Bungadyo is the local name of Rato Machhendranath of Patan, Lalitpur. The deity is commonly called Karunamaya also. The chariot pulling festival of Bungadyo is one of the longest and most interesting festivals in the Kathmandu Valley. The festival is believed to have started in 11th century and being held every year in late April or in the month of May normally.
Both Hindus and Buddhists equally respect and worship Bungadyo. Both communities take part in the festival. The Hindus take Bungadyo as the god of rain regarding him as the reincarnation of the Lord Shiva while the Buddhists regard him as the Tantric reincarnation of Avalokiteshvara.
Bungadyo temple is located in the southern part of the Patan Durbar Square since 1673.
A 32 feet’s high chariot made out of the cane, woodand bamboo is prepared for the festival. In addition another similar but small in size chariot of Meenanath is also taken for the festival pulling both in a certain distance. Meenanath is regarded as the creator god and Machhindranath has been regarded as the breeder god.
The Bugadyo Rath Jatra is shared with the village of Bungamati which locates near to Patan. Every twelfth year the chariot of Bungadyo has to be taken to Bungamati. Road may be rough and have to travel through ups and downs.
The festival Bungadyo Rath Jatra begins atPulchowk, Lalitpur where the chariot is built. For about a month it wends its way through the streets of Patan, the core area of Lalitpur Metropolitan City.
On a specially selected day, a jewellery clad vest is displayed in presence of the head of the state at Jawalakhel. The Rath Jatra festival concludes with showing the Bhoto, the valuable vest.
The purpose of showing the vest is an announcement that if it is to be claimed by any one of ownership. It is believed that the vest belongs to Karkotak Naag, the serpent king. The valuable vest was gifted to a farmer who happens to cure eye ache of the concert of the serpent king. But one day, an unknown evil spirit lifted the vest from the farmer’s possession. Thus, dispute was raised between the farmer and the evil spirit claiming its ownership. The dispute was not solved. So the story links to show the vest to public to claim of ownership if any one authentically owns it.
The main reason to celebrate a chariot pulling festival is to pay respect Bugadyo. The festival is celebrated just before the monsoon season starts. It is believed that the territory will get plenty rainfall for good growth of crops. Thus, festival is celebrated for the peace and prosperity of the countrymen of Nepal.
There is a an interesting myth regarding to the origin of lord Machhindranath. Remarkably, Saint Gorakhnath is linked to the legend of bringing Machhindranath from Assam (India).
Gorakhnath, once upon a time, had happened to visit Nepal. He was very much hungry and was badly in need of food. In the evening, he rested at a woman’s house. Because of his much hunger Gorakhnath had enough food and continued to drink his favourite a lot. But the woman also relentlessly went on serving the drink to her guest. Gorakhnath became very much surprised on how the woman had managed so much drink to him? Much more to surprise Gorakhnath saw there a nine headed ridiculous Naag (snake) helping her serve the drink. Gorakhnath became very much angry with the Naag and the woman; then he carried the Naag with him in his bag and started to live somewhere in the valley putting the Naag who had the power for the rain as his seat. Because of this act, there was no rainfall in the kingdom for years. King Narendra Dev came to know that the Naag should be released. That would happen only when Gorakhanath would have to get up to pay respect to his Guru Machhindranath. With this view, theking formed a team of himself, Bandudatta Acharya and Rathan chakra Jyapu to bring Machhindranath from Assam (India). The team managed to bring Machhindranath to the Kathmandu Valley tackling a lot of obstacles. When Gorakhnath heard that his mentor Machhindranath had come to Nepal, he then hurriedly went to see him to pay respect. In the meantime the Naag was released. Then there appeared a heavy rain immediately. Since then it’s believed that better days reinstated in the country.
(By R. P. Narayan)