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Indra Jatra: The biggest street festival in Nepal

Lakhe performing cultural dance on the occasion of Indra Jatra
Indra Jatra, also known as Yenya (Nepal Bhasa), is the biggest religious street festival in Kathmandu, Nepal. The celebrations consist of two events, Indra Jatra and Kumari Jatra. Indra Jatra is marked by masked dances of deities and demons, displays of sacred images, and tableaus in honor of the deity Indra, the king of heaven. Kumari Jatra is the chariot procession of the living goddess Kumari. Family members deceased in the past year are also remembered during the festival. The main venue of the festivities is Kathmandu Durbar Square. The celebrations last for eight days from the 12th day of the bright fortnight to the 4th day of the dark fortnight of the eleventh month in the lunar Nepal Era calendar. Indra Jatra was started by King Gunakamadeva- (गुणकामदेव) to commemorate the founding of Kathmandu city in the 10th century. Kumari Jatra began in the mid-18th century. The celebrations are held according to the lunar calendar, so the dates are changeable.

Opening Ceremony

Indra Jatra

People celebrating the Indra Jatra in Basantapur
The festival starts with the erection of Yosin or Linga, a pole from which the banner of Indra is unfurled, at Kathmandu Durbar Square. The pole, a tree shorn of its branches and stripped of its bark, is obtained from a forest near Nālā, a small town 29 km to the east of Kathmandu. It is dragged in stages to Durbar Square by men pulling on ropes.
Another event on the first day is Upāku Wanegu when participants visit shrines holding lighted incense to honor deceased family members. They also place small butter lamps on the way. Some sing hymns as they make the tour. The circuitous route winds along the periphery of the historic part of the city. The procession starts at around 4 pm.

Kumari Jatra

Living Goddess Kumari is carried on to the chariot during the chariot procession on the last day of the Indra Jatra Festival at Basantapur Durbar Square in the capital on Friday.
Kumari Jatra, which means the chariot festival of Kumari, coincides with Indra Jatra. It was started in 1756 AD during the reign of Jaya Prakash Malla.
During this festival, three chariots carrying human representations of the deities Ganesh, Bhairava, and Kumari accompanied by musical bands are pulled along the festival route through Kathmandu for three days. The procession starts at around 3 pm.
On the first day of Kumari Jatra known as Kwaneya, the chariots are pulled through the southern part of town. The second day is the full moon day known as Yenya Punhi . During the procession known as Thaneya, the chariots are drawn through the northern part of Asan. And on the third day Nanichaya, the procession passes through the central section at Kilagal. Since 2012, the chariot of Kumari has been pulled by an all-women’s team on the third day of the chariot festival.
  • Route on first day of chariot festival, Kwaneya (downtown procession): Basantapur, Maru, Chikanmugal, Jaisidewal, Lagan, Brahma Marga, Wonde, Hyumata, Kohity, Bhimsensthan, Maru, Basantapur.
  • Route on second day of chariot festival, Thaneya (uptown procession): Basantapur, Pyaphal, Yatkha, Nyata, Tengal, Nhyokha, Nhaikan Tol, Asan, Kel Tol, Indra Chok, Makhan, Basantapur.
  • Route on third day of chariot festival, Nānichāyā (midtown procession): Basantapur, Pyaphal, Yatkha, Nyata, Kilagal, Bhedasing, Indra Chok Makhan, Basantapur.



Bhairava showing the Bhoto

Masks of Bhairava are displayed at various places in Kathmandu throughout the eight days of the festival. Bhairava is the terrifying aspect of Shiva. The largest ones are Sweta Bhairava at Durbar Square and Akash Bhairava at Indra Chok. A pipe sticking out of the mouth of Sweta Bhairava dispenses alcohol and rice beer on different days. An image of Baka Bhairava is exhibited at Wotu, next to Indra Chok.
The mask of Aakash Bhairava is related to the Mahabharata. Some belief it to be the head of the first Kirat King Yalambar. Every night, different groups gather and sing hymns at Indra Chowk.


According to legend, Indra (Hindu god-king of heaven), disguised as a farmer, descended to earth in search of parijat (Night jasmine), a white flower his mother Basundhara needed to perform a ritual. As he was plucking the flowers at Maruhiti, a sunken water spout at Maru, the people caught and bound him like a common thief. He was then put on display in the town square of Maru in Kathmandu. (In a reenactment of this event, an image of Indra with his hands bound is put on display at Maru and other places during the festival.
His mother, worried about his extended absence, came to Kathmandu and wandered around looking for him. (This event is commemorated by the procession of Dagin through the city. Pulu Kisi (alternate name Tānā Kisi), a wicker representation of an elephant, also runs around town reenacting Indra’s elephant searching frantically for its master.
When the city folk realized they had captured Indra himself, they were appalled and immediately released him. Out of appreciation for his release, his mother promised to provide enough dew throughout the winter to ensure a rich crop. It is said that Kathmandu starts to experience foggy mornings from this festival onwards because of this boon.

Closing Ceremony

Closing Ceremony of Indra Jatra

On the last day, the yosin pole erected at Durbar Square is taken down in a ceremony known as Yosin Kwathalegu . It marks the end of the festivities.