Indra Jatra, Yenya the Joyous Festival in Kathmandu

Indra Jatra

Indra Jatra Festival

Indra Jatra is a significant festival in Nepal. Nepal is a multiethnic and multicultural country. Every Nepalese citizen celebrates different festivals on various occasions. They celebrate festivals that differ regionally or according to ethnicity, religion, and traditions. Nepal has many festivals marked differently and carry specific significance behind their celebrations.

From Jatras in the country’s capital to the Chhat in the Terai or national festivals like Dashain, the celebrations are an intrinsic part of Nepalese culture. The Jatras are especially popular in the Kathmandu Valley, the capital city of Nepal, and are celebrated by the Newar community with great joy, enthusiasm, and belief.

However, people from other cities, such as Bhaktapur. Banepa and Patan celebrate different types of Jatra with great joy. “Indra Jatra” is a major annual festival celebrated in Nepal, especially in the capital city of Kathmandu. Indra refers to the god of Heaven, while Jatra refers to Procession. Thus, “Indra Jatra” is a joyous festival and a procession held in honor of the Hindu god Indra.

indra jatra

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    Overview of Indra Jatra

    Indra Jatra is the celebration to offer thanks to Lord Indra. Indra means the king of Heaven and the god of the rain, whereas jatra means Procession as the jatra honors Lord Indra, the lord of rain. The devotees especially thank god for the shower. Many other devotees worship ‘Bhairab,’ ‘lord Ganesh,’ and Kumari (the living Goddess). ‘Bhairab’ is the destroyer of the evil lord Ganesh. During ancient times. The Kantipur valley was known ias’Yenya Day,’ and the Newars celebrate the Jatra as ‘Yenya.’ The term’ Indra Jatra’ was given later.

    We can still observe some Newars also celebrating the Jatra. ‘Yenya’ or ‘Yenya Punhi’ instead of Indra Jatra. Local people celebrate the festival by lighting up a Diyo called Dalucha. They also worshipped the very same Diyo by offering Samya Baji. During the 10th century, the king Gunakamadeva. The tradition of Indra is starting for the honoring to the establishment of the Kathmandu city. Since 1756AD, the Kumari Jatra has been observed on the same day. Kumari Jatra is also regarded as the Procession of the living Goddess of Nepal.

    Main attractions of the Jatra:

    Majipa Lakhey, Pulukishi, Sawa Bhaku. Ganesh (Chariot, Bhairava (Chariot), Kumari (Chariot).

    Various dances are performed by many people in the open stages of the city called Dabu. Besides this, there is a display of sweet Bhairab as well as other deities of the town. During the Jatra period, a wooden pole made of pine was erected. It can also be observed at Basantapur Durbar Square in front of the old Hanuman Dhoka Palace.

    It is also called a pole-raising ceremony. Hundreds of spectators gathered at the Palace Square and surrounding temples to celebrate this pole-raising ceremony. After that, the chariot of Kumari (the living Goddess) is taken out in a procession and walks through the main streets of Kathmandu.

    When Do We Celebrate Indra Jatra?

    The  Indra Jatra is celebrated for eight long days in September as an annual festival. The festival commences every year from the day of the Bhadra Dwadashi to Krishna Chaturdashi. This takes place on the twelfth day of the waxing moon in September. This festival is celebrated on 24th September 2018 and falls on 12th September, Thursday in 2019.

    Indra Jatra Celebration

    The erection of the Yasin or Linga in Kathmandu Durbar Square (Basantapur) starts the festival.
    The pole is believed to represent a similar flag pole given to Lord Indra by God. Vishnu, at Indra Chowk, the Akash Bhairav mash is brought out of the Bhairav temple. It is placed in front of the temple. The Akash Bhairav is worshipped and covered in beautiful flowers, sweets, and other offerings. The name of this event is ‘Yosin Thanegu.’

    The Linga is a pole-making pine wood specially brought from the forest near Nala (a small town 29 km east of Kathmandu). People, mainly the Newars, gathered wearing masks, sharing local liquors, and performing dances representing gods and demons during the Lingo (Pole) rising. Besides these, the images of other deities, such as Lord Indra, Bhairab, and many others, are also displayed.

    The devotees also visit various shrines, holding the light in remembrance of the passing members of the family. This event is called ‘Pakuranga.’

    Indra jatra

    Reason Behind The Celebration Of Indra Jatra

    There is an exciting myth behind the evolution of Indra Jatra. Indra’s mother needed Parijat, a type of white flower, to perform a religious ritual. So, disguised as a human being, Lord Indra descends to the earth in search of the herb for his mother. He was accused of flower theft by the meadow’s owner while trying to pick the flower. Then, the field owner kept him in captivity, blaming him for stealing the flowers. Lord Indra is imprisoned in Kathmandu and cannot go back from there.

    After missing Son Indra for a long time, his mother Dakini was worried and came to earth to search for him. Luckily, she finally found him and requested the owner of the meadow to let him go. Only after the villagers realized who they were they agreed to free Lord Indra but put forward a condition for them.

    Based on their condition, Lord Indra should come to the earth every year during that very time, and he will be displayed as a prisoner for seven days. Local farmers also make the Dakini promise to provide enough dew during the winter for better productivity. The villagers also ensured that Dakini would take the deceased members of their family to Heaven with her.

    This is why the festival of Indra Jatra is celebrated to express gratitude towards Lord Indra and Dakini for the decent harvest in the coming year and timely rainfall. Similarly, the festival is also observed in the name of the deceased members of the family.

    Description of Kumari Procession

    The Indra Jatra festival is celebrated by taking out the chariot of Goddess Kumari in a procession to thank Indra. During this time, the streets of Kathmandu are full of devotees who are performing dances, singing songs, and playing various musical instruments like drums and flutes.

    We can also see the crowd of street vendors selling different products. To display the prison condition of Lord Indra, the local people in Maru constructed a stage made of wood and viewed the statue of Indra with stretched arms covered by fiber thread. This is a long-old tradition carried out since the Lichhavi Period. Kumari Jatra started later in the 18th century. The chariot of Goddess Kumari takes out. The Procession goes all around Kathmandu, following different routes.

    Moreover, the other two miniature chariots carrying a representative of Ganesh and Bhairav take different parts of the old Kathmandu. The famous Akash Bhairav displays are decorated with beautiful flowers in Indra Chowk. According to legend, this Akash Bhairav’s head is related to the Mahabharat story. At the same time, some others believe it to be the head of the first Kirat King Yalamber.

    Different types of people gather in Indra Chowk and sing bhajans and hymns. A variety of dance performances can be observed during Indra Jatra. They perform Sawa Bhakku Bhairav from Halchowk and the Majipa Lakhey from Majipat. The local people in Bhaktur achieve a Devi Nach and Yeravat Jhathi (Pulukisi) from Naradevi, Mahakali, and the Kathi Maka Nach. These types of dances take place around the Hanuman Dhoka area. Every night, the Dasavatar or the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu.

    Here is a brief description of the major day of this festival:

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      Indra jatra

      First Day (Kwaneya):

      The Newars community celebrates the festival’s first day by offering small oil lamps to remember the family members who died last year. It starts during the reign of Mahendra Malla.

      Second Day (Yenya Punhi):
      During the second day of the festival, the Linga (Yasingha) is pulled down, which signals the end of the Indra Jatra. It takes to the converging point of Bagmati and Bishnumati in Teku to be put to rest.

      Final Day:

      The festival of Indra Jatra concludes with the lowering of the (lingam) pole bearing Indra’s flag amidst religious ceremonies.
      The end of the Indra Jatra indicates the beginning of the main festival called Dashain and Tihar. The major festival is celebrated with great enthusiasm throughout the country. The major highlights of the Indra Jatra festival include street dance, popularly known as Lakhey, and pulu, performed by participants wearing the masks of the deities.

      Various ritual dances featuring masked demons and gods are performed. And goddesses in different parts of the Valley. The most popular Lakhey dances are also part of the chariot procession and are performed along Kathmandu’s old street.

      Lakhey Dance

      Different participants wore masks and danced during this festival. Lakhani (mask dancers) are taken to the streets almost every evening company by loud drums. The festival recalls when Lord Indra descended to the earth seeking the herb.

      Mahakali Pykhan

      The Mahakali Pykhan is primarily performed at Bhaktapur Durbar Square and on the streets. The major highlight of the Mahakali Pykhan Dance is that it represents the Kyyah, a large, hairy, ape-like creature. The dance performance is full of fun and humor, with a lot of falling.

      Sawa Bakhhu Dance

      Sawa Bakhhu Dance is another famous dance performance performed by a dance group in Halchowk. The dance starts from the Hanuman Dhoka. It also continues along the festival route and stops at particular junctions. Finally receives an offering from the devotees. The dance depicts the Bhairab (in Blue) with a sword and the other two attendants (in Red).

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        The shrines and ancient palace buildings lie around Kathmandu Durbar Square. Glow with oil wicks on each night of Indra Jatra. The whole city looks very delightful and colorful. We can see the large image of  Akash Bhairab’s head displayed in the open, directly facing his temple at Indra Chowk.

        We can observe the enactment portraying the ten earthy incarnations of Lord Vishnu—each night on the platform of the temple of the Living Goddess. Many Nepali families will also put idols of Indra or Bahirab on display this time of year. Nepal’s Hindu and Newari communities celebrate this exciting festival.

        Thus, Indra Jatra has a special place in the Nepali calendar. Indra Jatra is one of the biggest street festivals in Nepal, celebrating with a mystic mask. Dancing and pulling the chariot of the living goddess ‘Kumari.’ Hence, the festival of Indra Jatra is celebrated in honor of ‘the Lord of Heaven’ Indra.

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