There is a very interesting myth behind the origin of Indra Jatra. It is said that rain-god Indra (who rules the Heaven) descended on earth in the form of a farmer after his mother Basundhara told him that she needed a special flower called parijat which can be found only on earth. While he was plucking the flower, the local caught him up and accused him of stealing. He was then tied to a pole and displayed as a thief for eight days to the public.
After her son failed to return, Basundhara herself descended on earth seeking her lost son. When the locals realized that the so-called thief is in fact Basundhara’s son Lord Indra, they immediately set him free. Basundhara, happy with the immediate release of his son, granted a boon to the the locals of Kathmandu. The boon was that their city Kathmandu will always be fertile and dew-filled, which will allow them to grow good crops easily. Thus, people began seeing Indra as the god of rain who helps grow food and Indra Jatra orginated to celebrate this event. It began in the 10th century as a celebration of the founding of Kathmandu city by King Gunakamadeva. Therefore, this festival is also known as Yenya (Ye means “Kathmandu” and “Ya” means celebration). This festival is complemented by another festival called “Kumari Jatra,” (both these festivals are related and interconnected).
It is a 8-day festival, which generally falls in late August and sometimes in early September. This is also the season when it is the most ideal time to visit Nepal since it is autumn season and the weather is likely to be just right. Also the skies will be clear most of the day, giving you plenty of opportunities to grab spectacular views of the faraway mountain ranges.
Things you are likely to be engaged in if you participate in this festival:
- Observe spectacular traditional dance shows performed by people masked in the form form of various deities and demons.
- Flagpole ceremony, where thousands of Nepalese participate.
- Exhibition of Bhairava’s masks
- Participate in hoisting Indradhoj (flag of Indra) on a huge pole.
- Butter lamps offering to deceased relatives and loved ones.