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Rato Machhindranath Jatra

Rato Machhindranath

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Rato Machhindranath is worshipped as the god of rain and it makes sense that the festival starts just before the monsoon arrives in Kathmandu. It is mainly celebrated by Buddhists and Hindus of the Newar community. Rato Machhindranath was also revered by medieval kings in the Kathmandu Valley as the guardian deity of Kathmandu Valley. Legend has it that it was brought from Assam, India by a farmer to Lalitpur in Nepal to prevent a drought during the rice season. It is known as Bundyo to Newars, the locals of the Kathmandu valley. Rato Machhindranath is also known by the names such as Padampani, Lokeswor, Avalokiteswor, Aryavalokotiswor and Karunamaya. The name “Rato Machhindranath” literally translates into “Red Fish God”. Rato means Red and Machhindranath can be broken down into two words “Machhindra or Matsyendra” which means Fish and Nath means God.

Rato Machhindranath Jatra is the longest running chariot festival in Nepal. This festival is a prayer for good rain so that there is a good harvest. It begins with the construction of a 32-feet high chariot in Pulchowk, Lalitpur. The chariot is made out of the cane, wood, bamboo. This chariot festival ends with the Bhoto Jatra festival in Jawalakhel. The chariot is built about one kilometer away from Machhindranath’s temple. Bhoto Jatra is attended by the head of state of Nepal. The chariot is pulled through the old city of Patan and is stopped at many places during the duration of the festival, which typically lasts a month. This festival starts during the month of Baisakh.

Before the prepared chariot is pulled, the committee that organizes the festival offers a cow in donation to a priest. On the day the chariot is pulled, another chariot is also pulled. It is the chariot of Minanath. Minanath is regarded as the creator God and Machhindranath has been regarded as the breeder god.

When the chariot procession starts, thousands of people assemble to observe and worship the fair. On the first day, it’s pulled towards Ganabahal, on the second day towards Sundhara and on the third day to Lagankhel. Then it rests there for two to three days. People flock to Lagankhel to worship the chariot during this time. At Lagankhel, a coconut is dropped from the top of the chariot and its believed that whoever grabs the coconut will have all their wishes fulfilled. So many people compete to catch the dropped coconut. The coconut receiver again offers the coconut to the chariot with some donation. After that the chariot reaches Thali and the next morning only the women pull the chariot. During the chariot procession traditional Newari bands and Sarduljung (army) battalion plays their band. After reaching Thahiti tole, the chariot remains there for a few days.

After a few days the knowledgeable prophets forecast the auspicious day to demonstrate the Lord Machhindranath’s Bhoto (vest), which is called the “Bhota Jatra”. Thousands of people along with the foreigners amass in Jawalakhel on that day to observe Bhoto Jatra. A grand ceremony takes place on that day. The head of the state graces the fete. People herd there to look at the Bhoto because it is believed to bring Bhoto Jatra. The black velvet, jeweled Bhoto also has its own story. Legend says it was given to a farmer by Karkot Naga in reward for curing eye ailment of his Queen. But it got stolen. After sometime when the farmer was attending Machhindranath festival at Jawalakhel, he saw someone wearing the same vest. A quarrel ensued between the farmer and the man wearing the vest. Karkot Naga was also at the festival in human form. He settled the quarrel and submitted the Bhoto to Machhindranath for safe keeping. From that day on every year the Bhoto is shown to the people assuring them that it is safe.

After Bhoto Jatra, the chariot is dismantled and the idol of Lord Machhindranath is taken to a place called Bungamati. Machhindranath resides there for a few months and then he’s brought back to the Machhindranath temple at the Jatra inception time. The idol is brought back only after a priest calculates and finds an auspicious day. Every year the chariot is dismantled at Pulchowk but on the twelfth year it is taken to Bungmati and then dismantled.

Buddha Jayanti

Buddha Shakyamuni

Lord Buddha

Buddha Jayanti is the celebration of the anniversary of the three major events in the life of Lord Gautam Buddha. This day is also known as Buddha Purnima. It is the celebration of the birth, enlightenment, and attainment to Nirvana of Lord Buddha and is the most important event of the year for Buddhists. This sacred celebration takes place around the world on the full moon of the fourth lunar month, which for Nepal is the month of Baisakh or Jestha. On this day people swarm in Swayambhunath and Boudhanath to pay homage to Lord Buddha and also visit Buddha’s birth place in Lumbini and chant prayers and burn butter lamps. Lord Buddha was born as Prince Siddhartha Gautam but he abandoned his luxurious life when he realized the misery of mankind and went in search of enlightenment.

Buddha Jayanti is day which is seen as being thrice blessed, as Buddhists remember Lord Buddha’s birth in 623 BC, his enlightenment or attainment of supreme wisdom in 588 BC and his realization of Nirvana at the age of 80. Buddha Jayanti is an elaborate occasion and Buddhist monasteries all around the world resound with sermons, prayers and recitals of Buddhist scriptures throughout the day. These are offered in front of a statue of Lord Buddha.

Celebrations continue on the following day when, according to Buddha Jayanti custom, a gigantic figure of Lord Buddha is displayed to followers, and numerous small shrines are venerated. The roofs of the homes of worshippers are decorated with colorful white, yellow, red and blue flags twisting and turning in the breeze, adding to the festive atmosphere of the occasion. People gather into large groups to parade through the streets while chanting prayers to the Lord Buddha to thank him for all his generous provisions.

A Buddha Purnima tradition requires that followers and monks offer candles, flowers and a variety of fruit to the statue of Lord Buddha, while the smoke of burning incense fills the air. People from all over the world travel to visit the Mahabodhi tree, the site where Buddha attained enlightenment. Colored flags are tied to the tree and fruit and candle offerings are made to it as well.

Festivals and celebrations are a way of life in Nepal and visitors traveling through this fascinating country are likely to witness one of these occasions. Certainly the celebration of Buddha Jayanti is a joyous and colorful occasion which will leave a lasting impression.

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