A Precious gift

Dhurba K Deep


When the chariot of Rato Machhendra reaches its final destination at Jawalakhel in Patan then commences the fascinating ceremony called ‘Bhotojatra’, that has an equally interesting legend behind it. Bhotojatra is the ceremony of displaying a jewel studded vest which is said to have been originally owned by a serpent king. This king bestowed it as a very special gift to a farmer but it was soon stolen by a goblin. Finally, this precious vest was offered to Rato Machhendra.

Here is the story:

Once upon a time, the wife of Naga King Karkotaka, who lived in Taudaha Lake (about eight km southwest of Kathmandu city) suffered from a terrible eye infection. They tried everything possible in the crystal kingdom to cure her, but all in vain. The serpent king rushed to Bhadgaon for help. He had heard that a great eye doctor lived there. Disguising himself as a human, the serpent king set out in search of the eye doctor. He came across a man whom he mistook for the eye doctor. This man was an innocent farmer and a great devotee of Vishnu, the Hindu god of preservation and protection. The serpent king, by his divine powers, took the farmer to his lake palace. The poor farmer panicked becaue he did not know anything about eye diseases. He prayed to Lord Vishnu for help.

Karkotaka Naga King asked the farmer to produce a wonder drug that he assumed he possessed. All the farmer was able to produce was a small dark pill from the moistened dirt that he had collected by nervously rubbing the back of his ears. Not knowing what else to do but maintain faith in Vishnu, he gave it to the suffering queen and told her to apply it in her infected eyes. To the great relief of the queen, the pill proved to be a wonder drug indeed and cured the disease immediately. Overjoyed at this, the Naga King rewarded the farmer with his very own diamond studded vest and respectfully took back the farmer to Bhadgaon.

The farmer was so proud of this vest that he wore it every day, even at work. One hot summer noon while working in the field, he could not bear the heat of the sun and so he took off the vest, put it aside and went back to work. Meanwhile, a goblin who had coveted this jewel studded vest stealthily stole it away.

Years passed. One day, to his great surprise, the farmer saw an unusually tall man wearing his stolen vest watching the chariot festival of Rato Machhendra at Jawalakhel. The farmer, sure of what he had seen, confronted the stranger and asked for his precious vest. A heated argument ensued, causing a crowd to gather. The Naga King Karkotaka in human form was also present to see the festival. He immediately recognised who was who. When he saw that the goblin refused to return the vest to the farmer, he gave the goblin a sharp blow that made him confess the robbery. But following the fight, the farmer realised that he too by no means deserved to keep this valuable vest for himself. This led to all three of them to deciding that it should be offered to the all compassionate Bodhisattva Rato Machhendra who accepted it as an important keepsake to be kept forever. It is interesting to note that exactly on the fourth day of the festival chariot’s stay at Jawalakhel, the Bhotojatra ceremony commences. The King, accompanied by high-ranking government officials and diplomats, attends the ceremony. The highlight of this ceremony is the displaying of the jewelled vest to the public. The main purpose remains that the display will reassure all concerned that the vest entrusted to Rato Machhendra has been carefully kept to this day.