October 2, 2022, Sunday
Nepal 1:37:26 pm

Observing Indrajatra festival

The Nepal Weekly
September 13, 2022

The festival is losing its originality in the name of modernization: Uddhavman Karmacharya

On the main day of Indrajatra, Friday, chariots of Kumari, Ganesh and Bhairava were pulled by enthusiastic youths of Kathmandu. On this occasion, President Bidya Devi Bhandari and Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba along with the Speaker, Speaker and Ministers of the National Assembly visited Basantpur Durbar area and observed the Jatra. Kathmandu Metropolitan City Chief Balendra Shah and Deputy Chief Sunita Dangol were the main attraction during the event observed by thousands of crowds gathered at Basantapur Durbarsquare and Hanumandhoka. Pulukisi, Savo Bhakku, Mahakali, Lakhe, Jhyalincha etc. also circumambulated the city along with the chariots of deities as usual. On the day of Bhadra Shukladwadashi, when a lingo with the Indra flag is placed in front of Hanumandhoka the Indrajatra festival would usually start. This Jatra is celebrated for eight days with various types of dances, chariot processions and worship of gods and goddesses. Like many other festivals, this festival also marks the victory of Gods and Goddesses over demons and other evil forces.

Indrajatra and Kumari are considered complementary to each other. Indra Jatra, Taleju Temple, Kumari, Bhairav and Ganesha are all very important aspects of this festival. So on this occasion we had got an opportunity for a brief encounter with Uddhavaman Karmacharya, who has been the priest of Taleju temple for nearly three decades. Uddhav is leading the entire worship performances as the chief priest of Taleju temple.

Uddhav says he is not much satisfied with the way now a days Indrajatra festival is being celebrated.

“Jatra is the same. But there is definitely some difference in the way we celebrate the occasion, if we compare with the past practices,” he said.

“In the past, people were afraid of the King. A lots of plainclothes policemen (CID) were deployed here and there during the festival. They only had guns. Now everyone is behaving like a king, everyone has a gunº.

ºNow a days there have been growing incidents of conflicts surfacing during Indrajatra festival,” hs said. Drinking, gossiping and fighting have become common during the chariot pulling festival these days,” he pointed out. “Earlier there were less facilities but people were well disciplined, said Uddhav. “However, now the facilities are being misused.” “Earlier only the person concerned used to worship the Gods and Goddesses and lit the candle, everyone else watched and enjoyed it. But now more people are participating than required.º

He also expressed dissatisfaction over traditional music band played during the festival. Then Kathmandu Metropolitan City Mayor Vidya Sundar Shakya provided Rs. 3 crore for the band, but that was misused, he pointed out. “The original traditional music band was not played during the festival.”  Foreign influence is growing in our culture and tradition, which is a matter of concern for all of us, he added. Different music should be played while dancing Lakhe and pulling Pulu Kisi, everybody could easily recognize the different. But now there is not much difference between the music played during the two events, he pointed out.

“In the name of modernization and innovation we are losing our originality and cultural value.” “Now a days we see high government officials worshipping the Kumari without taking off their shoes, which is ridiculous,” he noted.

He even said that “You should worship Kumari, Bhairav and Ganesha with faith in your inner heart! That makes a difference. We don’t need to pretend and say in loud voice “I did it all.” Proper rules and regulations must be followed while performing daily Puja, he added.

According to Uddhav, Indrajatra festival is being celebrated since the Lichhivi period. Worshipping Living Goddess Kumari is also centuries old tradition. However, Jayaprakash Malla started the festival of pulling the chariot of Kumari since Nepal Era 882. He had built separate house for Kumari at Basantpur, which is now called Kumari Ghar.

Kumari is the Goddess Taleju in human form, according to Uddhav. Although worshipping Kumari seems to be part of Indrajatra, in fact they are separate, he pointed out. There are different legends about Kumari and Indrajatra.

Kumari is also linked with royal Power, he said. “That’s why in the past, every new King used to get blessing from Kumari.” The King needs power to rule the country and Kumari is the source of power, he added. Therefore, it is very important for the King to worship Kumari.