Nepalis worship with fervour as ancient festival adapts

KATHMANDU Mon Jun 25, 2012 1:12pm IST

Devotees direct people pulling the chariot during the Bhotojatra festival in Lalitpur June 24, 2012. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar

Devotees direct people pulling the chariot during the Bhotojatra festival in Lalitpur June 24, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Navesh Chitrakar

Related Topics

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Thousands of Nepalis threw coins and marigolds at a giant chariot over the weekend in a centuries-old ritual to appease the rain god and assure a good harvest, as well as guaranteeing good omens for the country's rulers.

The annual two-month chariot festival for Rato Machhindranath, revered as the god of rain, has for countless generations been presided over by Nepal's kings.

The monarchy was abolished in the Himalayan country in 2008 but that hasn't stopped the festival. These days, the president stands in.

The centrepiece of the ritual in the old town of Pathan, 10 km (6 miles) south of the capital of Kathmandu, came with the display of a jewelled vest said to have been given to a farmer by a serpent king more than 1,000 years ago.

Lost by the farmer and claimed by a demon, legend has it that the vest has since been held by Rato Machhindranath for its rightful owner to claim in the presence of the king, or president.

"Whoever watches the displaying of the vest becomes free from troubles, disease and hunger," said 49-year-old Hindu priest Kamal Raj Bajracharya.

For the days of the festival, an idol of Rato Machhindranath is mounted on a chariot with large wheels that groan as devotees haul it through the streets. On the chariot is a 20-metre (60-foot) tower festooned with fir twigs.

"It is our heritage and we must protect it," said Narayan Devi, dressed in a red sari as she stood by the chariot.

"The god will protect the country and us, its entire people, if we perform the ritual."

Satya Mohan Joshi, an expert on Nepali culture, said while the chariot stood for prosperity, if its tower collapses that would signify bad times for the country and its rulers.

He said the tower had tumbled in 2001, the year popular King Birendra and most of the royal family members were gunned down by the crown prince who later turned the gun on himself.

That compounded turmoil in the Himalayan country that was already battling a communist insurgency. Eventually, the centuries-old monarchy was abolished.

The tower also collapsed during a procession in 1971, months before then-King Mahendra, father of Nepal's last King Gyanendra, suddenly died.

Though the tower leaned a bit during this year's procession, thankfully for Nepal, which has endured chronic political turmoil, it remained standing. (Reporting by Gopal Sharma; Editing by Elaine Lies and Robert Birsel)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

SpaceShip Crash

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Ban On E-cigarettes

Ban On E-cigarettes

Govt considers ban on e-cigarettes, sale of single smokes  Full Article 

 SpaceShipTwo Crash

SpaceShipTwo Crash

Test flight of Virgin Galactic spaceship ends in fatal crash in California.  Full Article 

Ukraine Crisis

Ukraine Crisis

Europe won't recognise vote in eastern Ukraine, Merkel tells Putin.  Full Article 

ATP World Rankings

ATP World Rankings

Federer's number one hopes take a hit in Paris defeat.  Full Article 

Sahara Troubles

Sahara Troubles

SEBI piles pressure on Sahara to sell overseas hotels.  Full Article 

Myanmar's Peace Talks

Myanmar's Peace Talks

Myanmar's leaders seek to revive peace talks, maintain reforms   Full Article 

A Minute With

A Minute With

Bollywood's Kalki Koechlin on playing disabled teen.  Full Article 

Formula One

Formula One

Hamilton fastest as Mercedes dominate U.S. practice.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage