Indra is known as a King of Heaven and lord of rain as well and Jatra is a procession. So Indra Jatra is a day of thanks giving celebration of Lord Indra. At the same time, people celebrate and worship Lord Ganesh, Bhairab, and Kumari (Living Goddess) as well. Bhairab is a manifestation of Lord Shiva and is believed that he is a destroyer of the devil. This is a very popular festival in Kathmandu Valley falls in early September and lasts for eight days. Especially people from the Newari community of Kathmandu Valley celebrate this festival at the beginning of every autumn season. Every year Indra Jatra begins from the day of the Bhadra Dwadasi to Ashwin Krishna Chaturdasi as per the Nepali calendar.
How Do People Celebrate Indra Jatra?
In this festival, people construct a wooden ceremonial pole (Linga) made of Pinewood in front of the Hanuman Dhoka, Darbar Square- at Basantapur. This wooden pole(linga) is 36 ft long and is chosen and brought specially from the Nala forest of Kabhre district all the way to Kathmandu with all the care. Many people gather to watch this long pole(linga)-raising ceremony or opening of the Indra Jatra festival. Many local people wearing masks and sharing Nepali local liquors perform different types of dances representing gods and goddesses and demons. People display images and sculptures of Indra, Bhairab, and other deities.
The chariot of Living Goddess Kumari is also taken out in this procession at the same time in the main street of Kathmandu to thank Indra the god of rain. Every evening dancers go to the streets and perform their dances with the music of drum and flute. Especially, at Maru tole in Kathmandu, local people make a wooden stage and displace a statue of Indra with stretched out arms cover by fiber thread for a public show. This tradition is continued since the Licchavi Dynasty.
There is a legend that the people believe-Indra came to earth in search of a unique holy flower called Parijat not available in heaven but it was essential for his mother to make gifts to Lord Shiva (Avaloketeswor for Buddhists). Lord Krishna had brought this holy plant “Parijat” down to earth from heaven, that is why the flower was not accessible in heaven. When Indra came to Earth and searched parijat everywhere in the Earth and finally managed to find into a garden, then he tries to steal this plant but the owner of the garden was a great Tantric of that time, he recognized him with his divine power then he straight away multiplies his divine rope called Taraan, and capture and keep Indra within his Taraan and Indra could not escape. When Indra's mother(Dakine Devi) realized that her son did not arrive with the holy flower-Parijat. She came down to earth to find her son Indra. After hard searching, she managed to find her son Indra in a Tantric web. She talked and negotiated with the Tantrik and finally managed to free her son from the Tantrik’s control. When people realize that he was Indra God of Heaven and rain they regret and celebrate this festival to make Indra happy and calm.
So every night of this festival there will be a Living Goddess (Kumari)’ chariot procession followed by two other chariots carrying a representative of Ganesh and Bhairav are taken to different parts of the old Kathmandu. Local people perform various masked dances like Majipa Lakhey, Pulukishi (elephant dance), Mahankali, and Sawa Bhaku representing various deities of the city. At the end of this festival for eight days people lower the pole with the flag of Indra. It is believed that this flag of Indra was given by Lord Bishnu for Protection.
The main attraction of this festival in Nepal is a different type of dances like Majipa Lakhey, Pulukishi(elephant dance), Sawan Bhaku and chariot of Kumari (living goddess), lord Ganesh and Bhairab. Besides all these dances they perform many other dances on the open street of the city and people display many other deities of the city