Buddhi Krishna Baga Shrestha is set to pierce his tongue for the eighth time in the famous tongue piercing festival at Bode of Madhyapur Thimi Municipality.

The tongue piercing festival is observed on the second day of the Nepali New Year, as part of Bisket Jatra celebrated exclusively in Bhaktapur district.

Baga Shrestha, 48, had volunteered to get his tongue pierced for four consecutive years from 2005 to 2008 and later, for three years in a row from 2017 to 2019.

Last year, the festival was only limited to formal offerings by a limited number of priests due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year, however, people of Bhaktapur had objected to the authorities' decision to ban public celebrations of the festival and a writ was filed at the Supreme Court. The apex court had later given order to the authorities saying it was the people's right to celebrate the festival in the way they wanted.

A person wishing to pierce his tongue has to be from the Shrestha clan of Newar community.

Before him Juju Bhai Basan Shrestha had volunteered to pierce his tongue for eight consecutive years.

On the day of the festival, a one-foot long needle, soaked in oil for a month, is pierced through the tongue of the volunteer, amid much fanfare.

The devotee then takes a round of the town. But, before going for the tongue piercing ritual, one has to fast for three days.

It is believed that volunteers will be blessed with good health, prosperity and good fortune after participating in the event. Also, the Bode residents believe that the jatra will bring wealth and prosperity to the locals, prevent famine and other natural disasters such as earthquakes.

The festival has been celebrated from the Licchavi era around 1,000 years ago. However, Bode residents do not have records of volunteers participating in the tongue piercing ritual in the last 100 years.

The records state that Harka Narsingh Shrestha was the first volunteer to get his tongue pierced. He had his tongue pierced for 22 consecutive years.

Guthi Sansthan and Madhyapur Thimi Municipality cover the expenses of the festival.

It is believed that the festival was celebrated after the Bode people were able to catch an evil spirit which was tormenting villagers. After catching it, the locals had pierced the tongue of the demon and made him promise not to return to the village. From then onwards, people of Bode have volunteered to pierce the tongue.

A version of this article appears in the print on April 13, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.