Indra Jatra is one of the most exciting street festivals in Kathmandu valley. The festivals fall on September lasts for 8-day long. The festival is most commonly known as “Yenya Punhi”, where ‘Ye’ refers to Kathmandu, ‘Ya’ refers to a celebration and ‘Punhi” refers to full moon day in Nepal Bhasa. ‘For this reason, jointly it is known as ‘celebration in Kathmandu’. This year the festival begins on September 23 and ends on September 30.
The Jatra is comprised of two events namely, ‘Indra Jatra’ and ‘Kumari Jatra’. Indra Jatra is noted as the dances of deities and demons. Also, the event manifests the sacred images in honor of the deity Indra, ‘The god of rain’. However, Kumari Jatra is the chariot procession of the living goddess Kumari. Moreover, family members deceased in the past are also memorialized during the festival. The main venue for the festival is Kathmandu Durbar Square.
Some people believe that the festival is celebrated to thank the deity Indra for showering us with the rainfall and good harvest. Moreover, it is popular as the festival of classical dances that last a week long. The festival abides by various processions each with their unique importance.
The festival begins with “Yosin Thanegu”, a ceremonial pole from which the banner of Indra is unfurled at Kathmandu Durbar Square. According to traditional beliefs, Indra has received the flag from Lord Vishnu for protection. It is dragged in stages to Durbar Square by men pulling on ropes. Another event on this day is “Upaku Wanegu” when participants visit shrines holding lighted incense to honor deceases family members. Together with that, they place butter lamps on the way and sing some hymn. This procession starts around 5 pm.
The procession takes place with Kumari Jatra. Kumari (living goddess) leaves the desolation of her temple in a palanquin and leads the procession through the streets of Kathmandu to thank Indra, the rain of god. A major charm of this event is the procession of chariots and the masked dancers representing deities and demons. Three chariots carrying human representations of the deities Ganesh, Bhairava, and Kumari.
On the first day of Kumari Jatra known as “Kwaneya” (downtown procession), the chariots are pulled through the southern part of the town. The second is the full moon day “Yenya Punhi” when the procession “Thaneya” (uptown procession) is carried out. The chariots are drawn through northern part till Asan. Moreover, on the third day “Nanichaya”, (midtown procession) the procession passes through the central section at Kilagal.
– Route on the first day, Kwaneya: Basantapur, Maru, Chikanmugal, Jaisidewal, Lagan, Brahma Marga, Wonde, Hyumata, Kohity, Bhimsensthan, Maru, Basantapur.
– Route on the second day, Thaneya: Basantapur, Pyaphal, Yatkha, Nyata, Tengal, Nhyokha, Nhaikan Tol, Asan, Kel Tol, Indra Chowk, Makhan, Basantapur.
– Route on the third day, Nanichaya: Basantapur, Pyaphal, Yatkha, Nyata, Kilagal, Bhedasing, Indra Chowk, Makhan, Basantapur.
Various events are carried out during the procession that makes it charismatic. ‘Mata Biye’, means offering butter lamps. It is done on the first day of the procession, ‘Kwaneya’, where Newars honor deceased family members during the past year. They also present butter lamps to relatives and friends on the way as a mark of respect.
The procession of goddess Dagin deciphers Indra’s mother going around the town in search of her son. For the procession, a man wears a mask and is accompanied by musical bands.
‘Bau Mata’, comprises a long representation of a holy snake. Oil lamps are placed on the snake made of reeds. The figure is suspended from the poles carried on the shoulders and taken along the festival route.
Throughout the Kathmandu valley, many wooden makes of Bhairab are displayed during the days. Local beer pouring from the mouths of the displayed through a spout revives the local reveler. Indra, with his arms outstretched, can also be seen at points set atop a high platform. Besides these, there are various dances held on the open stages of the city called dabu. There is a demonstration of Swet Bhairava as well as various deities of the city. Mask dances of deities and demons, hymns are the major highlights of this greatest festival of the valley.
The pull-down of the linga on the eighth day of the festival signifies the end of this great Newar festival and undoubtedly the vibrant one.