October 23, 2021, Saturday
Nepal 1:37:26 pm

Centuries old Indrajatra festival observed despite pandemic

The Nepal Weekly
September 21, 2021

The centuriees old Hindu festival Indrajatra has been observed in Kathmandu with fanfare despite the risk of a new variant of COVID-19, as the country was passing through the second phase of corona infection.

The eight day festival said to have introduced during the reign of tenth century King Gunakam Dev, saw thousands of people taking part in at Basantapur Durbar Square, Kathmandu on Sunday the main day of the festival.

Last year, the festival was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, the procession formally began with the erection of a sacred wooden pole along with Indradhwoja or the flag of Lord Indra at Hanumandhoka in Basantapur Durbar Square on Saturday. As various dance sequences including the Lakhe and Mahakali dance are being performed on the occasion, there was a huge crowd to take part in the festival.

Various famous masked dances, folk drama, and chariot processions such as Ghintang Kisi, Nawadurga, and Pulukisi create an atmosphere of fun and merriment in the Basantapur Durbar Square area since Saturday. People who missed the chance to participate in the procession last year due to COVID-19 were taking part in the festival enthusiastically this year. Although many people have put on face masks, the social distance norm was not maintained.

Meanwhile, President Bidya Devi Bhandari and Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba visited Basantapur Durbarsquare and Hanumandhoka to take part in the historical and cultural festival of Indrajatra at on Sunday maintaining the age-old tradition.

Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana, Speaker of the Lower House Agni Prasad Sapkota, National Assembly Chairperson Ganesh Prasad Timilsina among others reached Hanuman Dhoka to observe the colourful celebrations.

President Bhandari, on the occasion, offered coins to Lord Ganesh, Lord Bhairav and Goddess Kumari and observed the chariot procession of these Hindu deities thereafter.

Sunday was the main day of the festival that began on the Bhadra Shukla Dwadashi (Saturday). Lord Indra, the Lord of Rain, is worshipped in this festival for good harvest in the season. On September 24, the final of chariot procession President Bhandari will receive tika and Prasad from Goddess Kumari. The ritual has it that the Head of the State swaps khadga (or sword) with Goddess Kumari on that day.

Indra Jatra, however, will conclude on that night after falling down the Indradhowj with a number of ceremonies such as Lakhe dance, Mahakali dance, Pulukisi dance among other dances that make the festival a grand festivity among the Newari community inhibiting the Kathmandu Valley. According to a legend, Indra’s mother Dakini needed parijat, a special type of flower, for some ritual purpose, so Indra disguised as a human being came down to the earth and reached Kathmandu to fetch them. But, when he was spotted by the people of Kathmandu they could not recognize the King of heaven and tied him with a rope thinking as a thief. Later his mother arrives in Kathmandu and elaborates the reason behind Indra’s mission and asks the local people to free him. The mother, in return, promises to bring fog and rain in the winter season for a good harvest. The statue of Indra tied with a rope is still worshipped in Basantapur of Kathmandu. From then onward the festival is being observed every year in the month of Bhadra as per the Hindi calendar. The festival is being celebrated by both the Hindus and Buddhists in Kathmandu.