Sindoor Jatra – A Frenzy of Colours at Thimi, Nepal

by Last updated Jun 29, 2020Festivals, Nepal

Sindoor Jatra is one of the most visually stunning festivals that we had attended. Celebrated in Thimi area near Bhaktapur in Nepal, Sindoor Jatra is a celebration of colours and culture. Read this blog to know more about this festival of Nepal and our experience there. And like the previous Bisket Jatra, this post is also high on pictures. And trust me, you will only find orange here!

After our crazy and impromptu decision to stay back at Kathmandu and visit Bhaktapur for Bisket Jatra, we took another very crazy decision. Instead of heading towards Pokhara, we decided to stay back for another day at Bhaktapur. We were on a weeklong trip to Nepal and we had to return to Kolkata for office. Not that the boss does not like our blog, but he also does not want us to be away for a long period of time. So another change in plans would make our Nepal itinerary extremely haywire.

Colour me orange at Sindoor Jatra Thimi Nepal

Another Spontaneous Decision

But there are some things that we should not try to control. In our article about Bisket Jatra, we had mentioned that we came to know about the festival from our fellow passenger. This time our host at Bhaktapur, who saw us so excited about the festival suggested that we should stay back and attend the Sindur Jatra Festival the next day at Thimi.

“If you liked Bisket, you will love Sindur Jatra”, said the old lady. Well, she spoke in Nepali and her daughter translated it for us.

“What is so special about this festival”? I asked solemnly.

“It is big and colourful. It is Holi with Sindoor”, she said again with a genuinely warm smile. I really don’t know what happened, but we decided to take her recommendation. Maybe it was her smile or the twinkle in her eyes when she spoke helped us in making this decision. And at that moment it was decided that we were staying back. All plans need not be met and we should always be flexible while travelling. It was time for putting the preaching into practice.

So we stayed back that night enjoying the hospitality of our gracious host. The next day we started towards Thimi. The place is just two bus stops ahead of Bhaktapur, if you go towards Kathmandu city. So we took a local bus, which is an adventure in itself while travelling with our backpacks and got down at Madhyapur Thimi. It is a municipality in Nepal where this “Sindur Jatra” was going to happen.

Sindoor Jatra – Colour me red

People carrying the Khats at Sindoor Jatra

Sindur Jatra is celebrated on the 2nd day of Baisakh in Nepali calendar just after the fifth day of Bisket Jatra. The festival welcomes the New Year with colours and joy. During Sindur Jatra, the male representatives from various parts of Thimi and the surrounding villages take out 32 khats, a palanquin like chariots having the idols of various deities. These khats are carried on the shoulders of the men and are taken around the Balkumari Temple. And amidst all these carrying of Khats, Sindoor or vermilion is thrown at each other and at the sky. People play drums, cymbals and dance to their beat. The festival reaches its climax when the Khat of Ganesh arrives from Nagadish village. Crowds move around with the khats all around Thimi till noon. The other Kats try to stop the Khat of Ganesha from moving. So there is a lot of pushing and pulling and an insane amount of chaos. But eventually, Ganesha manages to move towards the Taleju Temple.

Sindoor Jatra at Bode Village – A Special Ritual

People playing drums at Sindoor Jatra in Thimi

Later the locals go to Bode, a neighbouring village, where another exciting event takes place. At Bode, the tongue piercing event takes.  Surprised to hear this? Well, we were not, because similar events take place at Gajan Festival in Bengal.

Legend has it that festival was in initiated almost a thousand years ago during the time Lichchabi Dynasty. It is believed that the historic settlement of Bode was close to Nilbarahi forest, about 12 km from Kathmandu. It so happened that the evil spirits of Nilbarahi forest started tormenting the people of Bode town. So the entire settlement was shifted to the place where it is today. Even then the evil spirits did not stop their mischief and traumatized the Bode people.

To stop the spirits, the Bode people took the help of a scholar who helped them to block the 4 entries of the town with invisible walls. Later when an evil spirit tried to show his shenanigans, he got stuck at one of the points.

The Bode people captured the evil spirit and paraded him throughout the town with his tongue pierced. He was freed only when he promised that he would never look back at Bode and would not cause any trouble to the people. Ever since, Bode is free of drought, famine, earthquake and epidemics. All these are legends and myths that the people have faith in.

Girls dancing at Sindur Jatra in Nepal

The tongue piercing is an ancient tradition of the people of Bode. The locals believe that the performance of these rituals keeps the inhabitants of Bode safe from disasters like earthquake, flood and famines.  According to the tradition, only the locals from the Shreshta family of Bode can take part in the ritual. A one-foot long needle is soaked in oil for almost a month and then pierced through the tongue of the volunteer. The person who volunteers also has to fast for three days before the event.

It is also believed that during the ritual, the tongue should not bleed. If it does, then it spells misfortune for the community. Well, it must have bled this year! The volunteer also has to organize a feast for the entire community. I think this is not fair. All the other should give him a feast for taking all the pains to ensure the safety of the community.

Our Crazy Experience at Sindoor Jatra 

Only a few people at the beginning of the festival

So finally we got down from the crowded local bus and looked around for any signal of festivities. There was none! A small doubt started creeping in. Nevertheless, we walked around and saw a big gate. We saw a few people walking through the gate and we decided to follow them. We came to a square where a lot of people were waiting. We went to a nearby shop to have breakfast.

I asked the lady in the shop about Sindur Jatra and she asked us to wait for an hour. “Just wait and watch”, she said. All the locals seem to have a nice time telling us to wait as if some great spectacle was going to happen.

We had our breakfast and waited. Gradually, people started gathering at the square. And then we saw a group of people carrying khats on their shoulders. Khats are the palanquin like stuff carrying the idols of the deities. There is a decorated umbrella on top of each khat. The khats stopped at one corner and the men started throwing vermillion all over. While I kept looking at the people, khats in awe, I saw Agni looking for a vantage point so that he could click some pictures.

People carrying the palanquins on their shoulders at Sindoor Jatra

People applying vermillion at Sindoor Jatra in Nepal

Well, we saw a number of photographers who had come for Sindoor Jatra, mostly Nepali and a few from other countries as well with big and sophisticated looking equipment. While I was looking at them, I found Agni managed to get over the terrace of a building.

Gradually, the crowd kept pouring in. As they came, they threw vermillion on each other. They applied it on each other’s face and threw it at each other. It was orange everywhere.

The whole area was painted orange and so were I.

Groups of people were playing drums and cymbals. There were others who were dancing as well. If you have attended Holi in India, you can get an idea about it. But there was no water. It was completely celebrated with dry vermillion or Sindoor.

Sindoor Jatra in Thimi Nepal

Soon, I heard a lot of noise and then there was quite a commotion. I screened my eyes to look at what was happening. Well, other khats were arriving. Gradually, many other khats came to the square and they were throwing Sindoor all over. But yes, the most excitement was when the Ganesha Khat came. All the people went crazy and over-energetic.

Arrival of the Ganesha Khat

Well, I did not understand whether they tried to stop the Ganesha Khat from moving or not, but there was a lot of pushing and shoving all around. The excitement in the atmosphere was palpable. I had never thought that our trip to Nepal would become so thrilling. The people were dancing their hearts out and they asked me to join in. By the way, Agni was nowhere to be seen, he was busy taking photographs. I joined in the revelry and enjoyed the electrifying spirit of the place.

After getting drenched in orange and dancing like never before, I was very tired. The people were still dancing and singing while I sat down at a corner. At about noon, the khats left to go around Thimi and gradually, the people also started leaving. It was now the time for them to visit Bode for the next ritual. Unfortunately, we did not visit Bode. We wanted to, but both of us were too exhausted after all the excitement of three days.

Drum Players at Sindur Jatra

Agni and Amrita at Sindoor Jatra Nepal

We decided to get back to Kathmandu after Sindoor Jatra. We were so tired that day that after getting back to Kathmandu, we simply crashed on and slept for hours.

Well, Bisket Jatra and Sindoor Jatra, the two festivals in Nepal completely derailed our plans. We were planning to visit Pokhara and do some adventure activities and then continue towards Lumbini. Pokhara happened but Lumbini and Bandipur did not. However, we do not regret. Because what we experienced at these festivals in Nepal were priceless. The culture, traditions, people were all before us and we happily enjoyed the entire affair.  Lumbini will happen later, maybe again when the world is ready to travel!

Sindoor Jatra in Pictures 

People playing with Sindur at Thimi Nepal festivals

Dancing at Sindur Jatra, Thimi near Bhaktapur

Kids enjoying at Sindur Jatra Nepal Festivals

A cute Nepali girl at Thimi Bhaktapur

Girls dancing at Sindur Jatra near Bhaktapur in Kathmandu Valley

A cute boy at Thimi

Khats with an umbrella in Sindur Jatra

Girls enjoying at Sindoor Jatra

Khats coming at Thimi Square

Visitors at Sindoor Jatra

Carrying flame at Sindur Jatra at Thimi Bhaktapur - Festival of Nepal

Sindoor Jatra at Kathmandu Valley Nepal

Playing with cymbals at Sindoor Jatra

Dancing at Sindoor Jatra

We absolutely loved getting “orange-d” at Sindoor Jatra. Did you like reading about this colourful festival in Nepal? Please let us know in comments below. Also please share the post so that others can also know about this festival.

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Sindoor Jatra is Nepal is one of the most visually stunning festivals celebrated in Nepal. #nepal #festivals

Celebrating Sindur Jatra at Thimi in Nepal

Agni & Amrita

Agni & Amrita

Travel Experts

We are Agni and Amrita, the story-telling team behind Tale of 2 Backpackers and partners in crime in travel and (mis)adventures of life. We have been travelling together for more than a decade looking for immersive experiences while enjoying the little beauties of life. We are intrigued by heritage, culture, festivals and people and that is reflected in our travel. And yes, we love the Himalayas too.

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38 Comments

  1. Sindoor Jatra really looks like one of the most visually stunning festivals from your photographs. Sindoor Jatra is a celebration of colours and culture which resembles our Holi in India.

    Reply
    • Thanks Yukti! Sindoor Jatra was really a visual extravagance.

      Reply
  2. Wow Sindoor Jatra looks like an amazing and unique way to spend the New Year! I’d love to visit Nepal. Your photos are beautiful, especially the colourful individual portraits. Thanks for not showing any of the tongue piercing 🙂

    Reply
    • Thank you Freya! It was such a colourful festival. I would not want to see tongue piercing, though Agni wanted to!

      Reply
  3. Sindoor Jatra is so intriguing. I didn’t have any idea about the festival. So glad to know the details of the festival. The visuals are stunning. Loved reading about the story of people of Bode and the folklore. Nepal is fascinating and specially the festivals. I should definitely plan to visit and cover this festival next year. It is a good read

    Reply
    • Thank you Parnashree!

      Reply
  4. I love that you just went with the flow. Usually that is the best way to see the real place and people. Love that they all get colorful and have fun. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t volunteer for that tongue piercing though. It doesn’t sound like fun, although I’m sure it’s an honor to get selected. Like you, I think they should have a feast for the volunteer, not the other way around.

    Reply
    • Thanks Kathleen! As for the tongue piercing, I would probably run away from it. But this ritual is done only by the member of the community.

      Reply
  5. Oh wow! Its amazing how some impromptu trips become the best trips of our lives!!! I’m super glad that you chose to extend the stay and experience this awesomeness!
    Everybody is bathed in kumkum! Wow!!! The concept of dieties from various places coming together to a place on a day is common in many places, but this way of celebrating it with sindoor is just wow!!! I can imagine how you must have felt, when the lady there just bluntly said “wait & watch”! Hahaha…
    On a different note, that pic with the motion blur, tries its best to capture the magic of the event!!!! Awesome shot!!!

    Reply
    • Thank you so much! We had actually taken so many shots and finally got a few perfect ones! 🙂

      Reply
  6. I love attending local festivals and this one in Nepal is certainly no exception. You can really feel the beating heart of a country with all those people, smiles, and traditional music! Also, your photography is fantastic guys, it’s like I’m there with you!

    Reply
    • Thank you so much!

      Reply
  7. Sounds like a tonne of fun and something to see. I bet you were glad you waited. I cant believe that they still do tongue piercing!

    Reply
    • Yes, we were so happy that we stayed back for another day!

      Reply
  8. I wasn’t aware of both the festivals – Bisket and Sindoor Jatra. “Holi with sindoor” sunds red to me, and yes it is! I am in love with the pictures and I am sure you both had a great time there. These festivals were worth for your Nepal plan being derailed.

    Reply
    • Thank you Shreya!

      Reply
  9. Wow what am amazing time you had! what a fantastically detailed itinerary of your trip! the colours look amazing and looks like such a fin festival to join in! I hope to visit sometime

    Reply
    • Thank you Emma!

      Reply
  10. Your review of Sindoor Jatra certainly showed a lot of colour! The throngs in the streets looked crazy. And a lot of fun. Although I am not sure I would want to get my tongue pierced! It was crazy that the whole area and crowd were painted orange during the procession. I might be worried about getting that Sindoor powder in my eyes! I am sure you were happy to not have missed this.

    Reply
    • Thanks Linda! Tongue piercing is their local ritual. I cannot even think of doing that!

      Reply
  11. Did it push through this year? I know it was supposed to take place last April but I didn’t get news if it actually happened! Super nice pictures and I love your storytelling! Xx

    Reply
    • Thank you Trisha! I heard that it did not happen this year though.

      Reply
  12. Wow, this looks fascinating. I love experiencing local festivals and Nepal is one of my all time favourite places. Funny though, when I see crowds of people, I’m thinking, keep your distance, what are you doing? 😂

    Reply
    • Thanks Sarah!

      Reply
  13. Sindoor Jatra seems is a fabulous riot of colors and one look at the pictures makes me want to experience it. Reason enough to visit Nepal again. Sindoor in our country is normally associated with women and they playing with Sindoor after Durga Puja, before the Mother’s immersion. So it was interesting to note that here males also are a part of this wonderful festival.

    Reply
    • Thank you Subhashish! This was something totally different from our Sindoor Khela!

      Reply
  14. I’ve heard about Sindoor Jatra before, but seeing your evocative pictures puts a face on this ‘colorful’ festival. However, while I love reading about it, I don’t think I would enjoy being there in person. It’s way too messy.

    Reply
    • Thank you Anda!

      Reply
  15. Lovely post Amrita – love the orange sindoor splashed across. Makes me miss Holi and traveling – sigh. Soon we shall be on the road again.

    Reply
    • Thank you Jo!

      Reply
  16. Wow! You were right, it is certainly orange 🙂 What an interesting post–thank you for sharing the history of the festival along side your experience, so interesting to learn about another culture!

    Reply
    • Yes, it was totally orange! Thanks.

      Reply
  17. What an amazing experience to take part in. I love how one person links you to another and on to a new adventure. I hope to get to Nepal and experience Sindoor Jatra for myself one day.

    Reply
    • Thank you Larch! It was really an amazing experience.

      Reply
  18. Wow. This is something new. It is more like a bigger version of Sindur khela. When I saw the pictures on Facebook I thought it must be the Laath maar festival. But this surprised me. I wish this lockdown gets over soon. At least I could visit the surrounding countries. Now I am literally missing traveling.
    The red got me. No reference to GOT here. 😋

    Reply
    • Thank you Jayashree! Sindur Khela is different! This one was more like Holi!

      Reply
      • I remember the number of short and long trips u took in Nepal . Bisket jatra and sindur khela is something I would also love to witness . I was so amazed by the grandeur of Bhaktapur , it has interesting architecture .But. I highly condemn such ritual of self torture inflict like tongue piercing and all ..Somehow never could relate with it.

        Reply
        • Bhaktapur is really a grand place. There are so many things that we might not agree while travelling, but I guess we need to take it with a pinch of salt. 🙂

          Reply

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