At least one person dies each year at the Bisket Jatra Festival (Nepali New Year) in Bhaktapur, Nepal. This year, I was nearly one of them.
Last year, I had planned to attend Bisket Jatra for two reasons: it is the most elaborate celebration of Nepali New Year in the entire country; more importantly it was the only one of the seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Kathmandu Valley that I had not yet visited. But the gods conspired against me. By the time I had been embarrassed at Boudhanath Temple and forcibly ejected from Pashupatinath Temple, I cut my losses and fled to Pokhara, leaving Bhaktapur for another time. This year, nothing was going to stop me.
Bisket Jatra is celebrated over nine days in mid-April in the ancient city of Bhaktapur, center of the Newaris who were early inhabitants of the Kathmandu Valley. For two weeks prior to the holiday, crews decorate an enormous wooden chariot in the center of Taumadhi Square in preparation for carrying the sacred image of the God Bhairav. Considered to be a dangerous deity, Bhairav is symbolically tied to his seat with scores of lengths of reed, which are painstakingly woven around the prow of the chariot where he is seated. Continue reading