Kathmandu, Apr. 12: Buddha Krishna Baga Shrestha of Bode in Madhyapur Thimi, is going to pierce his tongue for the ninth time. Like previous years, Shrestha will pierce his tongue with a 10-inch long iron needle on Friday.
Before the piercing, Shrestha needs to purify his body which is achieved by three-day fast. This year, his fast will begin Wednesday night at the temple of Lord Nrityanath. At the temple, a ritual fire is lit for which, logs will be brought from the nearby Nilbarahi forest.
During the fast, Shrestha can only drink water and must refrain from engaging with women or touching animals. Violating these rules, it is believed, will lead to bad things or cause bleeding during the tongue piercing. Shrestha, 49, has impaled his tongue eight times and is ready to do it a ninth time “to preserve the culture and prevent its death,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mayor of Madhayapur Thimi Municipality Madan Sundar Shrestha shared that the local level had provided Rs. 300,000 to support this rare festival. He said that the amount was sufficient to run the festival and hoped it would free the person getting his tongue pierced from the burden of having to arrange the budget.
Shrestha’s brother Krishna Chandra Baga Shrestha will be the one pushing the needle through Buddha Krishna’s tongue. The needle, which is used exclusively for the tongue piercing and nothing else, has been prepared by Dharma Lal Nakarmi.
On the festival day, which this year is on April 15, Shrestha will go around the different localities of Bode with the thick needle through his tongue while carrying a quarter-moon shaped Mahadeep made of 13 Nigalo (a type of bamboo) sticks.
The festival holds an important role in the Newa community. A chariot, which carries Lord Ganesh and is taken around the city, comes to an end at Bhagutole with the piercing of the tongue. The iron needle is then taken to the Mahalaxmi Temple and the hole in the tongue is covered by mud from there. It is then taken to the Ganesh Temple and kept at the door located next to the Nrityanath Temple.
Shrestha can speak and eat only after all the rituals end. Shrestha pierced his tongue every year from 2005 to 2008 but then stopped. In his absence, Juju Bhai Basan carried out the ritual until refusing to continue in 2017. After Basan’s refusal, Shrestha again took up the mantle. Shrestha is presently the only one who has volunteered to get his tongue pierced for cultural preservation. Only the locals of Bode from the Shresthas are allowed to get their tongue pierced.
According to the locals of Bode, the tongue piercing festival has only been cancelled three times in history. The first time was in 1855 because of the plague that inflicted the country that year and the other two times were the last two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is believed that the festival began during the reign of King Jagajyoti Malla who ruled Bhaktapur from 1613 to 1637. The committee that organises the festival has kept the record of everyone who has had their tongues pierced in the last 100 years.
The first name in that list belongs to Harka Narsingh Shrestha who, as recorded, had his tongue impaled for 22 years in a row. With its long and illustrious history, the locals of Bode eagerly await the festival and celebrate it with much fervour every year.