Wed, 17 Apr, 2024

Bisket Jatra: The Only One of Its Kind

By Ankit Pradhan

Nepal has always been known for its culture and religious values. There are different kinds of cultural and religious practices in Nepal. Lalitpur, Bhaktapur and Kathmandu are famous for different kinds of festivals celebrated by Newars. Every year numerous festivals are celebrated in these cities. We can see that many religious festivals are celebrated as per lunar eclipse but in Bhaktapur there is only one festival which is celebrated as per solar eclipse. This festival is called “Bisket Jatra”. It is also celebrated as the beginning of Nepali New Year. ‘Bisket Jatra’ is the main festival celebrated by the Newars in Bhaktapur every year in the month of April for 10 days. As per the historical belief, the celebration of ‘Bisket Jatra’ started from the period of Lichhavi kings. It is believed that one of the kings of Bhaktapur was searching for a groom for his daughter. The king had married his daughter to many people but every time after the next day of marriage the groom was found dead in the bed. Everyone was afraid of being dead so nobody wanted to marry the princess but one day a young man came and said that he would marry her. In order to find the mystery behind the death that groom stayed awake the whole night and at the middle of night he found that two snakes came out from the nostrils of the princess. He killed the snakes with his sword and was able to survive. From this day on, people started to celebrate “Bisket Jatra” to commemorate the survival of the groom and the crushing away of the snakes. According to some mythical belief, Bhairab is regarded as divine male form of earth and Bhadrakali is regarded as the divine female form of sky. It is believed that our earth was formed due to conjugation of earth and sky. The rain from the sky is regarded as the symbol of life giving element and earth is regarded as the creation of life. Hence the concept of this Jatra is mainly based on conjugality, creation, and continuity of life. On this day, the festival begins by pulling two historical chariots containing the image of Bhairab and Bhadrakali who are addressed as Bhaila Deo and Nakinju Ajima by two groups called as lower and upper halves of the town of Bhaktapur. The chariot is drawn by large number of people. The two poles are known as Yoshin one with extended poles and other without arms. In the late evening before New Year’s the Yoshin’s arms are erected by the huge number of people. The pole is erected towards the sky for 24 hours. During this period of time youth enjoy singing, dancing and drinking. The two chariots are brought together signifying the copulation of the divine earth and sky. In this day sacrifices are made by the local people to Bhairab. The “Bisket Jatra” is also famous for tongue piercing ceremony. On this day, the youngsters from the family of Shresthas pierce their tongues voluntarily. On this day, the youth pierce their tongue with iron spikes and move around the whole town while a bamboo chariot is being carried. It is believed that the successful completion of this ceremony brings blessings of god, food, wealth and good fortune in the village, villagers and the youth himself. It is also believed that the piercing also purifies one’s soul and at that time the volunteer is possessed by god. I think that piercing the tongue is just a misbelief of those people. Since piercing the tongue can only bring pain to that person, not good fortune. He may not feel much pain while piercing his tongue that day since he is drunk. This kind of piercing of one’s body parts is practiced in different parts of world which might absolutely be a misbelief and superstition.