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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.