Rato Machchhindranath is considered both a Hindu and Buddhist god, who by legend was brought from Assam (India) during the reign of Lichchavi King Narendra Dev, by a farmer to Lalitpur valley in Nepal to prevent a drought during the rice season. It is known as various names, viz. Bungdyo, Karunamya, Arya Avalokiteshwora among the locals. The longest running chariot festival in Nepal recreates this event in hope for good rain. It begins with the construction of the chariot in Pulchowk, Lalitpur and ends with the Bhoto Jatra festival in Jawalakhel. It is attended by the head of state of Nepal. It is celebrated by Buddhists and Hindus of Newar community. It is celebrated by pulling the chariot to different places in the town of Patan.
The name "Rato Machchhindranath" translates as "Rato" meaning Red and Machchhindranath consists of 2 words "Machhindra or Matsyendra" which means Fish (Matsya meaning fish) and Nath being the god. Rato Machchhindranath has been worshipped as a god of rain and the festival starts just before the monsoon arrives in Kathmandu.
This year's tentative schedule.
View event schedule in year 2012.
The event dates vary with the condition of the ratha and position of stars. Everyday the pulling starts at around 5pm till around 7pm, except for women's pulling day.
Update: April 25 The giant wheels of Matsyendranath starts rolling from today, April 25 (Wednesday). Here is the route map of Rato Machhindratha jatra. (Including information on road blockade for the festival)
Chariot route map with stations and road blockade information for the festival
Red place markers: last year's events
Scene from past year
Read more about Machhindranath and Bhoto Jatra
There are two Machhindranath in Kathmandu. One is in Asan tole and the other is in Machhindrabahal at Lalitpur. Machhindranath is very popular in Nepal because it is in addition with it’s ancient Bhoto jatra; on which day the Government of Nepal’s officials get government holiday in the capital but not through out the country. This festival starts during the Baisakh dark fortnight (MAY). A huge tall chariot has been prepared a few days before the inception of the festival. The chariot voyage starts from Pulchok. The distance of starting point and the Machhindranath’s temple is about one kilometer far in between.
A 32 hands high pole's chariot has been prepared by hard labour, which is made out of the cane, wood, bamboo. Before starting the voyage the committee offers cow donation to the priest. On this day Machhindranath’s and Minanath’s temple is just 1020 meter’s distance in between to each other. Minanath is regarded as the creator God and Machhindranath has been regarded as the breeder god. According to the historical belief Minanath’s temple was built by Lichhabi King Amsubarma and Machhindranath was built at the time of King Narendra Dev. There is a very interesting myth regarding to the origin of lord Machhindranath.
A long time back there broke out a great draught; and a fearsome famine existed there in the country. Because of no rainfall the countrymen were very much terrified with havoc. It was because the Nags who were the cause of the rain; were captured by lord Gorakhnath. Lord Gorakhnath and Machhindranath are believed to be father and son respectively.
Once lord Gorakhnath had come to visit Nepal. He was very much hungry and badly was in need of food. In the evening he rested at a woman’s house who was believed to be a witchcraft practitioner. Because of his much hunger Gorakhnath continued to eat a lot but the woman also relentlessly went on serving him the food. Finally Gorakhnath became very much surprised on how the waman has been providing him the food? Also Gorakhnath is believed to the true feature of the Lord Shiva and if he wishes he could swallow the whole earth as well. That’s why Gorakhnath was very much surprised to the woman; and he saw there nine headed ridiculous snake helping her to serving the food continuously. Gorakhnath became very much angry with the Nag and the woman; then he carried the Nag with him in his pocket and started to live at Mrigasthali in Pashupatinath. He had captured the Nags and brought them in his custody. So because of this there was no rainfall in the kingdom. Myths believe that later the king went to bring Machhindranath from India to worship for rainfall in the country. Gorakhnath and Machhindranath were the father and son. So when Gorakhnath heard that his son Machhindranath has come to Nepal, he then hurriedly went to look his son. In the mean time the Nags (serpents) who had the power for the rain were released when he went to meet his son leaving that place; the there appeared a heavey shower in the country immediately by the Nags. Since then it’s believed that the havoc disappeared from the country and the situation was improved nicely forever. So that’s why the valley people worship to lord Machhindranath.
Different writers have collected different legends on this aspect. However the knowledgeable local elders say this temple was made by Lichhavi King Narendra Dev and the lord’s idol was also consecrated by him brining from Kamuru Peeth of Assam India when there was a great famine in the country.
When the chariot procession starts thousands of people assemble to observe and worship the fair. On the first day it’s carried out pulling by all towards the Ganabahal; and on the second day to Sundhara; and on the third day to Lagankhel. Then it rests there for two three days. The place where it rests, every night and morning people come to worship there to the chariot. After reaching Lagankhel one coconut ball is dropped from the top of the chariot. Its believed that if some one becomes able to grab the coconut, then his wishes will be fulfilled. So many people compete to catch the dropped coconut.
The coconut receiver again offers the coconut to the chariot with some donation. After that the chariot reaches at Thali and in the next morning only the women pull the chariot. Since the beginning of the Rathyatra (fair) the traditional Newari bands are played. Also the Nepal Government’s Sarduljung battalion plays their band along with the Jatra. Also there, the seventeen century’s King Siddhi Narshing Malla’s warring sword is demonstrated by keeping it in a parasol. After reaching to Thahiti tole the chariot remains there for few days.
After a few days the knowledgeable prophets forecast the auspicious day to demonstrate the Lord Machhindranath’s Bhoto (vest), which is called the “Bhota Jatra”. Thousands of people along with the foreigners amass there to look his Bhoto Jatra. A grand ceremony takes place on that day. Previously the king and Queen also used to come there to grace the fete but now the head of the Nepal government come there and government officials in the valley get government holiday to his day. People herd there to look the lord’s Bhota (vest) because they believe that after looking the Bhoto definitely some good luck comes for them.
At the last the chariot is dismantled and the lord is taken to Bugmati, which is about 5, 6 kilometer’s distance, from Machhindranath temple; where Machhindranath resides there for a few month; then again he’s brought at Machhindranath at Jatra inception time. He is brought from there only after the Prophet calculates for the auspicious day. Minanath’s idol is taken at his respective temple itself. Every year the chariot is dismantled at Pulchowk but in every twelve year it should be taken to Bungmati itself to be dismantled.
There is a very interesting legend regarding to this “Bhoto Jatra”. Once the Nag Raj went in search of a physician. Lastly he met to a Baidhya (herbal Physician); and he took to the Baidhya in side his water kingdom (pond) at Karkotaka Daha (Pond). This Karkotaka Daha is situated towards the southern side of Kathmandu. The physician healed the Nagin (queen serpent) and the King Nag became very happy. Then he rewarded him an invaluable Bhoto (vest) decorated with so many precious diamonds. Then the Physician returened back very happily at his home.
One day the Baidhya went to transplant paddy in his field. He unfastened his Bhoto while he was working; and kept in near by there somewhere. In the mean time a Giant arrived there and stole his invaluable Bhoto; then the physician became very much sad and enraged. One day when there was a broke out a terrible fighting in between of them. No one could win the fight. Finally the case was field at the King’s court for the final settlement. The king was not satisfied from both side’s evidence; and lastly he decided to offer it to lord Machhindranath by amassing a huge gathering and demonstrating there to all. This is the same Bhoto, which is demonstrated till to this day in Lagankhel Kathmandu; which is called the “Bhoto Jatra” by all. It’s believed that Lichhibi king Gunakam Dev had started the practice of this fete.
Seto Matsyendranath jaatra