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The Rato Machhindranath Jatra Festival Tour offers visitors a deep insight into a unique and cultural chariot festival in Nepal. The occasion reflects the devotion of people towards the god of rain and harvest, Rato Machhindranath.
This chariot festival happens in Lalitpur, the city of fine arts and the home to Patan Durbar Square, a spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Site. The festival is celebrated to honor the Vajrayana Buddhist God of compassion, ‘Avalokitesvara Karunamaya’. It is one of the longest-running chariot festivals celebrated in the Kathmandu Valley.
This month-long chariot festival ends with the Bhoto Jatra, where a jewel-studded black Bhoto (vest) is displayed from the chariot for all to see, with the hope that the actual owner comes forward to claim with proof that it belongs to him.
Bunga dyo/ Rato Machhindranath
Rato Machindranath Jatra is celebrated to remember that Kathmandu was once rescued from severe drought. It is believed that Guru Gorakhnath (a sage) had once visited Patan in the medieval period and no one offered any respect towards him. He was angered by the insult and went to the location of the nine rain-bringing serpents with a vow to take revenge. He sat on the snake’s head and entered a deep level of meditation.
A 12 years long drought then hit Patan, and all the rivers around dried off. A Tantrik informed that the meditating state of the Yogi Gorakhnath was the cause for this drought. He also said that once the serpents were set free, it would rain in the valley again. Thus, the advisors told the then King Narendra Dev to bring Machhindranath, the angry Gorakhnath’s teacher from Assam (India) to Patan. So people went to fetch him and upon their request, he visited Kathmandu valley. With the help of four Bhairabs, the locals took him to Gorakhnath’s place. Sensing his presence, Gorakhnath came out from this trance and stood respectfully. Finally, rain bringing serpents were free and it started raining in the valley.
Later the King decided to keep Rato Macchindranath in Lalitpur. Since that day, people have been celebrating this chariot festival every year.
The chariot of an approximate height of 60 feet is constructed at Pulchowk and decorated. When it’s done, the idol of Rato Machhindranath is transferred from his temple. Another smaller chariot also accompanies Rato Machhindranath, known as ‘Minnath’. Revelers perform the chariot procession from Pulchowk to Gabahal on the first day, stopping over at Sundhara, Lagankhel and ending at Jawalakhel with Bhoto Jatra. One of these days, the chariot is pulled exclusively by women from Upper Lagankhel to Etii Tole (On the way to the Junction of Tangal and Kumaripati), the day is called “Yaka Mishaya Bhu Jyaa”. The living goddess “Kumari” of Patan also observes Bhoto Jatra from a special rest house. After the festival is over, Rato Machhindranath is taken to his temple in Bungamati, where the deity stays the remaining months.
Another legend related to Bhoto Jatra is, once the wife of Karkotak Nagraj (the king of all serpents) had an eye ailment which could not be cured even with lots of medicines. One day, a farmer (Jyapu) came and told he could heal her eye problem. He then rubbed off his ear and collected the dirt, and put it in the eyes of Nagraj’s wife. She was instantly cured and he gifted the farmer with a Bhoto, studded with diamonds and other jewels, out of generosity.
One day while he was working on his field, he took it off because he felt very hot. Later it was nowhere to be found, after a few days, he found someone wearing it during the chariot festival. The two parties had a quarrel and argument regarding the ownership of the Bhoto. But they couldn’t come to a conclusion, thus they decided to offer it to Machindranath and would take it back after they had enough proof to rightfully claim it back. So every year, the Bhoto Jatra is observed by displaying this Bhoto to the public in the hopes that the rightful owner will come forward with conclusive proof. It is believed that Karkotak Nagraj is also present during the Bhoto Jatra festival as the Bhoto actually belongs to him. However, to this date, no one has come forward.
Meet your local guide and fellow travellers at Royal Mountain Travel, Lal Durbar Marg at 12:00 PM. Drive to Patan, explore the historic alleys, the fine arts and architectures of the Durbar Square, monuments and heritages. This experience will give you an insight into Nepal’s unique culture and festivals.
Later, you will visit the house of the host family, where you will witness the chariot pulling festival from their balcony or window. Later in the evening, you will celebrate the festivity and enjoy “Bhoye” (the traditional Newari feast) with the host family and their relatives.