Indra Jatra is one of the most important festivals of Nepalese remembering Lord Indra (The god of Rain). Indra Jatra is also known as Yandya in Newari culture. Both Hindus and Buddhists come together to celebrate this festival and preserving it from centuries. The eight days long festival also offers some of the traditional cultural ceremonies which includes dance and sounds of typical musical instruments in the street. According to the Hindu mythology, this festival is being celebrated from eras for a big honor to Indra for his mankind, for his the rain, which is very much essentials for human being. On the other sides of this festival, several Newari communities get involved to celebrate this festival whereas Kumari (The Living Goddess of Nepal) is the major attracation.
Indra Jatra festival is very much famous in not only in Nepal but also in the world. It is popular for masked dances performed by the masked dancers. Indra Jatra festival begins every year from the day of Bhadra Dwadasi to Aswin Krishna Chaturdasi. On the first day of Indra Jatra a pole known as Linga or Yasingh with a flag on the top is erected at Hauman Dhoka (Kathmandu Durbar Square) area. This thirty-six feet long wooden pole is chosen with great care from the Nala forest in Kavre district east of Kathmandu.
Indra Jatra is a very interesting festival because for the whole week peole enjoy various traditional dances and witness the chariot of Goddess Kumari, Lord Ganesh and Lord Bhairav being pulled through the older parts of the Kathmandu city. A day has been added to the original seven days of celebration and on that day known as Nanicha yaa the chariots are pulled through Naradevi, Nhyokha, Ason, Indrachwok and Hanuman Dhoka. This extra day of chariot pulling was introduced by king Jaya Prakash Malla in 1765 B.S.
In Indra Chowk, the famous Akash Bhairava bust is displayed and it is decorated with flowers and traditional ornaments. This Akash Bhairava’s head is related to the Mahabharata story. Some believe it to be the head of the first Kirat King Yalamber. In Indra Chowk, every night different groups gather and sing bhajans and hymns.
During Indra Jatra, there are a variety of performances including 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. All the dances take place around Hanuman Dhoka area. The Dasavatar or the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu is also staged every night.
The first day of the festival is also observed by the Newars as a day to remember the family members who passed away during the past year by offering small oil lamps along a traditional route covering all the parts of the oldcity. It is believed to have been started during the reign of Mahendra Malla.
The Linga (Yasingh) is pulled down signaling the end of Indra Jatra festival. It is taken to the confluence of Bagmati and Bishnumati in Teku to be put to rest.
The end of the Indra Jatra festival heralds the beginning of Dashain and Tihar celebrated with great enthusiasm not only in the Kathmandu Valley but throughout the country.