Prepping for Indra Jatra


The late monsoon calendar in Kathmandu Valley is filled with festivals: there was Krishna’s birthday last week, then Rishi Panchami and Tij this week. But none is more important than the week-long Indra Jatra — the chariot festival presided over by none other than the Living Goddess Kumari.

Indra Jatra, which falls on Friday the 13th this year, is traditionally when Nepal’s rulers congregate at Hanuman Dhoka to be blessed by the Kumari as she is pulled past on her chariot.

This is the annual festival dedicated to Indra, the god of rain. But it also honours Taleju Bhawani, the powerful goddess and protector of Kathmandu, who will manifest herself in the Kumari to empower the government and citizens of Nepal with divine powers.

Interestingly, Taleju is supposed to be the family deity of Ravana, the demon king of mythic Lanka, and the Taleju of Kathmandu is said to have been brought from India in ancient times.

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Prithvi Narayan Shah in 1770 entered Kathmandu on the day of Indra Jatra, and is said to have won over the local population by kneeling at the feet of the Kumari.

The Kumari House courtyard bears the most exotic of all wood carvings in the area, and was built in 1757 during the reign of king Jaya Prakash Malla, the last Malla king, who was deposed by the invading army of Prithvi Narayan.

History books tell us that Jaya Prakash Malla was pulling the Kumari chariot himself, and enjoying every bit of it. But by the time the chariot reached the Lagan neighbourhood, Gorkha forces had captured his palace at Hanuman Dhoka. He then fled across the swollen Bagmati river to seek refuge in the neighbouring kingdom of Patan.

Indra Jatra is marked with much enthusiasm and devotion by both Hindus and Buddhists in the Kathmandu Valley, and celebrated for eight days by singing, dancing, feasting and rejoicing.

People throng excitedly to see the chariot and to watch the ritual dances — featuring masked demons, gods and goddesses. Kathmandu’s famous Lakhey dancers are also part of the chariot procession.

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Let the jatra begin

Boy gods of Kathmandu, Sahina Shrestha

Indra Jatra re-enacted at Dwarika’s

Nepal’s Dwarika’s Hotel has won many international awards for its preservation of Kathmandu’s Newa architecture. But it is also involved in preserving the Valley’s intangible heritage: its festivals.

As in 2018, the Hotel will mark Indra Jatra this year. On Friday 13 September, Dwarika’s will feature a re-enactment of the real-life procession in the city, with a stand-in Goddess Kumari on hand throughout the celebration.

Guests can witness the Living Goddess regally seated in the hotel’s resplendent courtyard with artefacts and carvings (some of them 800 years old) observing the series of performances, replicated exactly from the original Indra Jatra celebration in Kathmandu Darbar Square earlier that day.

Another major attraction of the evening will be a display of the lavish assortment of the famous Samay Baji and other food of the Indra Jatra feast. Even the Kumari chariot festival, with Bhairav and Ganesh, as well as the Lakhe dance, Kumari dance, Bajrayogini and Bhairab-Kali dances, will be performed.

Guests can also savour a special Indra Jatra buffet with exotic items of Newari cuisine, washed down with the traditional aila spirit, while they watch the Dhimey dance and other classical masked dances.

Dwarika’s Hotel

6:30-9pm, Friday 13 September

[email protected]

+977 1 4479488,  4470770.

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