Saturday Features

A jatra like no other

Oct 14, 2017-

In Handigaun—an ancient quarter of Kathmandu—there is a popular myth that a woman in labour was calling out for her mother in pain. Just then, Lord Narayana appeared in front of her in the guise of a human and suggested that she summon him instead.

When the woman, naturally, asked the stranger to get lost, Narayana left for the Himalayas in utmost fury, promising to never come back.

As a result of the humiliation she had caused Narayana, the woman suffered from labour pain for twelve straight years. 

Unable to bear the woman’s misfortunes, fellow residents of Handigaun decided to travel to the Himalayas to request Lord Narayana to take pity and lift the curse.

When the god refused, one resident promised him a spectacular jatra unlike any that had been seen before.

To Narayana’s surprise, Handigaun came good with their lofty promise, convincing him to descend once more to the settlement to allow the woman to finally give birth to a baby boy with a moustache. 

Ever since, the “Kahi Nabhaeko” Hadigaun Jatra, also known as Satya Narayan Jatra, is held every year to appease Lord Narayana.

As opposed to other jatras in the Valley, khats (wooden palanquins used to carry the deities) are saucer-shaped with the idols at the top and the gajur (spire) at the bottom.

Three khats are hauled from Kotal tole, Nyalma tole, and Bhimsen tole respectively which circle the town three times.

The three khats represent Brahma, Vishnu, and Mahadev, but some also believe they represent the cursed woman, her child, and her husband. 

This ancient and unique festival, a remnant from the Lichchavi era, is celebrated just when rest up the country wraps up Dashain, and has over time become a part of the town’s identity, giving birth to a popular Nepali adage, “Kahi Nabhaeko Jatra Handigaun Ma.”

Here are some glimpses of this year’s festivities. 

Text and Photos: Rabik Upadhyay


Published: 14-10-2017 08:42

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