Seto Machhindranath jatra begins

KATHMANDU, APR 18 – Considered one of the biggest festivals celebrated in Kathmandu, Seto Machhindranath Jatra, a chariot procession dedicated to the god of rain, began on Thursday.
The festival kicked off with the temporary shipment of an idol of Seto Machhindranath from its temple at Kel Tole in Basantapur Durbar Square to a chariot built by local Newars at Durbarmarg. The holy chariot was then pulled by hundreds of devotees to Jamal and then to Ason.
The chariot, which is the main attraction of the festival, is a wooden tower built in Sikhar Sailee (a mountain-like structure). The chariot is supported by four huge wheels, each representing separate avatars of Bhairav, the lord of aggression. The chariot is divided into 10 storeys, each of which is considered to be the houses of lords Indra, Barun, Kuber, Agni, Nairithya, Bayubya, Bramha, Mahadev and Narayan, respectively. The idol of Seto Machhindranath is perched at the first storey of the temple-like structure of the chariot. The section, decorated with precious stones, is supposed to be guarded by two other idols of two avatars of Goddess Tara.
The festival of Seto Machhindranath also coincides with another Hindu festival of Chaite Dashain, also known as the miniature version of the Dashain festival celebrated around October, and is celebrated on the eighth day of the lunar month of Chaitra, six month prior to the main Dashain festival.
The three-day chariot procession is celebrated in a designated route that goes through Ason, Indrachowk and surrounding areas to Lagan in Basantapur. According to cultural expert Munindra Ratna Bajracharya, the first day of the divine procession covers Jamal, Ratnapark, Bhotahity and Ason. On the second day, the procession is taken out from Ason to Balkumari, Kel Tole, Indra Chowk, Makhan and rests in Hanumandhoka. On the final day, the chariot moves through Hanumandhoka, Maru, Chikan Mangal, Jaisidewal, Jya Baha and finally reaches Lagan Tol. On the fourth day, the image of the god is restored at the temple of Machhindranath in Kel Tole. At every stop en route to the final destination, devotees pay homage and make offerings to the god residing in the grand chariot. According to Bajracharya, the festival has a controversial beginning. “While many believe that the festival was started by King Pratap Malla in the medieval period, inscriptions unearthed in Janabahal, older Jamal area, hint that the festival is older than it is generally supposed to be,” he said.
There are various myths related to the celebration of this festival. According to the most popular myth, Lord Seto Machhindranath was originally from the Hamhal monastery in Ranipokhari, which fell under the current day Jamal but was a separate kingdom back then called Jamadesh where Yakshya Malla was the then ruling king. Once, when the god of death Yamaraj with his fellowmen was on a visit to Swayambhu, king Yakshya Malla captured them and started asking for immortality. Unable to give that power to anyone since he himself was a mortal god, Yamaraj requested Lord Arya Awalokiteshwor to free him from the king. The lord, white in colour, emerged out from water and then asked the king to build a temple at Kel Tole. The lord also told him that anyone who would visit the temple would live a longer and powerful life. The king was further ordered to take out a chariot procession at this time of year for the best results.
“The Buddhist Newars of Kathmandu celebrate the festival as per this myth,” said Bajracharya. “For others, the celebration simply marks the end of winter and beginning of the spring and rainy seasons.”
Meanwhile, a 36-member steering committee formed under the coordination of Nil Kaji Shrestha made overall preparations required for the festival.

Source: The Kathmandu Post

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