People from Newar community of Bhaktapur district, who celebrate Biska Jatra every year, are likely to observe the festival in a low-key manner owing to the risk of the second wave of coronavirus.

Bhaktapur District Administration Office is mulling the celebration with only a limited number of priests, and without erecting the wooden pole (lingo) in the middle of the town. The authorities have also decided not to pull the chariot, the major attraction of the festival. The DAO has also put a ban on the gathering for witnessing the tongue piercing ritual to be held at Bode of Madhyapur Thimi Municipality, Bhaktapur.

A meeting of the District COVID-19 Crisis Management Centre yesterday had decided to ban the Jatra this year, however, the authorities decided that the jatra would be low-key this year owing to fear of the second wave of COVID-19. The jatra was cancelled last year due to outbreak of coronavirus. This year, the authorities have allowed festival organisers to offer prayers and complete rituals with limited number of people.

Chief District Officer Prem Prasad Bhattarai said, "Considering the risk of the various new variants of the coronavirus, we have decided not go for huge gatherings during the festival."

The jatra usually attracts thousands of people from the valley and other parts of the country. This year, the festival falls on April 14. The festival begins by erecting a lingo at Tamhari Square of Bhaktapur.

The locals of Thane (Upper town) and Kone (lower town) of Bhaktapur participate in a 'tug of war', in which people try to pull the three-storey chariot of lord Bhairav to their town.

Hundreds of revellers participate in the Tug of war. Normally the competition lasts for four days, until one side becomes victorious by pulling the chariot to their town.

Biska jatra is believed to have been celebrated since the Licchavi era. The festival formally begins after priests place the khadga (sword ) of lord Bhairav, along with the idol of the deity, in the chariot.

A version of this article appears in the print on April 6, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.