Bisket Jatra is the main festival of Newars in Bhaktapur. This nine-day-long festival is celebrated at the end of Chaitra, thus marking the end of the year and starting of the year on the Bikram Sambat Calendar. The Jatra focuses on pulling the chariots of two deities: Bhairav and Bhadrakali. The signature event of the Jatra is the tug of war between the Thane ( Upper ) and Kone ( Lower ) part of the town who tries to bring the chariot to their area. The chariot is built in Taumadhi Square, a month earlier and that’s from where the Jatra starts . Also, the 25 m tall pole known as Lyasing Dya (Lingo ) is erected in Lyasing Khela and brought down in the new year.
HISTORY OF THE JATRA
There are different myths on how Bisket Jatra was celebrated. These two myths are widely accepted by the locals on the commencement of Jatra :
PRINCESS’S DEADLY CURSE
The Bisket Jatra tells the story of a cursed princess whose husband always dies the next morning of the marriage. Each day a new man was chosen to marry the princess and the next day, the man would be dead. One day, a young man from another place came to visit Bhaktapur and was fascinated by the tale of the princess. That day, the son of the lady where he was staying was chosen to be the groom. The young man volunteered to go and to find out the truth behind all the deaths.
After the wedding, the princess lay in bed and slept quickly. The young man stayed awake and sat beside the princess staring at her face. After some time, two poisonous serpents crawled from the nose of the princess. The young man quickly killed the snakes with his sword and broke the princess’s curse of the serpents.
The then King Jagjyoti was happy that the princess was free from the curse. He hung the snakes in the tall pole and erected them in Lyasing Khel to show to the public. The public then started to celebrate the occasion as the special day the princess was freed from the snake curse. The occasion was called Bisyaku Jatra and currently known as Bisket Jatra. In the Newari language, Bi Syaku means snake slaughter.
THE TWO SERPENTS AND RICE GRAINS
Another popular myth about Bisket Jatra tells the story of Shivadev Kings. When Shivadev Kings ruled over Kathmandu, the kirats attacked Bhaktapur and tortured the people. The King was concerned and consulted a tantric Shekharacharya who transformed himself into a tiger and chased the Kirants.
One day, the tantric Shekharacharya ‘s wife wanted to see the Azinger (python) and requested her husband to change shape. The tantric agreed and gave rice grains to sprinkle over him so that he could return back to his original form. But after he turned into the python, his wife was frightened and ran away. She ate the rice grains herself and turned her into a python. Both the couple turned to python and by realizing that they could not turn back to their original form, they committed suicide on the river bank. The kings then started to erect the lyasing dya in memory of the couple.
TIMELINE OF THE JATRA
The Bisket Jatra starts from Chaitra 27 and ends on Baisakh 5 . This nine-day-long festival is accompanied by feasts, fairs, and poojas.
CHAITRA 27/28 : TUG OF WAR WITH THE CHARIOT
The bisket Jatra starts from Chaitra 27 when the chariot of a wrathful god, Bhairav is pulled by both the parties of Thane ( Upper ) and Kwone (Lower). The tug of war starts between the two parties to bring the chariot ( Bhaila Kha) to their respective area. Thousands of people gather at Taumadhi Square to take part in the festival and local television channels broadcast the festival live such that other people could watch the festival from their home. The winning party takes the chariot to their respective area.
CHAITRA 30/31 : ERECTION OF LYASING DYA
The last of the Nepali year, the Bhaila Kha is pulled toward the Lyasing Khel where the 25 m long pole (Lyasing Dya) is awaiting to be erected. After the arrival of Bhaila Kha, hundreds of youth come together to pull up the Lyasing Dya. Thousands of people gather at Lyasing Khel and the environment is lively, with traditional flutes, bajas accompanying, and people cheering on to pull up the lyasing Dya. The day ends with erecting the Lyasing dya, thus marking the end of the year. It is believed that the side on which Lyasing Dya faces would gain lots of rainfall and the agriculture will flourish there.
BAISAKH 1 : PULLING DOWN LYASING DYA
On the day of New year, the people from Bhaktapur visit Lyasing Khel to worship the gods and get blessings for their upcoming year. In the evening, the lyasing dya is pulled down. After lyasing dya is pulled down, the Bhaila Kha, the chariot of Bhairabhnath, and Nakinchu Kha, the chariot of Bhadrakali are pulled towards Gahiti . In Gahiti, both the chariots clash at midnight symbolizing copulation.
BAISAKH 5: CONTINUED TUG OF WAR WITH CHARIOT
On the last day of Bisket Jatra, Bhaila Kha is again pulled by the two parties to bring the god to their respective area. The chariot is pulled from Gahiti by the thane ( Upper ) and kone ( Lower) parties. The chariot after pulled to the respective area will be pulled back to Taumadhi where it stays for a while and then is dismantled until the next year.
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