Bhaktapur is one step ahead of us in getting ready for the new years.
The Bisket Jatra celebration begins 4 days before the Nepali New Year Day and lasts for 9 days. It marks the end of the year as well as the beginning of a new year. It is one of the most exciting annual festival in Kathmandu valley celebrated with much excitement and belief.
Started in the Lichchhivi era (c. 450-c. 750), this festival is backed by a strong legend that during those days, any man who married the Princess of Bhaktapur would be found dead during the honeymoon night. Terrified of the myth, nobody dared to marry the princess. The Royal family of Bhaktapur were in despair.
Finally, a brave prince married her and decided to stay awake in honeymoon night. When the princess fell asleep, he saw two giant serpents slithering out of her nostrils. The prince quickly took out his sword and chopped the snakes heads off. In the morning, the prince publicly displayed the two serpents on a pole.
Till today, Bisket Jatra follows the tradition of the displaying the serpents in the form of long ribbons or white flags on a pole, a day before the festival in Taumandi Tole of Bhaktapur. The term Bisket Jatra is also derived from Newari word Bi and Syaku which meaning ‘snake laughter’.
Two days after the pole is erected, the images of Lord Bhairava and Goddess Bhadrakali; the male and female manifestation of Lord Shiva and his consort Parvati respectively, are enshrined in two large chariots. The creaking and swaying chariot lumbers around town, pausing for a huge tug of war between the inhabitants of the upper and lower parts of the town. The winners are believed to be blessed with good fortune for the coming year. The festival is followed by worships, rituals, and animal sacrifices to appease the God.
On New Year day, devotees take bath in the holy Hanumante River and pay homage to the Yeo-sin-deo, Lord Bhairav, and Goddess Bhadrakali. They believe that taking a dip in the water of the Hanumante River on New Year’s Day will keep all the diseases away throughout the year.
The evening of New Year’s Day, the pole is pulled down, again in an often-violent tug-of-war. As the pole crashes to the ground, the New Year officially commences.
Bisket Jatra is celebrated around Bhaktapur, Dhapasi, and Tokha. The variation of the themes of the festival can be seen; especially in the villages of Timi and Bode. There are parades of images of the gods followed by Sindhur Jatra. And the highlight of the festival will be the tongue piercing ceremony, where one of the local spends the day with an iron spike piercing his tongue.
This exciting festival is still going on in Bhaktapur so if you don’t have any plans for the new years do attend it and enjoy your day soaking in the rich culture of Bhaktapur.