Red Machchhendranath Rath Jatra Festival

There are a number of annual festive events in Nepal which curious travelers enjoy watching each year. The festivals in Nepal are colorful affairs filled with meaning for those who participate in them. One example of this is the Red Machchhendranath Rath Jatra festival.

Red Machchhendranath Rath Jatra is held each year between May and June. It is the biggest cultural event to take place in Patan each year and the festivities associated with it are truly fascinating. Red Machchhendranath is the local rain god and the practice dates back to the time when good rains were important for healthy crops. While the Kathmandu Valley has become much commercialized in more recent years, only a few decades ago it was an important source of many different agricultural products. One of the most notable of these was that of rice and the success of annual rice crops depended heavily on the rainy monsoon season. Therefore farmers and their families would engage in worship of the rain god in order to ensure that their crops would receive enough rain to grow plentiful enough to see them through the next year. This is why Red Machchhendranath Rath Jatra is a pre-monsoon season and why it so typically involved virtually every person in the community.

During the course of the festivities, a wheeled chariot is made wherein an idol of Red Machchhendranath is placed. This chariot is then pulled, from the place where it is assembled at Pulchowk, all the way to Langankhel. As it makes its way along the streets it is thought that the rain god is able to look down on his followers and observe their actions. During this time rice and vermilion powder is thrown to the ground before the chariot and loyal followers ask for his blessings. The grand finale of the festival, the ‘Bhoto Dhekhuane’, features the showing of his splendidly jeweled vest to the public. Lamps and candles are lit casting a colorful haze over Patan’s streets and the palace complex. The women prepare a massive feast and everyone sees to it that the festival is properly celebrated. So why not catch the festival next year and witness this splendidly colorful event in Nepal for yourself?