Thousands of devotees participated in Seto Machhindranath chariot procession violating the health safety protocols and government order banning gatherings of more than 25 people.

Last year, the jatra was cancelled as the offering to lord Seto Macchindranath was limited to formal offerings by a handful of priests. But this year, people from the Newar community were demanding that the festival be celebrated with much fanfare.

The chariot pulling started from Tindhara Pathshala near Durbar Marg in Kathmandu today. The chariot was drawn towards Asan and it was halted there for today. Later in the evening, President Bidhya Devi Bhandari paid a visit to the deity and offered prayers.

Despite the large number of participants, the organising committee claimed that enough precautions were taken keeping the virus threat in mind. Ganapati Lal Shreshta, one of the core organisers of the jatra, said, "Limited number of people were allowed to pull the chariot and they were wearing face masks, face shields and gloves. Similarly, 99 per cent of the participants were wearing masks, and they maintained social distancing."

He further said that a very few or no elderly people and children participated in the Jatra.

The 32-metre tall wooden chariot is built in reverence to lord Seto Machhindranath, also known as the god of rain and kindness. The chariot will be taken to Hanumandhoka tomorrow.

It is believed that worshipping Machhindranath helps people get rid of diseases, and ailments.

Seto Machindranath is a deity worshipped by both Hindus and Buddhists in Kathmandu.

The temple of the lord is located in Jana Bahal, also known as Machhindra Bahal. Located between Ason and Indrachok in central Kathmandu, the temple is believed to have been established around the 10th century.

Every year, the deity's idol is placed in a chariot and paraded around Kathmandu.

The chariot procession festival of Seto Machindranath is usually celebrated during the Nepali month of Chaitra (March-April).

A version of this article appears in the print on April 21, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.