Bisket jatra, a chariot pulling festival. (Photo: RSS)
KATHMANDU: Despite the rising cases of COVID-19 in Nepal, the Taumadhi square of Bhaktapur city on Saturday was packed with revelers and devotees who came to participate in the annual event Biska Jatra (fair), which signals the arrival of Nepali New Year.
Biska Jatra – one of the popular festivals of Kathmandu Valley – is celebrated at the start of the new year on the Bikram Sambat calendar.
It starts with the ascension of Lord Bhairab onto a chariot built in front of Nyatapola Temple, the tallest temple in Nepal. The three-storey chariot made of wood in the pagoda style is pushed and pulled around the settlements with the statues of Bhairavnath and Betal as a part of this festival. This festival which has cultural and historical importance is celebrated for nine days and eight nights.
Biska Jatra is the only festival that does not follow the lunar-based Nepali calendar. It commences after a special tantric ritual is performed in the Bhairab Temple in Taumadhi Tole in Bhaktapur.
“On the first day, Lord Bhairab (Bhaila Kha:) is ascended on a chariot and is toured around the city. It is pulled by two groups, one on the upper side of Nyatapola Temple and the other on the lower side, the tug of war continues for hours and days. It finally is rested in front of the temple near the Nyatapola and is worshipped by all,” Laxman Nhuche, a denizen of Bhaktapur told ANI.
According to legends, this celebration is the “festival after the death of the serpent”. On the eve of Nepali New Year, a huge linga (a pole) is erected and two long pieces of cloth hanged upon it to represent the dead snakes.
The next day the pole is pulled down and Nepali New Year officially commences.
Initially banned by local authorities in wake of rising COVID-19 cases, an interim order from the Supreme Court to allow the celebration brought in hundreds of people into the ancient square. The country, which has a population of 2.86 crores, has so far reported 279,725 coronavirus cases.
As many as 337 new cases of the coronavirus infection were registered on Saturday.