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Trishul Jatra: A shield against child infirmity
The people present in the Pashupatinath temple premises seemed curious seeing a priest, donned in a red colored top, performing rituals to initiate the Trishul Jatra at Bastsaleswori. He was offering flowers, vermilion powder, fruits and incenses to the ‘khat’, a wooden palanquin, and in the meantime preparing for a sheep sacrifice. It was also evident that the onlookers were hyped for the upcoming events.
The Trishul Jatra is one of the oldest festivals celebrated by the Newar community. It falls on Bhalbhala Ashtami. A huge mass of people residing in Kathmandu come to witness the finale of the festival which ends with children being carried between the spikes of a trident. The trident is a wooden fixture, revered as Lord Shiva’s primary weapon.
There are various legends and myths related to the Trishul Jatra. Explaining one, 57-year- old Purna Dangol stated, “In ancient times, the demons terrorized people living around Pashupati; they took away their children.” Dangol, also the administrator of Amalkot Kachari – the office that manages festivals in the Pashupati region– continued, “To teach them a lesson, the locals organized the Trishul Jatra, piercing the children of the demons in between the spikes of the tridents. They were then paraded around the city, cursing offensive words along the way.” Even today, the festival is observed to commemorate the ousting of the demons.
It is believed that even the spectators of the festival are granted access to heaven. Likewise, the myths also suggest that if children watch this festival, they will remain healthy and will grow up without any trouble.
Krishna Karmacharya, Sahila Pujari at Jay Bagheshwori presented a little-known aspect of the festival. He narrated the tale of an unfortunate fate of Bandhudatta – a tantric priest.
While performing his daily rituals for a goddess, she asked him for the sacrifice of the object behind the priest. The priest agreed, but to his dismay, found his own son standing behind him. However, acknowledging the deity’s request, he vowed to stick to his words, thus sacrificing his own son. Being a tantric, he was aware of the methods of reviving the dead. So, after the sacrifice, he locked his son inside a room with seven locks and asked his wife not to open the door before leaving on a quest for ‘Amrit’ – the elixir of immortality.
However, his wife opened the door out of curiosity, and found the son lying dead. Then she took his dead body and performed the last rites without waiting for her husband. Meanwhile, the priest heard the news about what his wife had done while he was at Chakubaku, the present day Baneshwar. The elixir fell to the ground, and the priest went on a self-exile.
Therefore, at the end of the procession, bhotos (traditional vests) symbolizing Bandhudatta, and his son are placed on a staff placed on a palanquin.
There are three palanquins used in the Jatra which are placed at the premises of Bajra Ghar, Jay Mangal Bastsalewori temple and Jay Bagheshwori temple. The khats of Bajra Ghar and Mangal Bastsalewori temples comprises a boy, each placed on their respective tridents, while the Jay Mangal Bastsalewori khat has a boy with two girls placed on his either side. The khats, along with the children, are then paraded from Bastslewori to Bajra Ghar, Jay Bagheshwori, around Shifal, and Raniban before returning to the Bastsalewori temple premises.