September 22, 2010 was Indra Jatra in Nepal. The only living goddess in the world, Kumari, was carried in chariot while the Prime Minister, President, and high level official witness the procession.
Indra Jatra is the festival to remember Lord Indra, the king of heaven, and the god of rain. In Newari, this festival is also called Yanya Punhi. It is believed that the festival was started by Lichhavi king Gunkamadev in Kaligat Sambat 3822. Indra Jatra also marks the beginning of Dashain and Tihar festivals.
The festival begins with the carnival-like erection of a ceremonial pole, known as Yosin, accompanied by the rare display of the deity Aakash Bhairab. The Aakash Bhairab is represented by a massive mask spouting beer and liquor.
This is the only time of year the households throughout Kathmandu valley display images and sculptures of Indra and Bhairab. The Kumari, the only living goddess in the world, leaves the seclusion of her temple in a palanquin and leads a procession through the streets of Kathmandu to thank Indra, the rain god.
Every year, Indra Jatra begins from the Dwadasi of Bhadra to Aswin Krishna Chaturd asi, a total of eight days. Previously the festival was a week-long until King Jaya Prakash Malla in 1765 B.S. added a day to pull chariot through Naradevi, Nhyokha, Ason, Indrachwok and Hanuman Dhoka.
In one old saying, it is said that Indra’s mother needed a type of flower found in Nepal, parijat, for some religious ritual. Indra disguised himself as a human and came to the earth to fetch the flower. But, Indra was unlucky to be caught during stealing the flowers. The people tied Indra with ropes. A statue Maru Tole in Kathmandu depicts the tied Indra and is still being worshipped.
In Indra Chowk, Akash Bhairava bust, decorated with flowers, is displayed. The Akash Bhairava’s head is related to the epic, Mahabharata. Some even believe it to be the head of the first Kirat King Yalamber.
Some of the variety of performances during Indra Jatra are the dances of Sawa Bhakku Bhairav from Halchowk, Lakhes from Majipat, Devi Nach and Yeravat hathi (Pulukisi) from Naradevi, Mahakali and Kathi Maka Nach from Bhaktapur. These dances take place around the ancient Royal Palace, Hanuman Dhoka.
Indrajatra is the only time PuluKisi (Indra’s Elephant) dances in the public.
Other Lakhe dances are also very popular in Indra Jatra.
In the Lakhe and Sabha Bhakku dance, Lakhe chases Sabha Bhakku and Sabha Bhakku teases Lakhe. Lakhe dance of Majhipat is one of the most popular dances in the Jatra.
To promote Lakhe dance tradition, Narayangarh Bus Park Tol Sudhar and Bus Byawasthapan Samiti is organizing third National Lakhe Dance Competition on September 21 and 22, 2010. The first and second such competition were held in 2064 and 2065 BS. The winner, first runner-up and second runner-up will receive Rs. 30,000, Rs. 20,000, and Rs. 10,000 respectively. All the other participating teams will also be awarded Rs. 5,000 for their participation.