Bisket Jatra: A Colorful Affair

Bisket Jatra
Bisket Jatra

With the arrival of a new year, Bhaktapur revels in the celebration of Bisket Jatra marking the start of 2071. The nine-day Bisket Jatra takes place over the period of the Nepalese New Year of Bikram Sambat; it is regarded as a New Year Festival as well. This year, it starts from 10th of April for a week. The main attraction of the celebration is the mighty chariot of Bhairab, which is assembled from the timbers scattered beside the Bhairabnath Temple and Nyatapola Temple in Taumadhi. The chariots will be pulled during the festival at Taumadhi square, Bhaktapur. The festivities start off with a friendly tug-of-war between the residents of the lower and upper halves of the town of Bhaktapur, during which each group tries to pull an historical chariot containing an image of Betal and Bhairab to their side of the town. The festival includes parades, procession and the display of temple deities throughout the city.

On the fourth day of the festival, and the last day of the “old year”, the men of the city work together to raise a approximately 25 meter high ceremonial pole, locally called “Yosing Dyo”, into place. The pole has a crossbeam with two strips of cloth called “Halin Patta” hanging from it as a representation of two slain snakes. This ceremonial pole stays up until the following day when residents of the lower and upper halves of the city once more engage in a tug of war, but this time to pull the pole down to their respective sides. Once the pole crashes to the ground it is seen as the official beginning of the New Year and the festivities continue for four more days. The new year is celebrated with Sindoor, vermillion powder as people shower each other with Sindoor to mark the beginning of a new year. This animated celebration is known as Sindoor Jatra, the festival of vermillion powder.

As a part of the celebration, Jujubhai Shrestha of Bode, Bhaktapur, pierced his tongue for the sixth consecutive year on April 15, marking the celebration of Sindur Jatra. The 33-year old has been piercing his tongue for the last six years to give continuity to the centuries old tradition to mark the new Bikram Era. Legends have it that tongue-piercing signifies the conquest over demons and evil spirits, who were haunting communities, taking away their children and killing them. Bisket Jatra, one of the most colourful festivals of Bhaktapur, dates back to the Lichhavi period. It began last Thursday with the pulling of a three-storey chariot of Bhairav from Taumadhi-based Bhairavnath temple to Gahiti.

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