Friday, October 5, 2012

Indra Jatra 2012

Indra Jatra, 2012

Indra Jatra is my favorite Nepali festival. It is one of the times the Royal Kumari comes out for pictures and even a touch if you can get that close. My friend Sanjaya, was my host for the day and we had a lovely time. Sanjaya is part owner of the Sunapati Thanka Painting School in Chanu Narayan, and a very kind and honest man (Contact information is at the end of this post).

As I say in Nepal: On a Budget, Saturday is a great day for a bus ride, but I did not find that advice to hold true. We didn’t get to the express bus park and that was our mistake; it was standing room only. So my edited advice is to only take the express bus-or suffer the consequences. But Saturday is the best day of the week to take public transportation in Nepal. School children use the public buses during the week, so at least it isn’t that bad on Saturday. Sunday is a school and business day, Saturday being the only weekly holiday. But the school kids don't ride on the express bus.

This picture below shows where the Royal Kumari comes out of. She is carried to her carriage; her feet never touch the ground. During the week you can go in through here to see her. She comes to the window from around 9-12 noon and again from 4 pm onward to around 6-7 pm every half hour or so-for a couple minutes. 
I had checked earlier in the week to find out the approximate time Kumari would come out so we had plenty of time. She was to come out at 4 pm. After having lunch with a tourist friend that Sanjaya and I met earlier, we caught a rickshaw to Hanumandhoka, Kathmandu’s Darbur Square. It was so crowded it was difficult to find a place to get a good view. 

This is the first carriage with Ganesh as the boy. This boy goes to school and otherwise leads a normal life. But during the festivals Ganesh comes through him as a god. 
Even the president of Nepal came to be blessed by Kumari. This has been a very special festival for centuries in Nepali history because the ruler who is blessed by the Royal Kumari on this day will have her blessing for the year. It was interesting to be there and see the dignitaries get out of their cars without too much ado. It is not a political celebration, but rather a spiritual one and is treated as such-but with a lot more excitement than religious celebrations in the west.  
Well, they kept trying to put me with the other tourists, but I insisted that I am not a tourist and went hunting for a better spot. Someday I hope to touch her, the Royal Kumari. After determining the route she would take, we got into the crowd to search.

The security officer explained that they did not want any tourists to get hurt if the carriage were to fall. Earlier this year there had been a death from a falling carriage in Bhaktapur and it is not all that rare of an occurrence. The crowd was so tight we were unable to lift an arm or foot until the crowd allowed it. We actually walked in unison-without choice. 
We left the Square for the ideal spot and several blocks later we found a nice little, local restaurant with an upstairs balcony. Soon the procession was coming!

There were people dressed in masks and costumes of the gods. Bhirab, the god of anger, came running into the crowd and back to the carriage. Ganesh came in the form of a cow and would run quickly through the crowd. 
Musicians paraded through with drums, cymbals and other instruments. Then the first carriage came and stopped about a half a block from where we were. The crowd was incredible and as much as I wanted to go down to see if I could be so blessed as to touch one of these gods I wanted to stay right there to catch a picture. 
Finally the third carriage came and stopped where the others had, and there she was! It was so incredible to see her, the only living goddess on the planet. When I got home and looked at the pictures I found a gift almost as nice as if I could have touched her; she was looking at me when I caught her in a picture.You can see it at the top of the post.

After the festival the people who pulled the Royal Kumari and the other gods, Ganesh and Bhairab can enjoy this feast. Last year I was privileged to be able to provide the water for the devotees.

The Indra Jatra has a long and rich history and you can easily find the historical information from a plethora of sources. What I attempted to illustrate in this blog post is the actual excitement of the event. If you come to Nepal be sure to check for a full moon. Many of the best celebrations are during the full moon. These festivals are rich and exciting-and free. 
A few tips from Nepal: An Insider's Secrets for festivals
1.     Be sure to leave anything of value at your guest house.
2.     Rather than leaving valuables in your room you can ask to have them held in the safe or safe room at the guest house.
3.     Watch out for pick-pockets.
4.     Keep in mind that these are spiritual celebrations, not parades.
5.     Ask how you can participate in an appropriate way.

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