Bisket Jatra

Bhaktapur Travel Blog

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The raised lingam in Khalna Tole

Bolting a public square in fear of being crushed by a giant, runaway wooden chariot was not how I saw myself celebrating Nepali New Years, but sometimes these things happen.  And in this case it was literally out of anyone’s control.

 

A short bus ride out of Kathmandu had Rod and I finding ourselves smack in the middle of Bisket Jatra in the historical town of Bhaktapur.

 

New Years Eve was spent watching the preparation of the festival lingam, a 25m pole slotted to be raised and set into the stone yoni in one of Bhaktapur’s many squares, Khalna Tole. 

 

It’s symbolically supposed to be a giant penis being erected onto a giant vagina.

The townspeople pulling the chariot
  So obviously, we thought it would be quite a spectacle to see all the men in town gather at Khalna Tole to raise this massive lingam using a few large ropes and some logs.

 

At first, we just thought it wasn’t going to happen.  There just weren’t enough people to raise this mother of all poles.  But just as we were heading towards the edge of the square in the hopes of leaving to find some dinner, a mad rush of people came scampering around the corner screaming in Newari. 

 

I managed to cry out “THE CHARIOT!” a split second before the devil itself came screeching around the corner from the top of the hill and Rod and I dashed out of the way.

 

Following the chariot was the rest of the entire town and it was at this point that all the men gathered up the lingam’s ropes and began pulling like crazy.  The rows of men were lead by one or two locals calling out “PULL!” in Newari.

Khalna Tole during Bisket Jatra
  The chants of the labourers repeating the Newari word in answer to their temporary leaders was enthralling as the whole square became focused on the raising of the New Years lingam.

 

Would you believe that after three hours of fruitless pulling, the new infusion of manpower had that giant pole up in less than 30 minutes?

 

 All those hours of preparations, the intense labour of countless men, the triumphant cries of victory after achieving what seemed to be impossible….only to pull the freakin’ thing down the next evening!

 

We went back to Bhaktapur the next day to watch them yank that lingam down by the same ropes they used to haul the load up. 

 

Let’s just say that I’m not surprised that it’s not uncommon for people to die during this festival.

The lingam being pulled down
  I cannot reiterate the shear massive size of this thing…..and then to watch it come crashing down in the middle of the square where thousands of people had gathered to celebrate Bisket Jatra. 

 

And it’s not just the falling mammoth penis that people have to worry about either.  Let’s not forget my favourite giant runaway chariot. 

 

I’m not too sure what its purpose was, but the locals sure liked to haul that thing around.  Again, it took dozens of men pulling on several long ropes and many tries to get that thing rolling.  But every time they got it moving the whole square would erupt in cheers of triumph. 

 

But really, us humans had it pretty easy.  We had the freedom to flee for our lives whenever threatened by massive wooden objects being pulling around town.  The chickens and the goats however…..well, not so lucky.

 

Animal sacrifices.  I saw my first one at Bisket Jatra.  It was a chicken.  It did things I didn’t expect it to do once its head was cut off. 

 

I’m not even going to write about the goat.    

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The raised lingam in Khalna Tole
The raised lingam in Khalna Tole
The townspeople pulling the chariot
The townspeople pulling the chariot
Khalna Tole during Bisket Jatra
Khalna Tole during Bisket Jatra
The lingam being pulled down
The lingam being pulled down
Bhaktapur
Bhaktapur
the main square in Bhaktapur
the main square in Bhaktapur
prepping the lingam
prepping the lingam
prepping the lingam
prepping the lingam
Bhaktapur
photo by: Kathmandu1