Bisket in Bhaktapur begins with tears

Bisket in Bhaktapur begins with tearsHimalayan News ServiceKathmandu, April 12Bisket Jatra, a cultural fame of Bhaktapur came along with tragedy for the local people. Shivaram Shrestha, a local resident lost his life, Pancha Laxmi Shresta and Ram Prasad Duwal are struggling death, lying under critical condition at the Teaching Hospital.56-year-old Shivaram Shrestha was shot by the police right on the forehead after a fight picked up between two groups celebrating the chariot-pulling festival on the first night of the festival on Thursday. “We had to open fire as hundreds of drunken people started hurling stones at us and private buildings on the road,” said an official at Bhaktapur district office. He claimed that the security forces first tried with tear-gas shells which could not control the mass. Pancha Laxmi received a bullet in her left eyes, while Ram Prasad Duwal was shot on his feet. Narayan Duwal managed to escape the bullet but was trapped under the chariot-wheel and broke his leg. The incident took place around 10:30 at night.Notwithstanding the tragic beginning, Bisket Jatra in Bhaktapur city, celebrated four days ahead of the New Years Day of Nepali calendar, is one of the festivals which never lost the attraction. Fascination for the festival is still alive among the people.Bisket Jatra begins at Taumadhi square, between five-storey Nyatapola temple and the temple of Bhairav, the god of awesome Tantrik powers. Chariot of Bhairav the god and Bhadrakali the goddess is adorned with ethno-music going on the background with continuous feast and fanfare. The chariots are pulled through the narrow lanes of the city heading for Bhelukhelu, the place where the festival reaches its climax. An 80 feet tall wooden rudder is erected here a day before the New Year’s Day to be brought down on the first day of the New Year. Feast, dance, drink and fun, a week goes like that until the last day. Traditionally, people from different areas of the city try to pull the chariots towards their area. As the winning area holds the chariots until next year’s festival, the ritual turns into a matter of status and fight usually pick up amidst the competition.According to the legends, once upon a time there was a king who had a cursed daughter. Princess had been married to several people but all of the husbands would die on the very first night of the wedding. Desperate king had to commission even a committee to dispose dead bodies of his son-in-laws. One fine morning, a hunter encountered an old woman who knew the mystery of the case. She unfolded it for the hunter and asked him to go over and get married to the princess. The hunter followed and married the cursed princess eventually. Next morning, as the king’s servants came in the room to settle the dead body, they were amazed to see the groom alive. The king could not believe it and asked the hunter to enlighten him. The hunter told the king that two serpents used to crawl out at the middle of the night and kill the groom. Since he knew the secret, he stayed awake at night. He produced two long snakes which he had killed by sword.The grateful king ordered his citizens to hold a procession and show the snakes to the countrymen to convey the message that the princess was salvaged from her curse. Following the same tradition, two 40 feet long strap, symbolising the snakes are tied on the 80 feet rudder.Within a week of the festival, hundreds of goats, buffaloes, sheep and goose are sacrificed to perform the rituals. Guthi Sansthan has been supporting financially to build chariots. However, experienced people with expertise in chariot making are hard to find. Due to the security factors many festivals have been postponed for this year, but Bisket Jatra of Bhaktapur is something that cannot be postponed like other celebrations. “This festival has Tantrik significance and any break is believed to bring catastrophe,” said Lila Bhakta Munakarmi.Since the festival keeps on going throughout the day and night, the security forces in Bhaktapur face a challenge to maintain the law and order with minimum casualties during the weeklong celebrations.