Rato Machhindranath Jatra, the community and its intricacies

LALITPUR: There has been substantial role of nine ethnic groups of indigenous Newar community in course of successfully accomplishing the Rato Machchhindranath Jatra, the longest running chariot festival in Nepal.

Though the Jatra organizers and priests (Paneju) of Machchhindranath have visible role during the festival, the significant contributions by the nine ethnic groups have not come to the fore.

Basi – an ethnic group of the Newar community – is obliged to look and select wooden used for the construction of chariot of Machchhindranath in the first phase. People belonging to this ethnic group go to forest to look for wooden for the chariot as per the auspicious time and offer worship to the tree selected for the purpose.

Likewise, another caste ‘Yanbal’ has the special task of fastening the chariot with a bamboo cord after the beginning of the construction of chariot.
The presence of ‘Sese Baje’ or Rajopadhyay Pujari (priest belonging to another Newar ethnic group) is mandatory to take ahead the chariot following the completion of its construction. It has been made an integral part of the Jatra with the assumption that the chariot should not be pulled without the presence of priest on the board of chariot.

Interestingly, a group of youths of another ethnic group called ‘Dhaku’ take the special job to control the chariot to avoid possible collapse. However, ‘Jyapu’ ethnic group has the responsibility to pull through the chariot.

In the similar vein, people belonging to ‘Mali’ ethnic community come to offer ‘Muswan’- a rarely found flora – to the chariot. People from other caste are not allowed to offer the peculiar Muswan flower, which is deemed to be the most liking of the Machchhindranath.

Another ethnic group namely ‘Joshi’ holds the responsibility of setting the auspicious time of all the activities involved during the festival.

The tradition has been that only locals of Kantipur are to pull the chariot from Pulchowk to Gawahal. They pull the chariot in memory of their guru Bandhudutta Acharya.

Generally, locals of Bhaktapur took ahead the chariot from Gawahal to Sundhara as a legacy to pay homage to Malla time King Narendradev.

Traditionally, folks of Lalitpur use to pull the chariot from Sundhara to Lagankhel to pay respect to a farmer namely ‘Lalit Rathchakra’.

With almost no turn up of locals from Kathmandu and Bhaktapur to pull the chariot, local youths of Patan have been doing the job for over the years.

The Jatra concludes with the completion of ‘Chariot pulling’ and ‘Bhoto Jatra’ festival in Jawalakhel in coordination and collaboration with the typical nine ethnic groups of Newar community.

Rato Machchhindranath is considered a god, who by legend was brought from Assam, India to Lalitpur valley in Nepal to prevent a drought during the paddy season. RSS

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