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the Blog 8 by Michèle Béguin
Thanks to Indra.


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Thanks to Indra.

The countries of the Indian subcontinent - where Nepal is lying - welcome with devotion the monsoon water since they are the only rains of the year. "Barsat Varsha"- the rainy season- is source of life, renewal, love and wealth. After a worried wait of the coming rain, people of the Kathmandu Valley worship and thank Indra, the rains and storms giver of the Hindu pantheon. Head of all other Gods,Indra represents courage, strength and power. He is also in perpetual war against Ahi, the drought. Indra, Indo-Aryan God introduced by the different waves of invasions of the 2nd millennium BC is a part of the main deities of the Hindu pantheon. Leader of all other Gods, he is the symbol of courage, force and power. He is also involved into an endless war against Ahi the drought. Though all his protective qualities and his divine powers, he is sensed by the Newars of the Kathmandu Valley as an invader, bringing a feeling of racial conflict. Indra, white skinned Indo-Aryan considered as a superior race man is nevertheless overpowered like a thief during Indra Jatra and represented tied up as any criminal. Here is the legend telling his crime : "The Mother of Indra liked the flowers of parijata so much! Since she was in need of some of them for her daily puja, she asked Indra to get her some of them. To do so, Indra, glided from cloud to cloud and landed on earth. When in the locality of Maru Hitti, Indra found flowers of parijata, he picked them up but was caught by the inhabitants of the area who tied him arms stretched up to a pole... Not seeing him coming back, his Mother came down on earth and at that moment the people of Maru Hitti, realizing Indra's divine nature freed him and bowed down in front of him. Indra and Mother left for their Olympus, mount Meru, but as a gesture of thanks, the Mother promised to send every year some fog over the Valley, to moisturize the fields and also to help the deceased persons' souls by leading them towards the cosmos." It is on the eight day of the clear fortnight of the month of Bhadra that certain inhabitants of Kathmandu carry a tree trunk, all shaven from its branches, which before was shown by a specially chosen goat in a magical forest. Brought to Hanuman Dhoka, at a special spot, purified by a chicken or a ram sacrifice there it became Indra's mast for the festival, the axis of the world. In the morning at a given time, that mast will be raised, among the shouts of "Indra has come" or "Indra is with us" giving peace and prosperity. People bow down in front of it, make offerings of rice and coins to the ravishing golden bronze statues of Indra and his white elephant Airavat. On the side of the neo-classical wing of Gaddi Baithak in front of the paved square of Basantpur, three chariots are parked and decorated for the coming out of Kumari Devi, Ganesh and Bhairav. The second day, nothing particular happens besides the fact that the whole day groups of dancers roam around and move to Hanuman Dhoka and Basantpur, musicians and lines of Gurkha soldiers in 18th AD traditional uniform, from the time of Prithvi Narayan' Shah's conquest. But on the third day, early afternoon a colorful crowd is settling down on the high steps of the temples : today, in front of the President of the Nepalese Republic and his Prime Minister, Nepalese and Foreign dignitaries, the Living Goddess will make her first coming out. Two others will follow. The Living Goddess festival is sheltered within the long Indra Jatra, one of the most important and sophisticated festival of the year. In 1768 AD the king Prithvi Narayan Shah from Gurkha started the conquest of Kathmandu. As a clever soldier, he waited for the Indra Jatra to start, knowing that for that occasion, Nepalese do drink rakshi and drink even so much to excess that their strength fail them. Prithvi Narayan who was so much waiting to become master of the Valley had already planned an unindifferent friendship by getting close to the monarchs of Bhaktapur and Patan. So in 1768 AD , during the Indra Festival, the day of the coming out of the Living Goddess, the Gurkha armies attacked Kathmandu city. As planned the city capitulated easily, leaving the way to the Gurkha dynasty. Every year for the festival at the end of the last coming out of the Living Goddess, the kings of the Shah dynasty from Gurkha bowed down in front of the Goddess to get her blessings on the forehead -tika- and the tacit agreement to govern the kingdom. The dynasty Shah of Gurkha has been abolished for a democratic republic. The whole week is loaded with parades, spontaneous dances in the streets during the day and more sophisticated ones in the evening narrating the Hindu classical epics. All the day during those eight days cult, devotees offer prayers and rituals to golden bronzes of Indra taken out and for some even lifted on scaffoldings. Everything is going on in an atmosphere of incense smoke, car horning, cymbals vibrations and dancers' bells. This festival week is also the occasion to worship Bhairav, the Nepal protective form of Shiva. In Hinduism, Shiva, principle of Evil destruction, like all the Gods has several forms and faces, acting according to the need of the world and humans in the different periods of the world. Shiva becomes Bhairav when the world is about to be crushed by Evil. Since we are in the era of the materialistic desires defying the powers of Good, the main task of the wrathful Shiva or Bhairav, is to fight against the materialistic pleasures stopping the soul to progress on the liberation path, -Moksha- ultimate aim of human beings. To protect the country, it is an angry looking face which has been chosen to ward off diverse negative forces. Big torsos of Bhairav in metal or wood, recipients of the popular faith, are set at cross roads of the old city. The last day of the Indra's festival come, the next day, the mast is put down and carried to the Bagmati river to be immersed.



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A Propos de Michèle Béguin

CNIL:1050096 2004 © Michèle Béguin