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the Blog 12 by Michèle Béguin

Matsyendranath? Macchendranath? Buṅga Dyaḥ? The rain donor.

Everything started when Matsyendranath could escape from his prison, and what a prison ! A huge fish which had swallowed him...He was prisoner since years when he had the chance to hear the secret of yoga that Shiva delivered to Parvati in the bottom of the sea to keep it as an absolute secret...Then Matsyendranath applied the principles he had heard. But he still was in need of a dozen of years to acquire the needed power to escape his jail. His birth had come along with an evil prediction : he would be a child bringing tragedy it was said. So his parents threw him to the water!!! Swallowed by a fish he found himself at the bottom of the ocean... What a life beginning really! Well, he finally came out of it by pure knowledge and became a great guru whose works for the humanity were of a great interest. But how did he came to be associated with rain. Another legend tells it. When Gorakshanath -disciple of Matsyendranath- came visiting Patan, he captured all the rain giving snakes and started his meditation but felt disappointed by the Patan habitants who were not offering him the expected gifts. This vacuum created a long drought for the Patan kingdom. The king and his advisers decided to call Matsyendranath they invited. When Gorakshanath heard the news, he freed immediately the rain giving snakes and fell at the feet of his master. Freed, the rain giving snakes made the rain fall. And this year after year. From that moment onwards, the people of Patan worshipped Matsyendranath as the god of rain and organized a great and long festival: the one of Matsyendranath or Rato Macchendranath - the Red Macchendranath- or Bunga Dyah Jatra in Newari language. The Asian rituals are long and sophisticated but each phase has its own peculiar meaning not to be neglected.Fifteen days before the Rato Macchendranath, the first ritual is called "Mahasnaan", the great bath, which, like everything important in the country, is directed by the astrologic science. Day and hour chosen by the specialists of the planets, the deity is bathed into a mixture of water, honey and milk with which four priests symbolizing the four directions will flood the statue. The first flush touching Machendranath shows the direction from where the monsoon rain will come, very precisely the fourth day of the bright fortnight of the month of Bachhala, seventh month of the Nepalese lunar calendar. Started by King Narendra Deva (640-683) to celebrate the coming of Bunga Dyah and the end of a terrifying drought, the Rato Macchendranath is still one of the pleasures of Nepalese and a great hope and prosperity. This month long festival is taking place in april-may just before the monsoon starts. For weeks preceding the festival, in the locality of Pulchowk, one assemble the wodden pieces of the chariot to make a moving temple with its huge wheels and top it with a high steeple of about ten meters high covered with branches. When the statue of Bunga Dyah will be moved out from its temple and lifted up to the chariot platform. During all the duration of the Jatra, another small chariot will follow the itinerary. It is the Chàkuà Dyah's or Minnath's, considered like Bunga Dyah's father. The itineray starts in Pulchowk, crosses the localities of Gabahal, Hakha, Sundhara and ends in Lagankhel. A long and difficult way for such a huge car like this and the narrow streets with old houses damaged by the summit of the chariot. Very often, one has to stop the chariot's progress because of some technical problems create damages. If the road is shaky - which is common- there are stopovers which can last quite a long time! But to direct this huge weight is really difficult. The pullers are directed by the one who is shouting directions and encouragements. To follow the tradition, between Iti and Thati, women are alone to pull this huge weight. This sequence of the procession is known to be ""Yākah Misāyā Bhujyā". The festival is ending at the west of Lalitpur, in Jawalkhel in a frenetic way and by what is making Nepalese very enthusiastic; the Bhoto Jatra ceremony. The "bhoto" is a small local top blouse. But of course it is to the masters of the stars to consult their almanacs to define the day and exact time the happening will be. It is the moment of hysterical gaiety of this long fete. The given day, a government official lifted up on the chariot shows the small black top studded with precious stones at the four directions to a watchful crowd. But why? Here we are with one more legend explaining string of centuries after the happening how the things went on then... A Newari peasant -a Jyapu- having helped the snake god Karkotaka Naga, was gifted a black top studded with precious stones. One day, that farmer came to Jawalkhel to see the end of the Rato Macchendranath festival, saw a Nepalese wearing that particular bhoto which had been stolen not long before. Immediately a fight started and the crowd took part in it but no one could prove to be the owner. The decision taken was that Bunga Dyah would be the custodian up to the real owner comes and claims it with indeniable proofs. Since then, the bhoto is shown every year to the public so the owner can retrieve it. During that festival the Living Goddess of Patan, the Kumari, is seen also several times during this event and in fact at each important step she quietly comes and is offering her protecting image to people, receiving offerings and silent prayers from her devotees. Sit on a special seat, with traditional make up on, and sporting classical jewelry her presence is reassuring her devotees. The festival over, the chariot is dismantled and its different parts are stocked up to next time. Rato Macchendranath is sent towards Bungamati for six months and then will come back to his other mansion in Patan.

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A Propos de Michèle Béguin

CNIL:1050096 2004 © Michèle Béguin