Nepal is one of the richest countries when it comes to religion, culture and tradition. Rato Machhindranath Jatra also known as “Karunamaya” or “Bung Dyo Jatra” is one of the most important religious festival that is celebrated in the Kathmandu valley. Rato Machindranath is worshipped as the god of rain and the festival starts just before monsoon arrives in Kathmandu. This festival began this year on 10th May. The processioners pull the Rato Machhindranath chariot in and around Patan annually and all the way from Bungamati to Patan every twelve years.
The story of the jatra involves Rato Machhindranath’s disciple Gorakhnath. Gorakhnath being desperate to meet his guru prayed by sitting on the heads of all the snakes of the Kathmandu Valley preventing them from bringing rains leading to drought that lasted for 12 years. As the situation got worse, the representatives from three major cities of the Kathmandu valley (the King of Bhaktapur, a Shaman from Kathmandu and a farmer from Patan) decided to find Rato Machhindranath. They found out that Rato Machindranath had taken an earthly form and was born to a family of demons in the town of Bungamati. The Shaman then used his powers to bring him back to the Kathmandu Valley. Finally, Gorakhnath paid his tribute to the “Karunamaya” freeing the snakes and bringing rain in the Kathmandu Valley. Therefore, Rato Machhindranath Jatra is performed by the Newars of the Kathmandu valley to please the Rain God to ensure rainfall.
The chariot for this procession is reconstructed annually by a sect of the Newar community. It is made from carved woods, ropes and other traditional construction materials. It is approximately sixty feet high and weighs around ten tons. It has four wooden wheels with painted eyes that represent the four Bhairavas. The priests perform various rituals during the construction process. The sculpture of the Rato Machhindranath is then placed inside the chariot once the chariot is completely constructed. A similar but smaller chariot of “Chakuwa Dyo” accompanies this chariot of “Bung Dyo”. The annual procession starts at Pulchowk, passes through Gabahal, Hakha, Sundhara, Lagankhel and ends at Jawalakhel. When the chariot reaches at these respective places, communities in and around theses areas have family gatherings known as “Nakhtya”. The festivities then conclude at Jawalakhel with the ceremony of Bhoto Jatra, where the President of Nepal honors the “Bhoto”.
In 2015, the 12-year procession began on April 22, three days before the devastating earthquake that struck Nepal. After the earthquake hit, the entire procession of the festival got stopped. It is believed to be inauspicious to conduct the procession when there is an earthquake. Therefore, the procession was postponed and was finally completed on September, 2015. As more than 9,000 lives were lost and hundreds of homes were destroyed due to the earthquake, Nakhtays were not also celebrated in this difficult time.
Here's What Happens At Nepal's most Awe-Inspiring Chariot Procession | Rubin Museum of Art. [Online] Available at : http://rubinmuseum.org/blog/about-nepal-Rato-Macchendranath-chariot-procession [Accessed 11 May 2016].