Jatra is an annual Newari festival that includes street performances, religious ceremonies, and colorful celebrations. The Jatra is an important component of Newari culture, which has been celebrated by Kathmandu locals for centuries. Without Jatras, Kathmandu will lose its charm. In Nepal, there is a variety of Jatra that are held at specified times each year.
Ghode Jatra is one of Kathmandu's most important festivities. The race at the Ghode Jatra has been a tradition for a long time. The Malla monarch of Patan is said to have started the race in ancient times. This great horse parade takes place in Tundikhel, Kathmandu's city center.
Ghode Jatra is held to ward off the demon gurumappa, who is said to still reside underground in Tundikhel. The Nepal army holds a horse race on this day to prevent the demon from rising again. According to legend, the faster the horse runs, the faster Tundi's soul is suppressed.
Another Ghode Jatra-related ceremony is held in Balkumari, where a horse is given alcoholic spirit till it becomes intoxicated. Following that, a similarly inebriated individual dressed in traditional Newari attire rides the intoxicated horse until it bolts crazily leaving the rider clinging to it for his/her dear life.
The festival of cows is also known as Gai Jatra. Pratap Malla, the King of Kathmandu, started this event, to show her grieving wife that everyone has lost someone in their life and that she is not the only one. It is primarily a significant festival for the Newars, the original habitants of the valley. It is usually observed in the month of Bhadra to remember loved ones who have died and to grieve together. Gai Jatra is a festival of singing, dancing, laughter, and faith. The king started the event in Kathmandu, hence it is regarded as the main source of this festival. As the show presented to the queen was a success, it became an annual program to date. The celebration has been carried down from generation to generation through the monarch has passed away.
It is the only day, according to traditional belief, when the soul can join the world of the dead without having to go through several births. They think that a cow can aid in the ascension of a deceased person's soul to paradise. Because sending a cow is also impractical for some, they send children masquerading as cows to parade.
Bisket Jatra is celebrated in Bhaktapur and other parts of Kathmandu. The Jatra starts four days before the Nepali New Year begins. The three-story chariot of Lord Bhairavanath is taken out on the streets of Bhaktapur and is the primary attraction of Bisket Jatra. The upper and lower city residents compete in a tug-of-war to draw the chariot to their side.
According to the legends, anyone who married the princess would perish on their first night. Young men were deterred from approaching her for her hand in marriage due to the suspense and deaths. Nobody knew why these men were dying, and the valley was tense as a result of the lack of information. Until a young man came along to unravel the enigma, he stayed up all night, not dropping his guards, only to discover that two snakes sprang from the princess's nose in the middle of the night to kill the suitor. He killed the snakes and saved himself as well as the princess.
To signify the man's success and the killing of the nasty serpents a massive linga (pole) is erected and two long articles of clothing are hung on it. The pole is taken down the next day, along with the formal announcement of the Nepali new year.
Many domestic, as well as international tourists, come to Bhaktapur to witness this thrilling celebration take place. The crowd and their energy pull in thousands of viewers each year.
Indra Jatra is Kathmandu's largest street celebration, which is primarily attended by the city's Newari community. This celebration is referred to as the Day of God Indra. Indra is the King of Heaven and the Lord of Rain. It is the day when people express gratitude to Lord Indra for the rain. It is observed for eight days during the Nepali month of Bhadra. Indra Jatra is also known as Yenya in which Ye means "Kathmandu" and Ya means "Celebration". This festival was started in the 10th century by king Gunakamadeva to commemorate the founding of Kathmandu. The main venue of this festival takes place at Durbar square of Kathmandu.
Indra Jatra is commemorated by the erection of a pole bearing Indra's flag in various locations throughout the city. Yamobodyah is the name given to the poles. The 36-foot-long timber pole is carefully selected from the Nala forest. Kumari, a living goddess, rides in a chariot through Kathmandu's main streets, followed by two smaller chariots carrying Lord Ganesh and Bhairav. People gather to watch the living goddess's chariot. During the celebration, masked and pulu dances are performed. The pole is brought down on the last day of the festival in a ceremony known as Yosin Kwathalegu, which marks the conclusion of the festival.
There are many other Jatras that are celebrated within the valley, but these are the ones that are not to be missed. They are lavishly praised and regarded as an integral component of Kathmandu's culture, reflecting the Newari culture.