The Supreme Court, on Wednesday, issued an interim order against the decision of the local administration to stop the popular Biska Jatra in Bhaktapur district, known locally as Khwopa.

In a preliminary hearing on Wednesday, a single bench of Justice Purushottam Bhandari issued the interim order, neutralising the decision of Bhaktapur district administration to halt the festival.

A meeting of the district-level Covid-19 Crisis Management Operation Centre chaired by Chief District Officer Prem Prasad Bhattarai had taken a decision to limit the jatra to mere formality, confined only to worship by a few people. The decision was taken in the wake of increasing number of Covid-19 cases in the country.

Thousands take part in the festival that involves pulling of a chariot across various allies and streets in the historic city.

Bhaktapur administration had however urged all to observe the Jatra by gathering in small numbers in their respective neighbourhood, as per the government health protocol.

The festival is celebrated every year for nine days in Bhaktapur around the time of new year as per the Nepali calendar. The major attraction of the festival is a tug-of-war between residents of the two ancient towns of Bhaktapur wherein the participants try to pull the three-storey chariot of Lord Bhairab into their town.

Biska jatra is believed to have been celebrated since the Lichhavi Era. The festival formally begins after priests place the khadga (sword) of Lord Bhairab along with the idol of the god in the chariot.