If you want to be part of a festival in which hundreds of people (many of whom inebriated!) are bent on pulling two huge wooden chariots in different directions, then the Bisket Jatra of Bhaktapur is the festival for you! It is celebrated for a few days before, during and after the Nepali New Year. In addition to statues of the gods Bhairab and Bhadrakali, on two massive chariots (raths), other gods and goddesses are also enthroned on palanquins and taken in a procession around the ancient town. The raths are pulled by ropes by groups of young men.
During the procession, they are set to rest at certain places in the city, where the locals come and pay their homage to the deities. During the festival, two wooden poles (lingos) are erected in two parts of the city. The major one is brought down in the New Year, during which time the two massive raths are also made to clash with each other. These two events obviously call for a fair degree of pushing and pulling, compounded by the fact that separate groups of local young men vie for the honour of crashing the huge wooden pole to the ground! Meanwhile, other similarly enthusiastic young men are busy testing their strength by pulling at the raths in a virtual tug-of-war.
Inspired? If you are interested in our festival tours, have a look at what Royal Mountain Travel can also offer:
For more information about festivals in Nepal, have a look at Inside Himalayas: A Princess' Deadly Curse: Myths of the Bisket Jatra Festival; Modern Cultural Festivals in Nepal You Can’t Miss; Major Festivals of Nepal in 2018
|Day 1||Welcome to Kathmandu!|
|Day 2||Tour the holy sites of Kathmandu|
|Day 3||Tour Panauti and Bhaktapur|
|Day 4||Join the Bisket Jatra Festival of Bhaktapur|
|Day 5||Sightseeing in Kathmandu: Swayambhunath and Kathmandu Durbar Square|
Royal Mountain Travel is a Nepal-based sustainable tourism operator. We specialize in curating once-in-a-lifetime experiences to showcase indigenous and community based tourism projects. We work with travel agents and tourism companies to help plan travel experiences that highlight authentic, local lifestyles throughout some of the most unique landscapes on earth.
Welcome to Kathmandu!
As you exit baggage claim/customs on arrival at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, your airport representative will be waiting to greet you and transfer you to your hotel. Please look for your name sign. The airport is close to the city centre (about half an hour’s drive), but traffic can make the journey a little slow, especially during peak hours.
O/N Hotel Traditional Comfort BB
Tour the holy sites of Kathmandu
Start at Boudhanath Stupa, one of the holiest sites in Nepal, and the holiest Tibetan Buddhist site outside of Tibet. It commands admiration not only from Buddhists but also Hindus, who can also be seen paying their respects at this holy site. The stupa is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a symbol of peace and love. It used to be a resting point for Tibetan merchants travelling to Nepal and India. Tibetans and other Buddhists from around the world consider this a sacred destination.
Next, visit Pashupatinath Temple, which is dedicated to Hindu Lord Shiva, the God of Destruction and Lord of Animals. This temple is a final destination for Hindu devotees from all around the world, as many people come to die here and to have their ashes scattered. Built in around 400 A.D, the temple is located beside the holy river Bagmati, and is decorated with ancient arts and crafts. Four of the main gates of the temple are made of silver.
Pashupatinath Temple is also home to many Hindu sadhus. They can be spotted around the temple: they are the men with long dreadlocks who meditate by the banks of the Bagmati River. They can sometimes be seen smoking marijuana, as it is believed that Lord Shiva was fond of smoking marijuana at his adobe, Mount Kailash—so the sadhus at Pashupatinath impersonate him!
Later on, visit the old town of Patan. This is one of the Kathmandu Valley’s World Heritage Sites, and well worth a visit. Its origins are mysterious, but it has a long Buddhist history. It claims to have been the capital of the mythical Kiranti Dynasty, and is associated with the great Indian emperor, Ashoka, who is credited with the building of the four grass-covered stupas surrounding the city in around 250 BCE. For many centuries, Patan’s importance eclipsed Kathmandu’s, and by the 7th century it was a major Buddhist centre of Asia, attracting pilgrims, scholars and monks from India, Tibet and China. Medieval Patan was the largest and most prosperous of the three kingdoms in the Kathmandu Valley. The town was ruled by noblemen until the Mallas of Kathmandu took control of the city in 1597, for a while unifying the Kathmandu Valley. Most of Patan’s magnificent architecture dates to the late Malla era (16th-18th centuries).
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Tour Panauti and Bhaktapur
Following the Araniko Highway out of Kathmandu, climb up and out of the valley to the village of Panauti, set at the confluence of sacred rivers (35km, 1-2 hrs).
Many families in Panauti village have come together to establish a homestay program. They provide comfortable rooms for guests in their own homes, as well as cultural programmes and sightseeing activities. Eat lunch with a local family in their homestay, a unique and memorable experience.
Next, drive to Bhaktapur for sightseeing. Bhaktapur is an important and fascinating World Heritage Site. It’s comprised of three large squares filled with shrines, temples and activity, and a typical Newari city (the original inhabitants of the Kathmandu Valley) with some of the finest architecture in Nepal. In its heyday (14th-16th centuries), Bhaktapur was the most powerful of the Kathmandu Valley kingdoms, and its capital for 300 years.
Despite earthquakes and frequent rebuilding, Bhaktapur today retains a medieval feel. Its neighbourhoods are still caste-oriented and centred around the old ponds or tanks (built to store water for drinking, washing and religious ceremonies), and which continue to be a social focal point. Local people here are predominantly farmers or engaged in the traditional crafts of pottery, metalwork, art and woodwork, which continue today and have supported the city since its establishment in the 12th century to service the trade route between Tibet and India. It’s a fascinating place to explore.
O/N Khwapachhen Guest House BB
Join the Bisket Jatra Festival of Bhaktapur
If you want to be part of a festival in which hundreds of people (many of whom inebriated!) are bent on pulling two huge wooden chariots in different directions, then the Bisket Jatra of Bhaktapur is the festival for you! It is celebrated for a few days before, during and after the Nepali New Year. In addition to statues of the gods Bhairab and Bhadrakali, on two massive chariots (raths), other gods and goddesses are also enthroned on palanquins and taken in a procession around the ancient town. The raths are pulled by ropes by groups of young men. During the procession, they are set to rest at certain places in the city, where the locals come and pay their homage to the deities. During the festival, two wooden poles (lingos) are erected in two parts of the city. The major one is brought down in the New Year, during which time the two massive raths are also made to clash with each other. These two events obviously call for a fair degree of pushing and pulling, compounded by the fact that separate groups of local young men vie for the honour of crashing the huge wooden pole to the ground! Meanwhile, other similarly enthusiastic young men are busy testing their strength by pulling at the raths in a virtual tug-of-war.
O/N Khwapachhen Guest House BB
FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT BISKET JATRA, PLEASE CLICK: https://goo.gl/siwZg2
TO SEE VIDEO ABOUT BISKET JATRA, PLEASE CLICK: https://goo.gl/N5mLqb
Sightseeing in Kathmandu: Swayambhunath and Kathmandu Durbar Square
Swayambhunath is one of the oldest and most revered shrines in Nepal. Perched atop a conical hill, its lofty white dome, glittering golden spire and all-seeing eyes is a not only a major landmark of the valley but also a symbol of Nepal. The stupa has been an important Buddhist pilgrimage site since the 5th century. Buddha Jayanti (Buddha’s Birthday), Gunla (a month-long festival) and Lhosar (Tibetan New Year) are celebrated with gusto here.
You reach the shrine by climbing 365 steps uphill, or by a winding road on the other side. You will see numerous temples and small stone chaityas in the complex, but look out for the mysterious Shantipur Temple, inside of which is said to live the 8th century Tantric Shantikar Acharya, whose meditation has kept him alive for many centuries! To the west of the main complex is one of the later additions: a giant 57-foot statue of the Buddha within a park area.
The Kathmandu Durbar Square, a UNESCO World Heritage site (and one of eight in the Kathmandu Valley) is a cluster of ancient temples, palaces, courtyards and streets that date back to the 12th and 18th centuries. The square is known to be the social, religious and urban focal point of the capital city. Your visit to Durbar Square includes many temples like Kumari Chowk, Aakash Bhairav Temple, Temple of Lord Machhendranath and Itumbahal courtyard.
Itumbahal is an old Newari settlement set in a large courtyard and famous for its herb, spice and medicine traders. From here, continue to Indrachowk, one of Kathmandu’s most ancient and colourful local markets. We finish our tour with a walk to Ason Chowk, another market dedicated to spices and local vegetables, and the Annapurna temple, which is dedicated to the goddess of grains.
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Today, we bid you farewell at Kathmandu airport, or arrange transfers for your onward travel in Nepal.