The Indra Jatra Festival celebrations mark the end of the monsoon season in Nepal. The holiday lasts from 7 to 10 days and is dedicated to the king of the gods (devas) and the lord of the heavenly kingdom (Svarga) in Vedic and Hindu mythology – Indra, who is also the god of rain. In Nepal, there are several legends associated with this festival. One of them tells the following story.
Indra was the beloved son of Aditi, the mother of the gods. Once, Aditi decided to do a puja for which it was necessary to use the flowers of the parijata tree. This tree was once planted in his garden by the god Indra, but then it was dug up by the god Krishna for his wives and appeared on earth. The flowers of the tree resemble jasmine, but the corolla tubes are colored orange. Nepalese claim that at that time Parijata grew only in the Kathmandu Valley.
Indra decided to help his mother and came down to earth in the form of a simple peasant to collect flowers for puja. He found a tree in one of the gardens and began to pick flowers, but was caught and put behind bars. Indra’s mother became worried about Indra’s so long absence and went to earth. In the Kathmandu valley, Aditi announced to everyone who she was and that she was looking for her son – the great god Indra. The inhabitants immediately freed the lord of the heavenly kingdom and arranged a holiday on this occasion so that Indra would not be offended by them and left the earth in good spirits. The mother of the rain god, in turn, promised the inhabitants of the Kathmandu Valley to send thick fogs in winter, which would help grow the grain harvest. Indra Jatra was first held in the 10th century by King Gunakamadeva of Nepal.
On the first day of the festival, an interesting event takes place on Hanuman Dhoka in Durbar Square, where there is a complex of buildings with the old Royal Palace.
Approximately 504 girls under the age of nine were brought from all over the country to the temple for a mass ritual – protection from evil and good luck in the future.
The Kumari or Kumari Devi tradition of worshiping young, sexually immature girls as a manifestation of divine feminine energy or “devi” is an ancient Hindu religious custom.
All girls dress as Kumari, the living goddess, and take part in services called “Kumari puja”. The service takes place on the eve of the celebration of the Indra Jatra festival.
The main action of the festival takes place on Darbar Square. A huge pillar is erected here in honor of Indra’s visit to the Kathmandu Valley. Dances begin around the pole. Festival participants put on national costumes, masks and perform all day long.
One of the most interesting events of the festival is Kumari Jatra. At three o’clock in the afternoon, a procession of two chariots begins, which accompany the goddess Kumari. She leaves her temple and in her chariot participates in the procession to express her gratitude to the god Indra. She is accompanied by Ganesha – the god of luck and prosperity, as well as the formidable Bhairava. So they march in different directions for three days.
On the Basantapur square, the huge head of Bhairava is opened. On other days, except for the festival of Indra Jatra, it is closed with wooden shutters. The believers make offerings in the form of grains of rice and flowers. In the first days of the festival, beer begins to flow from the mouth of Bhairava, which attracts more and more believers.
Five Vajracharyas (Buddhist priests of the Newar group), which represent the Five Buddhas, symbolizing the four cardinal directions and its middle in esoteric Buddhism. They accompany the Kumari chariot during the Jatra. The Kumari cult is associated with Buddhist groups of Newars and primarily with the Vajracharya monks.
One of the days of the festival is dedicated to Indra’s mother – Aditi, in Kathmandu for some reason she is called Dagin. A procession begins, which reproduces the search for the mother of her son Indra.
After Kumari returns to his palace after traveling around the southern part of the city, a procession of musicians begins, which accompanies the masked man.
On the last day of the festival, the pole is lowered to the ground, a sacrifice is performed, a religious ceremony is held, and then ritual dances continue until evening. Indra is thanked for the rains and is assured once again that he is revered in the Kathmandu valley.