Kathmandu, April 9
Bisket Jatra, which is celebrated for nine days and eight nights, began in Bhaktapur with locals pulling the three-storey pagoda-style chariot of Bhairavnath from Bhairav temple in Taumadhi to Gahiti on the first day today.
The distance between Taumadhi and Gahiti is around 200 metres. The festival also heralds the Nepali New Year.
Lekhnath Sapkota, chief of Guthi Sansthan, Bhaktapur, said the festival formally and ritually commenced after Akash Bhairav Guthi (festival organiser), Bhadrakali Guthi and the priest of Bhairav temple offered puja to Bhairavnath in the morning.
The Metropolitan Police Range, Bhaktapur, in association with Guthi Sansthan and local clubs, has made an elaborate security arrangement to counter potential security threats and ensure that the festival passes of peacefully. Police said all security measures are in place to prevent any untoward incidents. A rapid response team has also been formed to ensure fool-proof security during the festival.
Three persons were crushed to death in 2013 when the Bhairavnath chariot ran over them. ‘Too many people aboard the chariot’ was said to be the reason for the tragedy. As per the tradition, not more than 20 persons are allowed to climb on the chariot. However, around 100 were clinging to the moving chariot then.
The local administration has imposed ban on sale, distribution and consumption of liquor in and around the areas where the chariot is towed through. Similarly, more than 2,500 security personnel, both in uniform and civvies, have been deployed with special focus on 100 metre radius of the chariot to deter revellers from engaging in any sort of brawl.
Usually people tend to jostle over who will lead the chariot to their areas. Incidents of stone pelting and clashes have taken place in the past during the festival.
Police personnel have been directed to arrest any person caught indulging in stone-throwing, drunken brawl and hooliganism. Such persons could face legal action under Some Public (Crime and Punishment) Act,1970.
CCTV cameras also have been installed on the predetermined routes of the chariot.
The local administration has imposed a ban on the sale and distribution of liquors and the Nepal Electricity Authority has decided not to cut power in the area until the festival concludes.
Authorities have also mobilised local volunteers for celebration of the historical and cultural festival in a decent manner.
The festival dates back to Lichchhavi era. Myth has it that several men who married a princess died of snakebite. It was considered a bad omen and nobody dared to marry the princess for fear that a similar fate may befall him.
However‚ one day‚ a merchant arrived in the village and tied the knot with the princess. In their honeymoon night, he stayed awake and killed the snake with his sword after the princess fell asleep.
The couple enjoyed marital bliss.
A version of this article appears in print on April 10, 2016 of The Himalayan Times.