Seto Machhendra Nath Jatra

Mostly celebrated by the authentic Newars of Kathmandu City, the Seto Machhendra Nath Jatra is one of the most popular festivals in the country.  A huge chariot of wood supported on four large wheels and carrying tall spire is covered with green foliage. The image os the Seto Machhendra Nath is placed precariously on the top. The chariot is then ready to be dragged in the old town.

The festival begins on the day of Chaite Dasain which generally falls during March but sometimes during April.  The chariot containing the white mask of god Machhendra Nath is pulled through the narrow lanes of Kathmandu city for four days. A huge crowd of devotes haul the chariot. At each of the overnight stops, the locals perform puja of the Machhendra Nath.

A very long time ago, a Newari farmer unearthed the Seto Machhendra Nath and put it in his bin where he stored rice. To his surprise, the rice supply never decreased no matter how much rice his family ate. Hearing of this good fortune, the King had the statue installed near the public granary for the benefit of all. When the King of Tibet heard of this, he had the idol stolen. The Tibetans did improper rituals, including animal sacrifices. The country was struck with an epidemic. The King immediately returned the Seto Machhendra Nath and dropped it in a well at Jamal. A local drawing water from the well found the idol. He was instructed in a dream that the Machhendra Nath be returned to its original place and that the jatra be started to appease him.

The story lives even today as the chariot of Seto Machhendra Nath is driven around. People cram to be near the idol. Residents remove power and phone lines to make way for the divine. And in Nepali fashion, all of this is accompanied by music, twirling yak tale poles, laughter and faith that the Seto Machhendra Nath will no longer cause destruction.