Nepal is a multicultural, multiethnic, multilingual and multi-religious nation. The unity in diversity epitomises Nepal’s unique cultural identity based on harmony, coexistence and altruism. The country’s vibrant culture is expressed through colourful festivals, celebrations, dances, customs, art, craft, languages, literature and religions. Nepalis have developed syncretic yet tolerant culture over the centuries. The various festivals and fairs articulate the common people’s collective emotions and joys. They are connected with social values and economic relations. Many of the festivals are related to elements of agrarian society – farmland, rain, plantation, harvesting and crop production. So the ecstasy of festivals also expresses the people’s longing for better survival.
Nonetheless, the festivals acquire new dimensions and meanings as the time passes. The week-long Indrajatra that began the other day at Basantapur Durbar Square in Kathmandu testifies this fact. In Nepal Bhasa, Indrajatra is locally known as ‘Yenya’ which stands for ‘celebration inside Kathmandu’. Started in the 10th century, the Indrajatra has become an integral part of Nepali culture. Kumari Jatra was added to the Indrajatra carnival since the mid-18th century. Basically, Indrajatra is the festival of Newar community and also observed in some parts of Terai and India. Many kings, dynasties and political systems had come and gone but Indrajatra has remained intact. When Prithvi Narayan Shah conquered Kathmandu exactly on the day of Indrajatra in 1825 B.S., he ascended the throne only after receiving tika and prasad from Kumari, the living Goddess. This amply reaffirms the historic and cultural significance of Indrajatra which is graced by the head of state and other dignitaries on the first day of its celebration.
The devotees worship Indra, the king-god of rain and good harvest, and Kumari on the jubilant occasion. The revelers enjoy the masked dances of deities and demons, and exhibition of sacred images of Indra. The chariot procession of Kumari, Ganesh and Bhairav makes another scene of spectacle. This year Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) brought innovative idea to mark the festival. It invited 41 delegations from five countries. Mayors of Thimpu City of Bhutan, North Delhi Municipal Corporation and Lhasa City had expressed their joy for being the part of the unique festival, according to the news report of this daily. They also promised to promote Nepali culture in their respective cities. This is indeed a welcome bid to enhance the nation’s popular tradition beyond the border.
In his message delivered on the occasion, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has called for linking cultural festivals to the tourism development to realise the national motto of ‘Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali’. He said: “Festivals having historical importance and unique features might be the centre of attraction to foreign tourists. This unique cultural feature is binding all Nepalis in a formula of unity.” PM Oli has rightly noted that cultural festivals need to be connected to the broader economic and social goals. In view of the Visit Nepal Year 2020, it is imperative to attract foreign tourists towards various rich and lively festivals and fiestas which are observed in different parts of the country. In doing so, Nepali culture and identity will receive big boost and recognition in the world, too.