Meanwhile, the festival ends with Pulukisi Jatra, one of the major attractions. Groups of people from Bulucha, Bhaktapur participate in the parade amid traditional music and dances. According to cultural expert Tejeshworbabu Gwonga, Indra Jatra holds a special significance as it is the celebration of victory over evil.
Aakash Bhairab of Indrachowk is taken out from his temple and placed on a stage decorated with a variety of flowers for the eight days of Indra Jatra. He is also known as Swan Wen (crazy about flowers). On the first and last day of the festival, samyabaji along with traditional Newari liquor and rice beer is distributed among devotees through a pipe coming out from Aakash Bhairab’s mouth.
Indradhoj is erected in front of the Taleju Temple. It is also called Yaashin. Those involved in erecting the Indradhoj enjoy a special feast. The Indradhoj should be 32 hands or above 32 hands tall. A tree trunk for the Indradhowj is brought from the forest of Nala and it is selected by a goat.
During the eight days of Indra Jatra, the doors of Swet Bhairab in Hanuman Dhoka are opened. Traditional Newari liquor and rice beer is distributed through a pipe coming out from Swet Bhairab’s mouth throughout the festival.
After the erection of the lingo, Majipa Lakhey along with Jhyalincha comes out for the festival.
Majipa Lakhey is regarded as an Aaju Devata (the God of Peace).
Majipa Lakhey is supposed to show the way for the goddess Kumari during her chariot pulling ceremony.
According to legends, Lord Indra got caught while he was stealing flowers from a garden on earth for his mother. As a punishment, the owner of the garden tied him with ropes. To symbolize the incident, an idol of Indra is tied at Maru.
Daangi the mother of Lord Indra. At the end of the chariot festival, Daangi comes out wearing white mask and travels the same route as the chariot for three days. People who have lost their family members the same year travel behind the Daangi scattering satbij (seven different grains) and pray for the deceased.
Butter lamps are kept on a reed stand formed in triangular shape having three steps. Revelers carrying the reed stand make round of the city along the Daangi’s route.
Sab Bhaku is a traditional dance showcased during Indra jatra where there deities--Chandi, Kumar and Halchowk's Aakash Bhairav tour around Kathmandu Durbar Suare. The locals invite them in their areas and worship them. It is believed that the places, where these deities dance, become free from diseases and evils.
Pulukisi means a white elephant that is Lord Indra’s bahan (vehicle). The Pulukisi dance symbolizes the wandering of Indra's white elephant in search of his master.
Devi Naach is one of the official dances performed during the Indra Jatra festival. It is showcased in five different places of Kathmandu.