Indra Jatra "Yenya" Festival in Kathmandu, Nepal
Indra Jatra also known as Yenya festival is one of the festivals which Newari people in Kathmandu celebrate for 8 days long.
Photo by dhansarselect from Dhansar
Indra Jatra is one of the most thrilling and renowned festivals of the Kathmandu Valley. The festival is also named as Yenya festival. Newari people in Kathmandu celebrate this festival for eight days. It starts from the 12th day of the bright fortnight and ends on the 4th of the dark fortnight of Yani; the eleventh month in the lunar Nepal Era calendar. According to the lunar calendar, Yenya festival falls on late Bhadra or early Ashoj (September).This also marks the start of a month-long autumn festival season including Dashain, and Tihar.
People celebrate Indra Jatra to thank the Lord of Rain (Indra) for his gratefulness and great harvest. They also celebrate Kumari Jatra in this period.
It all starts with the installation of a pine-wood pole in front of the historic Hanuman Dhoka Palace in Basantapur. Hundreds of spectators assemble in the Durbar Square and on the neighboring temples for the pole-raising event. The flagpole ceremony, blood sacrifice, and exhibition of Bhairava's masks are all part of the Indra Jatra celebrations. The Living Goddess Kumari’s chariot is carried through Kathmandu's ancient streets of Hanuman Dhoka. The traditional masked dances are also performed by Nepalese.
Every night, from the second day, people depict the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu. This event takes place in front of the Living Goddess (Kumari) at Kumari chowk.
First Day Of the Jatra
In Indra Jatra's inaugural ceremony, People organize a somber ceremony and construct a flagpole marking the beginning of Yenya. This ten-meter-long pole is meticulously picked and installed outside Kathmandu's Hanuman Dhoka. Alongside the installation of the pole, an ancient artistic dance ceremony which demonstrates the tales of Indra and his capture scene is reenacted.
Second Day Of Indra Jatra
On this day, a Special Feast is offered to Indra at the gates of Indra Chowk in Kathmandu. Those offerings will be delivered to the crowds after the conclusion of the Indra rites. Likewise, people perform lakhe dance, indra dance and various kirtanas all over the valley on the inauguration day of Indra-Jatra. Meat and eggs along with specially prepared buffalo meat, goat meat, roosters/chicken, fish, nuts, and other gifts are offered to the god of rain Indra around Kathmandu valley.
Third Day Of the Jatra: Exhibitions Of the Bhairav's masks and KumariChariot procession
Bhairava is believed to be the protector of Taleju bhawani, an incarnation of Lord Parvati. The Khwapa or the mask of Bhairav on the entrance gate of Hanumandhoka opens on this day. People will open the screened door of White Bhairav after installing the ceremonial pole at Hanuman Dhoka. This symbolises the young living goddess Kumari is always protected by God Bhairava, no matter where she goes.
After Kumari’s chariot is prepared, people open the Bhairava’s door for three days, till Kumari visits him in Kumari's chariot parade. This event is considered a spectacle as it occurs only once a year and lasts three days.
We observe the first half of the Kumari chariot jatra on this day as well. On the first day of the Kumari Chariot procession, 10 people carry the little living Goddess and take her out to the Chariot. The first day Chariot procession only covers half of Basantapur’s distance.
This form of Bhairava commonly known as (Akash Bhairab) is then given a big pipe of Cigarette and offered Chyang (nepalese Beer). Poured to the Khwopa from the vessel behind, the beer begins to flow out Bharirava's mouth once the khwopa is filled with it. People drink the flowing beer for good fortune and share it among friends and families as well.
Likewise, on the fourth day, Kumari Jatra starts again and the Chariot procession finally reaches Aakash Bhairav’s temple at Hanuman Dhoka. Here Kumari sees the Bhairava’s mask and then the Jatra ends with the celebration, feast and dance for the second Day.
Likewise, a small goldfish would be placed in the beer ahead of time to swim and it's believed that the person who obtains the fish is the luckiest and will never run out of lock, the entire year.
The offerings to Aakash Bhairava are then distributed to general people, a day before Kumari Jatra.
Fifth Day: Kumari’s Chariot procession
Kumari's chariot procession is one of the most popular parts of the Yenya Festival. Three golden temple chariots are assembled outside the Kumari Temple one day before the major parade. People dress up in traditional Dress, and gather in a mass outside Kathmandu Durbar Square, and await the arrival of the living goddess.
After the Chariot procession on the third and the fourth day, people again bring out Kumari, Bhairava, and Ganesh (all living gods and goddesses) and carry the living goddess Kumari to her chariot, as her feet should not touch the ground. Ten people then carry her chariot from the old court of the Hanuman Dhoka. This day, people pull the ratha (Chariot) from Hanuman dhoka side. On this day, respected presidents, prime ministers, and other military heads wait to get a glimpse of the living goddess Kumari.
This day is followed by several other ceremonies like Lakhe dance, Sawa Bhakku, and the famous Pulu Kisi (elephant) dance and lasts for two days.
Sixth Day: Oil wicks glowing day
On Kumari Jatra’s final day, commonly known as Mata Biye, people light Butter lamps. The family gathers on the first day of Kumari Jatra to present butter lamps to their deceased relatives and those lamps are finally lightened on the eighth day of the Jatra.
Seventh / eighth day
On the final day parade, at six PM in the evening, people will march all the way through Kathmandu's ancient city to honor their loved ones. Almost every evening, masked dancers known as Lakhay take to the streets, accompanied by loud drums.
The event recalls Indra's descent from heaven in human form in search of a flower. The temples and historic royal buildings encircling Kathmandu Durbar Square are aglow with oil wicks every night of Indra Jatra. However the final day is very special as people make rangolis, play music, dance and glow in the streets of Ancient Hanuman Dhoka to the brightest.
History / Myths Of Indra Jatra
It is believed that King Gunakamadeva who is officially known as the first ruler of Kathmandu created the celebration during the Licchavi Era in 723 AD.
Likewise, from ancient days Indra is considered as the God of Rain and the Lord of the Heavens, and Jatra denotes the procession of the mighty god who makes rainfall in Nepal. As a result, Indra Jatra is commemorated as a way of thanking Lord Indra for the rain and a bountiful harvest.
It's also a symbolic way of celebrating the rain, because mostly farming in Nepal relies on rainfall. So, the delicate balance of rain and harvest is celebrated worshiping lord Indra the possessor of the rain.
Local myth says, Indra, the deity of rain once visited Kathmandu as a common child to steal a magical flower only grown in Kathmandu for his mother, Dagini. After he was seen entering the sacred garden, he was imprisoned as a normal thief by the locals.
Then the angry Airavata, Lord Indra’s white elephant, ran over the alleyways creating fear in the general people’s heart. After he was unable to locate his master, Indra. Lord Indra’s mother descended to Earth and revealed Indra’s true identity to the captors. Then the captor freed Indra and in exchange mother Dagini offered a safe passage to heaven for people who died the previous year and blessed Kathmandu with fertile land and adequate water for the crops to prosper.
As people of Kathmandu are known to be devout Krishna followers, it also links the myth of Lord Krishna carrying the mountain on his little finger’s tip to protect the people of Gokula.
Historical Event in the day of Indra Jatra
Historians have illustrated that King Prithivi Narayan Shah, of Gorkha fought The Battle of Kathmandu, also known as the Siege of Kathmandu during Nepal's unification in 1768, against the last Malla king of Kathmandu 'Jaya Prakash Malla' in the day of Indra Jatra.
As per many, he ceased Kirtipur and waited till people in Kathmandu got drunk on the day of the jatra and then attacked Kathmandu on Indra Jatra to cease the beautiful kathmandu with the least bloodshed. With Shah's victory, the Shah dynasty was established in Nepal, and the indigenous Newars' dominion came to an end. So, Indra Jatra not only has cultural significance, it also has a huge historical importance.
Indra Jatra is one of Nepal's most popular events in Kathmandu, and if you are here in Kathmandu in the month of September, you’d not only get the beautiful view of approaching Autumn. You will also experience the grandeur of Kathmandu valley’s culture. Likewise, on this day, you will get to witness the fame of the only living goddess Kumari, along with two male children worshipped as demi god’s Ganesh and Vairab.