Patan’s Red God rises

Contrary to last year, Patan’s Machindranath festival concluded with peaceful procession of the rain god’s chariot on Saturday.

In an event attended by limited devotees, volunteers clad in face visors and masks pulled the chariot for 200m. There was heavy presence of security forces.

This is the second year in row that the centuries old Bunga Dyajatra has been marked with limited celebrations, which otherwise lasts for months and is the longest festival in Nepal.

Last year, when the police tried to stop devotees from pulling the chariot during the lockdown, things took turn for worse culminating into a violent clash in Pulchok: locals pelted stones at officials, who in turn tear-gassed and later water cannoned the crowd.

The incident led the local government into imposing a curfew. But a day later, the festival was allowed to re-commence with safety measures. However, unlike previous years, the chariot took a shortcut to reach its destination.

Once every 12 years, the Machindranath chariot travels from and to Bungamati amidst much fanfare and is one of the city’s biggest cultural events. The red god resides in the Machindranath temple in Bungamati, except for six months in a year when it is drawn through the streets of Patan in a chariot.

The god is ceremonially installed on the chariot in mid-May and devotees pull the chariot to appease the rain god before the monsoon for good harvest.

The festival is often linked to the fate of the nation, and in fact the years in which the Machindranath chariot has keeled over or caught fire have been closely followed by major political upheavals and natural calamities in Nepal.

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