Indra Jatra is an eight-day street festival celebrated with great enthusiasm in the Kathmandu valley in the Nepali month of Bhadra. During this festival Nepalese pray for a good harvest and also remember their family members who might have been deceased in the past year.
While some people consider Indra Jatra as a day to thank God Indra for the rains, others are of the opinion that the festival honors Bhairava, Lord Shiva’s fierce manifestation, who is believed to destroy evil. As per a legend, when Indra once came to Kathmandu valley to steal the parijat flower for his mother, he was imprisoned. Dagini, his mother, was able to secure his release from the local people after promising two things – entry into heaven for those people who died in the past year and sufficient rains to ensure a good harvest.
The festival is also known by the traditional name Yenya and begins with the erection of a ceremonial flagpole outside the Hanuman Dhoka at the Kathmandu Durbar Square, which is the main venue for the festivities. The shrines and ancient buildings around the Durbar Square are illuminated with oil wicks on each night of the festival.
During the festival, the chariot of Kumari, the Living Goddess, is taken out in a procession through the main streets of Kathmandu. The mask of Bhairava is displayed in front of Kumari’s chariot procession to signify that she is always under his protection. The procession lasts for three days and is witnessed by thousands of people in festive costumes. Masked dancers accompanied by loud drums perform in the streets during the evenings.
On the last day, the erected pole is brought down marking the end of the festivities. The end of the Indra Jatra heralds the beginning of Dashain, Nepal’s biggest festival.