rato machindranath jatra

Dive into the rich cultural heritage of Nepal with the Rato Machindranath Jatra, a lively festival that showcases colorful processions, ancient traditions, and spiritual rituals.

The Rato Machindranath Jatra is a much-awaited festival celebrated in Nepal with great pomp and show. The festival is dedicated to Rato Machindranath, a deity who is revered for his power to bring rain and prosperity. The jatra, which is also known as the festival of the red god, is a vibrant celebration of culture and tradition that draws crowds from all over Nepal and beyond.

Thoughts on Rato Machindranath Jatra

The jatra is held in honor of Rato Machindranath, who is believed to be an incarnation of Lord Shiva. The festival takes place in Patan, a city located in the Kathmandu Valley. The highlight of the Rato Machindranath Jatra is the chariot procession, where a massive chariot carrying the idol of Rato Machindranath is pulled through the streets by devotees. The chariot is pulled using ropes by people from all walks of life, and it is believed that those who participate in the procession are blessed with good fortune.

Chariot procession

The tradition of the chariot procession dates back to the reign of King Narendra Deva (640-683 AD) and was established to celebrate the arrival of Bunga Dyah and the end of a devastating drought in Nepal. The festival preparations kick off with the construction of a 60-foot tall chariot at Pulchok in Lalitpur, where the image of Bunga Dyah is installed. The chariot is then pulled through the streets of Lalitpur for a month-long tour, accompanied by a smaller chariot of Chākuwā Dyah.

Rato Machindranath Jatra
Festival chariot of Bunga Dyah (Rato(Red) Machhindranath) in Patan, Nepal, ca 1999.

The route begins at Pulchok and passes through various localities until it reaches Jawalakhel, where the Bhoto Jatra ceremony is held, showcasing the traditional Nepalese vest. During the Barha Barsa Jatra, which takes place every 12 years, the chariot of Machhindranath is constructed at Bungamati and pulled through several towns until it reaches Pulchok. The chariot procession is a time-honored tradition where women exclusively pull the chariot on the stretch between Iti and Thati, known as Yākah Misāyā Bhujyā. 

Culture of Celebration

The festivities conclude with the return of the Rato Machhindranath idol to Bungamati, where it spends six months of the year. Apart from the chariot procession, there are several other rituals and traditions that are associated with the jatra. One such tradition is the offering of Bhoj (feast) to the deity. Devotees prepare elaborate meals and offer them to Rato Machindranath as a mark of respect and gratitude. Another important aspect of the jatra is the playing of traditional music and the performance of cultural dances.

The festival lasts for over a month and is celebrated with great fervor. The preparations for the jatra begin well in advance, with the construction of the chariot and the selection of the idol of Rato Machindranath. The idol is made of clay and straw and is considered to be a symbol of fertility and prosperity.

Rato Machindranath Jatra
Chariots of Rato Machhindranath and Minnath at Lagankhel

The Rato Machindranath Jatra is not just a festival; it is a celebration of Nepal’s rich cultural heritage. The jatra is a testament to the resilience and strength of the Nepalese people, who have managed to preserve their culture and traditions despite the challenges posed by modernity. The festival is a perfect example of how tradition and modernity can coexist, and it is a must-see for anyone who wants to experience the vibrant culture of Nepal.

What If The Festival Isn’t Successful?

The Rato Machindranath Jatra (festival) is not without its share of risks and uncertainties. In the past, a poorly painted idol, a damaged chariot, or a fallen tower have resulted in ominous events, including death. In 1680, the death of King Nipendra Malla followed the loss of paint on the idol’s face. Similarly, a catastrophic earthquake struck Nepal in 1817, the same year the idol’s paint job was poorly executed. King Viswajit Malla’s attendance at the festival turned out to be his last, as he was murdered in his bed after feeling agitated at the sight of the idol’s back, which was considered a bad sign.

In 2000, the chariot crashed into the crowd, but fortunately, no one was hurt. However, the next year, the entire royal family was massacred. The festival’s success or failure has been linked to these incidents, highlighting the risks associated with the Rato Machindranath Jatra.

In conclusion, the Rato Machindranath Jatra is a celebration of Nepal’s rich cultural heritage that showcases the country’s ancient traditions and spiritual rituals. The festival is a vibrant and colorful affair that draws crowds from all over Nepal and beyond. With its massive chariot procession, traditional music, and cultural dances, the jatra is a must-see for anyone who wants to experience the best of Nepalese culture.

Join the celebration and witness the grandeur of the Rato Machindranath Jatra for yourself! Don’t miss out on this incredible opportunity to experience one of Nepal’s most cherished traditions.


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Sailendra Bhatta

An adventurer, writer, and Founder of Nepal Travel Vibes.

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