50 Revealing Photos From Nepal’s Indra Jatra Festival 2015

This week marks the start of Nepal’s biggest religious holiday, the annual week-long Indra Jatra festival. This Newari festival dates back to the 10th century and is characterized by grand processions, masked dancers, music, food and religious offerings. It pays tribute to Indra, the Hindu king of heaven.

Lakhae dancer at the Indra Jatra festival 2015 Lakhae dancer on the first day of the Indra Jatra festival

Musicians and elaborately dressed dancers work their way through the crowds at the Indra Jatra festival 2015 Small groups of musicians are scattered throughout the crowds, each seemingly competing against the others to see who can be the loudest.

Kumari Jatra chariot procession Kumari Jatra chariot procession

  According to legend, Indra descended to earth to pluck a rare flower that does not grow in the heavens. He was captured by the locals and put on display in Kathmandu, who refused to believe Indra was who he claimed to be. Eventually Indra’s mother Basundhara became worried and went to Kathmandu. The locals, upon realizing their mistake, immediately released Indra. In return, Basundhara promised to always provide enough rain for a healthy crop.

Locals prepare for the Indra Jatra festival 2015 Locals prepare for the Indra Jatra festival

Although Indra Jatra is also celebrated in Bhaktapur and Sikkim (as well as other parts of India) the main festival occurs in and around Kathmandu Durbar Square (one of three Durbar Squares in the Valley, all of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites).

Locals Prepare For The Indra Jatra Festival  

Locals prepare for the Indra Jatra festival 2015
Locals prepare for the Indra Jatra festival 2015

…And The Indra Jatra Festival Begins!

An elderly man pauses to say a brief prayer as he passes by the Yoshin at the Indra Jatra Festival in Nepal An elderly man pauses to say a brief prayer as he passes by

The festival commences with Yosin Thanegu, in which a large tree is stripped of its branches and dragged from a forest 30 kilometres outside of the city all the way to Kathmandu. Known as yoshin, this tree is erected in Kathmandu Durbar Square and the banner of Indra hung from it. Although I missed the actual procession, pictured above is the yoshin.

Police clear way for the kumari at the Indra Jatra festival 2015 Police line up to clear a safe pathway for the kumari and her entourage. Who/what is the kumari?  

The Kumari Steals The Show

The unquestionable highlight of the Indra Jatra festival is the Kumari Jatra festival. (Yes, that’s right, its a 3-day festival within a week-long festival…those Nepalese really know how to party!) The Kumari, otherwise known as the Living Goddess, made a rare appearance over the course of three days in a grand procession with three gold chariots.

The Royal Kumari of Nepal on her golden chariot at the Indra Jatra festival 2015 The Royal Kumari of Nepal on her golden chariot

The Kumari is a pre-pubescent girl who is supposed to be a human manifestation of the divine female energy. She lives in a palace, is pampered beyond belief and hardly even allowed to walk on her own, and is worshiped as a living god until reaching puberty — at which point she is stripped of her deity status and must return to a simple life living with her family.


The Kumari chariot at the Indra Jatra festival 2015 The other two chariots contain young girls representing Bhairav and Ganesh

  Popular misconception says that former kumari cannot marry, however this is not true. It’s merely said that marrying a former kumari will bring imminent death upon yourself, which for some strange reason tends to scare men off. (And probably women as well.)

The Royal Kumari of Nepal on her golden chariot at the Indra Jatra festival 2015 After being paraded through the crowd, the living goddess reaches her chariot…

The Royal Kumari of Nepal on her golden chariot at the Indra Jatra festival 2015 …is passed from person to person, so she doesn’t have to exert any effort…

The Royal Kumari of Nepal on her golden chariot at the Indra Jatra festival 2015 …and finally placed within her golden chariot.

There are many Kumari throughout Nepal, however the most famous one is the Royal Kumari of Kathmandu. Although I could ramble on about the life of a Kumari, the controversy surrounding this tradition, or the long and difficult readjustment phase that occurs once these young women go through puberty, let’s save that for another day. Instead just enjoy these photos of the Indra Jatra festival 2015  

The Kumari Jatra chariot procession from Kathmandu Durbar Square at the Indra Jatra festival 2015 The Kumari Jatra chariot procession and crowd

The Kumari Jatra chariot procession from Kathmandu Durbar Square at the Indra Jatra festival 2015 The Kumari Jatra chariot procession and crowd

People offering prayers to the gods at the Indra Jatra festival 2015 People offering prayers to the gods

People offering prayers to the gods at the Indra Jatra festival 2015 People offering prayers to the gods

Musicians and elaborately dressed dancers work their way through the crowds at the Indra Jatra festival 2015 Musicians and elaborately dressed dancers work their way through the crowds. In the background crowds can be seen sitting on rubble from the earthquake five months earlier.

Food at the Indra Jatra festival 2015 Traditional Newari food is prepared and served

Lakhae dancers at the Indra Jatra festival 2015 Three mischievous Lakhae dance as a way of offering prayers and entertaining the crowd

Locals enjoying the Indra Jatra festival 2015 Several locals can be seen looking down from the best seat in the house

Locals preparing for the Indra Jatra festival 2015 …the danger zone

Locals enjoying the Indra Jatra festival 2015 Crowds awaiting the appearance of the kumari

As you will undoubtedly notice from the photos, there is plenty of rubble and earthquake damage remaining, even here in such a prominent part of the capital city. People are using it as stadium seating, which is unfortunately further destroying what remains.

Locals enjoying the Indra Jatra festival 2015 Spectators sitting on rubble from the earthquake

Locals enjoying the Indra Jatra festival 2015 How old do you think this engraved stone tablet is? Now it’s being stepped on, further chipped and crumbled by people clamoring for a view of the festivities

However there is some repair work ongoing, even during the festival. Look closely at the bell at the top of the building  

Earthquake repair work is still ongoing in Kathmandu, even in the middle of the Indra Jatra festival
Earthquake repair work is still ongoing in Kathmandu, even in the middle of the Indra Jatra festival

 

Indra Jatra After Dark

The fun and festivities continue after sunset, with fresh crowds of families arriving after their daily obligations have been finished.

The Indra Jatra festival 2015 at night Crowds honor the gods while taking selfies

The Indra Jatra festival 2015 at night This is Indra Jatra. This is Nepal

The Indra Jatra festival 2015 at night Candles and lamps are burned to honor family members deceased during the past year

The Indra Jatra festival 2015 at night Candles and lamps are burned to honor family members deceased during the past year

  Festival dates change every year, as it is based off the Nepalese calendar. But if you happen to be in Nepal at the right time, make sure to check this one out!

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About Derek Freal

"Some people eat, others try therapy. I travel."   Cultural enthusiast. Adrenaline junkie. Eater of strange foods. Chasing unique and offbeat adventures around the world since 2008. Derek loves going to new destinations where he does not speak a word of the local language and must communicate with hand gestures, or places where he is forced to squat awkwardly to poo -- supposedly its healthier and more efficient. For more information (about Derek, not squat pooing) including popular posts and videos, check out his bio.

8 thoughts on “50 Revealing Photos From Nepal’s Indra Jatra Festival 2015”

  1. Nice pictures Derek. Looks very similar to the Nandashtami fair that happens in Himalayan India during September/October. That’s based on another legend though.

    Reply
  2. Looks like a pretty fascinating festival man. Love that legend about them trapping and displaying the god only to be like, “Oh damn, sorry about that…” and the god in return being like, “Yo, I just wanted a flower. So here’s some rain forever.”

    Reply

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