Lalitpur local administration directs Rato Machindranath Jatra organisers to postpone the festival againThe annual chariot festival was due to kick-off tomorrow.
Lalitpur District Administration Office has directed Jyapu Samaj Yala, a local Guthi, and the locals involved in the annual Rato Machindranath Jatra to postpone this year’s festival until the Covid-19 is pandemic is over.
The festival, whose main attraction is a chariot procession, was due to start from Wednesday from Pulchowk. The festival organisers had decided to organise the festival after the government eased the lockdown in mid-June.
The festival is the longest chariot festival in Nepal which starts just before the beginning of monsoon, to appease the rain and grain god Rato Machindranath.
The local administration of Laltipur directed the Guthi to postpone the festival, arguing that it is against the government’s decision. A Cabinet meeting on June 10 had announced to ease the lockdown, but it has restricted all kinds of social and cultural activities.
“The government has already announced a ban on big gatherings. And with the cases of Covid-19 rapidly rising in Kathmandu Valley, the festival has to be postponed until thei pandemic is over,” Chief District Officer Narayan Prasad Bhatta said.
As of Tuesday, Kathmandu Valley has reported 264 cases of cornavirus infection—174 in Kathmandu, 48 in Lalitpur and 42 in Bhaktapur.
This is the second time the annual festival of Rato Machindranath festival is being cancelled within a year. Earlier, the festival was cancelled on April 10, as the country was still under a lockdown. The festival was rescheduled after the lockdown was relaxed.
Padma Rajan Bhuju, chief of the Guti that organises the festival, said there is still uncertainty regarding the resumption of the festival.
“If the cases had not increased this way in the Valley, we would have started the chariot procession. The festival would have given hope to people who are already in trouble due to the lockdown,” said Bhuju.
The annual chariot festival, which draws thousands of people, culminates in Jawalakhel in the form of Bhoto Jatra, another popular festival.
People of eight localities in Lalitpur—Natol, Gabahal, Mekhabahal, Kusunti, Kayanni, Walmaya, Dhaugol and Sachhi Chhe—usually lead the Machhindranath chariot procession. The postponement of the festival has saddened many faithfuls.
“We still have great faith in Machindranath. The lockdown that has been going on for nearly four months has troubled us,” said Kumar Baharai, who is also the lead chariot maker. “This is such an unfortunate situation that we can’t pray to the rain god for better food and grains at this difficult time.”
The festival of Rato Machindranath was started by Lichhavi King Narendra Dev. Historians say the king had commissioned the festival to appease the rain deity.
Besides the Rato Machindranath festival, several other festivals in Kathmandu Valley, including Bisket Jatra, the tongue piercing festival of Bhaktapur and Seto Machindranath Jatra, have also been postponed this year due to the pandemic.