Bisket Jatra: Festivals in Bhaktapur, Nepal

Bisket Jatra, Festivals of Bhaktapur Nepal

Bisket Jatra, commonly known as Sindhur Jatra is celebrated in Madhyapur Thimi and Bhaktapur area (Kathmandu, Nepal) during start of the Nepali New Year, Bikram Sambat: 1st and 2nd of every Baisakh (April 14 & 15). People greet each other throwing simrik powder on backdrop of traditional Newari Dhime music.

Madhyapur Thimi is a medieval town of Kathmandu valley. It lies at center of three major cities of Kathmandu valley: Bhaktapur, Lalitpur and Kathmandu. This ancient city with rich cultural and traditional values. Which is located in about 8 kilometers east of Kathmandu (the capital city of Nepal).

Bisket Jatra is also called Bisya, a newari word, where ‘Bi’ represents for a giant snake and ‘sya’ represents killed. Thus, the jatra (festival) is the representation of the ceremony of killing a giant snake.

How is it celebrated?

A few days before the new year, the goddess ‘“Bhadrakali” and god “Bhairav” are enshrined in their ‘BHAILAKHA’ (chariots) and pulled through the narrow streets of Bhaktapur by crowds of young men.

Chariot Pulling in Bisket Jatra
Chariot Pulling in Bisket Jatra

Pulling Chariot is like a competition, where people from two sides thwane (upper) and kwane (lower) energetically tries to pull the wooden chariot. The chariot is made stitching in about a month.

The chariots rest at certain time-honored places in the city where people come out to throw offerings of flower, rice, coins and red Sindhur (vermillion powder).

Playing with Colors (Sindhur) in Bisket Jatra
Playing with Colors (Sindhur) in Bisket Jatra

On the last day of the old year, a towering wooden pole known as “LYOSHING DYO” or “lingo” is erected at the edge of town. Long banners hang from the pole symbolizing snakes (nag and nagini).

While erecting the pole, praying is done, Dhyama; local musical instrument is played to please the god. After erecting the pole, peoples try to climb on it and offer the holy lingo with dakshina and flowers.

On New Years day the pole is brought down to symbolize victory over evil.

A few days later, the chariot is again pulled through the narrow streets of Bhaktapur to its original position in Tamari Square to mark the end of Biska Jatra.

Tongue Piercing in Bisket Jatra
Tongue Piercing in Bisket Jatra

During this festival, a place called Bode witnesses a tongue-piercing ceremony. One of a resident spends the whole day with iron spike piercing in his tongue. And roams different part of the city by carrying multiple fire torch on the shoulders.

Myths of the Bisket Jatra

Festival after the death of serpent

It is said that a beautiful princess always became the widow after a day of her marriage; as several men who married her were found dead next day because of snakebite.

However, a prince with tantric power came over and tied the knot with her.

On their wedding night, he stayed awake and came to know the reason behind the mysterious deaths.

Two snakes appeared in the thread like structures through the nostrils of the princess. And attacked the prince upon which he killed the snake with his sword.

When people saw him alive, the next morning, they celebrated the day as Biska Jatra. Also, Vishwo Malla the then ruler brought the practice of hoisting two long flags on a big long wooden pole. Symbolically enough, the banners were designed after the shape of the deceased serpents. The banners are also known as BISHO DHOJA after BISHO MALLA.

It is believed that this Jatra was first initiated at the time of King Jagat Jyoti Malla since the 12th Century.

Festival of the mating of the Bhairab and the Bhadrakali

The mythical belief considers the firmament (structure above the earth’s atmosphere) and the earth as the divine male and female object in the form of Bhairab and Bhadrakali respectively.

It is said that the mating between the sky and the earth has made the creation possible on our planet.

The rain that showers from the sky to the earth are considered the life giving element and the earth is the creative base. And the hole in which the Yoshin-Pole is erected is the symbol of the female reproductive organ.

Bisket Jatra is the most standout vivid Jatra of Nepal. It is one of the most dangerous events in the world. Therefore, whenever you seek to attend this event, you must adopt a few measures. Such as taking a guide along and always participating in groups. Moreover, you should not approach to raths and wooden poles. But if you intend to participate in the tug-of-war; you will be suggested not to as it is a deadly thing to do.

Would you participate in this festival if you get a chance?

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