The last day of its two-month journey around Patan, the Rato Machhendranath chariot had only another 30 metres to go. Unfortunately, one of the guide ropes caught itself on an overhead transformer next to Nepal Grindlays Bank at Jawalakhel and tipped the chariot over.
No one was hurt, but the accident led the superstitious to predict calamities for the country, and the pragmatists to look for ways to put the chariot right again.
Rato Machhendranath, or Bungdeo, is worshipped as the god of harvest and it is believed incidents like this can lead to crises like drought or destruction of crops. A Rato Machhendranath priest, or panaju, Kapil Bajracharya, is firmly in the pragmatist camp. He says: "It is only when a well-built chariot collapses that the consequences are terrible. This time everybody knew that the chariot was not strong enough." Bajracharya blames the Guthi Sansthan for low-quality timber. "The wood was not good enough and the cane (which when soaked is used as ropes for binding) was not holding the frames tightly. Inside the chariot, it was so congested that it felt like I was in a jail."
An investigation team has concluded that it was indeed an accident. Lalitpur Guthi Branch Office, Taa Baha, says a knot on one of the ropes called \'jungla attached to the pinnacle of the chariot got entangled on a transformer pole. Since this rope was attached to the back of the chariot, the people pulling the chariot from the front failed to notice it, and yanked the chariot off its moorings.
Yagya Ratna Shakya, another panaju of the Rato Machhendranath said: "This is not the first time the Rato Machhendranath chariot has collapsed. But previously, the journey used to be safe and sound at least up to Sundhara. This time, the chariot started tilting from the very initial stage of the journey, from Pulchowk itself." This problem was taken care of with minor repairs when the chariot rested at Thati Tol for two months before continuing the journey to Jawalakhel Chowk. Pundari K.C., the head of Lalitpur Guthi Branch Office says: "I am more satisfied with the materials we provided this year than ever before. The collapse could be due to some technical problem but definitely not because of the materials."
Laxmi Maya Maharjan, member of Ward No. 3 added: "People are making up a mountain out of nothing. It was an unfortunate accident. We are getting cranes big enough to straighten the chariot so that the yatra can be completed as soon as possible."
The Guthi Sansthan spent an estimated Rs 1.3-1.4 million this year to build the 25-ton chariot. Myths apart, the collapse of the chariot almost every year show that the quality of craftsmanship that goes into the makeing the chariot is getting deteriorating.
Babu Raja Maharjan, a craftsman who worked on them charior said: "This time, the charior had enough raw materials but there was a shortage of workers. Young people do not want to learn the skill and it is all up to who old men to do it."