KATHMANDU, Sept 13: Indra Jatra is one of the most celebrated festivals in Nepal and large masses participate in the long processions that throng the streets of the Kathmandu valley.
The festival begins from the 12th day of the bright fortnight of the eleventh month of Nepal Sambat calendar and is celebrated for eight days.
In this festival, a lingo is erected which is a sacred wooden pole made out of trees shorn its branches and bark displayed through a procession at the Kathmandu Durbar Square. In the area of Bhaktapur, the lingos are erected in 21 different localities adding to the glitter of the festival.
It is a crucial festival for the Newar community and celebrated by all Nepalese alike with significant historical background. The Newar community worship the erected lingo till the last day of the festival, singing hymns and participating in a procession is part of the festival which revolves around the historic ancient cities of Bhaktapur, Lalitpur, and Kathmandu.
Historically it is said that Lord Indra once came down to earth disguised as a farmer looking for night jasmine (parijat), for his mother who required them to perform a ritual. While plucking the flower in Maruhiti, the locals who took him for a thief had him bound and put on display in the town square of Kathmandu.
Lord Indra’s absence had his mother descend on earth looking for him and when the dwellers realized their folly they released him immediately. The mother of Indra appreciated the gesture of the people and promised them enough dew throughout the winter in order for the farmers to enrich in agricultural produce.
It is thus believed that to this day, the Kathmandu Valley experiences foggy mornings from the advent of this festival.
King Gunakamdev commemorated the founding of this festival back in the 10th century.
People from the Newar community disguise in masks and perform various forms of dances in honor of Lord Indra, the King of heaven ( also known as the god of rain). They perform Pulu Kisi (elephant) dance, Majipa Lakhe (demon) dance, Sawa Bhakku dance, Devi Pyakhan and Māhākāli Pyakhan in different streets of the valley.
Masks of Bhairava, images of Indraraj Dyah (with his outstretched hands bound with rope) and tableau (Dasavatar) are also exhibited in various parts of the ancient towns of the valley during the festival.
Moreover, the street festival also witnesses the chariot procession of Kumari, the living goddess. The Kumari Jatra is believed to have started by King Jay Prakash Malla in 1756 AD. Three chariots representing the deities of Ganesh, Bhairava, and Kumari are drawn through different parts of the town for three days. The locals also offer butter lamps along the processional route in honor of their deceased family and relatives.
The festival ends on the eighth day after the lingo erected at Basantapur is taken down.
It is also celebrated in parts of the Terai region, and northern India.