Bisket Festival in Bhaktapur

Festivals are an integral part of life in Nepal, and the numerous festivals held throughout the year are enthusiastically supported by the Nepalese people. Religious festivals are determined by the lunar calendar, while national festivals have fixed dates. There is one festival, however, which is determined by the solar calendar. This is the annual Bisket Festival, which takes place in early April in the ancient Newari town of Bhaktapur – and it is based on a fable.

Because the seven-day Bisket Festival takes place over the period of the Nepalese New Year, it is regarded as a New Year Festival as well. The festivities start off with a friendly tug-of-war between the residents of the lower and upper halves of the town of Bhaktapur, during which each group tries to pull an ancient chariot containing an image of Shiva Bhairab to their side of the town. The festival includes parades, a candlelight procession and the display of temple deities throughout the city. On the fourth day of the festival, and the last day of the “old year”, the men of the city work together to raise a 25 meter high ceremonial pole into place. The pole has a crossbeam with two strips of cloth hanging from it as a representation of two slain snakes. This ceremonial pole stays up until the following day when residents of the lower and upper halves of the city once more engage in a tug of war, but this time to pull the pole down to their respective sides. Once the pole crashes to the ground, sometimes resulting in casualties, it is seen as the official beginning of the New Year and the festivities continue for three more days.

The Bisket Festival of Nepal is based on the story of a Bhaktapur King’s quest to find a husband for his daughter. Each time he made a suitable match, the groom would be found dead in the marital bed the following morning. Eventually eligible bachelors became a scarce commodity and the people prayed earnestly for deliverance from this mysterious curse. One day the father of the next prospective groom, on learning of the curse, offered to take his son’s place in the marital bed. Forcing himself to stay awake and alert following the consummation of the marriage, the substitute groom saw two deadly serpents slithering out of the princesses’ nostrils. The hero quickly killed the snakes and broke the spell, thereby earning the undying gratitude of the people and resulting in the celebration of the Bisket Festival.

Visitors to the beautiful country of Nepal will more than likely be able to witness, and even share in a festival, no matter what time of the year they choose to travel there. Joining in the celebration of the Bisket Festival in April is sure to be an exciting and unforgettable experience.