Kathmandu is a city of history. The history of Lord Mahadev’s holy Pashupatinath region is not mentioned in any poetry or history copperplate or inscription. However, the tolerance, culture, civilization, and cultural heritage of this city dweller has become an invaluable ancient asset for the world today.
Centuries ago, Kathmandu, which did not even exist on the world map of the most developed nations of the world, had laid the foundations of social development with monasteries of different significance, different temples of civilization, Bahals, Viharas and a just justice system for equality.
There is a taste of civilization and peace in the soil and climate of Kathmandu and Kathmandu is not only a city of gods and temples but also a city of many festivals and ancient civilizations with diversity. Indra Jatra i.e. ‘Yenya Poonhi’ in the Newari language is one of the biggest festivals celebrated in Basantapur, an ancient settlement of Kathmandu city.
History of Indra Jatra
When Lord Indra of Heaven came to Kathmandu in human form to steal the night jasmine flowers ( in Nepali parijat) and taro plants (in Nepali karkalo) required for the fast of Lord Indra’s mother Vasundhara Devi, the locals used their power to trap Indra and tied to the middle of the road. It is said that this festival was then started to celebrate with the image of tied Indra. The eight-day long Indra Jatra festival falls in September and is one of the most exciting and revered festivals of the Newari Community.
The idols of Indra tied at Indrachowk, Kilagal, and Naradevi in Kathmandu are also displayed during this festival.
In order to free his son Indra, who was taken captive by the people of Kathmandu for his own sake, his mother herself came to Kathmandu and took Indra back, promising to give fog in return for her son. The legend that rice grows and ripens on time due to the same special fog in this season is still alive in the vernacular. The main function of Indrajatra is to establish a lingo (flag) and to organize a chariot yatra in a joyous atmosphere.
According to the Newari tradition, this festival starts at Bhadra Shuklapaksh on the day of ‘Yanlathwa Dwadashi’. Thereafter Indra Jatra is celebrated for 8 days with dance, song, and chariot yatra related to different god and goddesses. There has been a tradition of celebrating by wearing ‘Khwapa’ (meaning mask) of various gods and goddesses on there face and dance with the community.
After a special ritual by worshiping the tantric method, a black he-goat is left in the forest at Ugrachandi Nala in Kavre district, the first tree touched by that he-goat in the forest is cut down and prepares the Indra’s flag lingo on Ekadashi day with a special ritual. The lingo prepared in this way is also called ‘Yonsi’ in the local Newari language. The lingo is placed in front of the idol of the great Kal Bhairav at Hanuman Dhoka in Basantapur Durbar Square with a tantric method. Then after the Indra Jatra festival starts.
The special lingo prepared in this way is decorated with various symbols and flags. A gold plated Indra sitting in the elephant is kept at the base of lingo and is worshipped.
The tradition of lingo is also performed according to a very special cultural process. In this process, the band of the Nepal Army, the platoon of the priest, and the group of Panchebaja get involved in this important process by playing Mangal tunes. The tradition of hoisting the Indra’s flag was stared by the then King Pratap Singh Shah. On this occasion, the temple of Shwetabhairav in the Darwar area of Hanumandhoka is opened to the public once a year.
In Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, Lalitpur, Dhulikhel, and Dolakha, Indra, the god of rain and contemporaries, is worshiped. In Kathmandu, the Indra Jatra is believed to have been practiced by the Lichchavi king Gunakamdev in the tenth century, while the Kumari Jatra is believed to have started in the mid-eighteenth century. On this day, the unprecedented tolerant relationship between the Buddhist Newar community of Kathmandu and the Newar communities of Hindu faith can be seen in Basantapur Durbar Square in Kathmandu.
Indra Jatra is also explained in traditional and archeological significance. This procession is described in detail in Valmiki Ramayana, Mahabharata, Kalika Purana, Devi Purana, Vishnu Dharmottar Purana, Harivansh Purana, Brihatsamhita and Bhavishya Purana.
There is a tradition of making a chariot yatra of Kumari, Ganesh and Akash Bhairav (Savbhaku) as living goddesses in the Basantapur Darwar Square area three days after the lingo was performed. Akash Bhairav of Halchowk (Bhakkunachahalchowk), Mahakalinach of Bhaktapur, Majipamat Lakhenach of Majipat, pulukisi dance is performed. Also, during this special eight-day period, the Dasavatar of Vishnu is also shown in the Trilok Narayan temple in front of the Kumari House.
Also read about: Kumari (A living Goddess)
It is also customary to stay awake all night at Indradaha in Dahchok, about 7.2 km west of Kathmandu, and take a bath the next day. At midnight, the idol of Akashbhairav, the head of the Kiranti king Yalambar, at Indrachowk, is worshiped outside the temple, adorned with a variety of flowers. Also, there is a tradition of pouring liquor for the general public from the tube connected to Bhairav’s mouth as an offering (prasad) in the music of Dhimebaja.
On the third day of the lingo procession, i.e. on the day of Yanlathwa Chaturdashi, the living goddess Kumari, Bhairav and Ganesh, who has been considered by the Newar community as ‘Kwahane Ya:’, are placed in a chariot and circled in the lower half of the old Kantipur city of Kathmandu. On the evening of the same day, after the chariots of Ganesh, Bhairav and Kumari have been circled, the families of the people who have died during the year from Marutol go around Kantipur scattering seeds (Satbij).
Thus, for eight days with various stages and cultural pageants, the Newari community celebrates Indrajatra with joy and enthusiasm. We have only listed here some of the rituals.
The tradition of the presence of the head of country Nepal before the commencement of this special Indrajatra, like various important moments including Nepali cultural diversity, has been going on since the time of Jayaprakash Malla. And the last Malla king of Kantipur, Jayaprakash Malla has made a practice of Kumari’s Chariot yatra. The practice of worshiping Ganesh, Bhairav , and Kumari in the presence of the head of Country at the throne meeting of Hanuman Dhoka is still going on.
It is customary for the President of Nepal, His Excellency the President, to observe the Kumari Jatra. In the Newari language, Kathmandu means ‘Yeh’, Lalitpur means ‘Yal’ and Bhaktapur means ‘Khwap’. Such processions and festivals, which have been going on for generations, carry the history of the wonderful confluence of our ancient civilization and culture.
These centuries-old journeys have continued. Demonstrations in front of Basantapur Darwar Square and temples have the same energy in the enthusiasm of Kathmandu that has been seen since time immemorial.