The Rato Machhendranath Temple is located in a huge courtyard known as Ta Baha, about 400 meters south of Patan’s (Lalitpur’s) Darbar Square. The temple celebrates Machhendranath (also known as Matsyendra), an influential early 10th century yogi who recognized the god Shiva as his teacher and practiced in the Indic regions of the time. It was built in 1673 on the foundations of earlier temples that had stood here since the 15th century. The temple is a towering Newar-style pagoda with three layers of declining roofs in its physical structure. Sheet metal (possibly copper) covers the roof surfaces, which are supported by 20 struts on the first and second levels, and twelve struts on the upper level. Avalokitevara is shown in a variety of stances on each of the 52 struts, typically with one or more extra sets of arms. There are miniature vignettes depicting scenarios from Buddhist hells, such as boiling alive, on the bottom registers of the struts, beneath Avalokitevara’s feet. Other vignettes are of a gentler tone, with lesser deities supporting Avalokitevara on pedestals. The front-facing side (here, the north) is adorned with a huge variety of pots and pans mounted to tables, seemingly defying gravity, as is the case with many Newar pagodas. A lengthy pataka strip hangs from the temple’s top to practically ground level in front of it, allowing Machhendranath/Avalokitevara to descend to earth.
Rato Machindranath Jatra:
The Rato Machindranath Jatra is a chariot parade in Lalitpur, Nepal, that honors the Buddhist deity of compassion Avalokitevara. It is one of the city’s most important religious events, as well as the country’s longest chariot festival. It is one of the longest chariot festivals in Nepal and one of the most amazing religious gatherings of the Newar community in the Kathmandu valley. It’s known as Bunga Dyah Jatra in the Newari language. The Rato Machindranath chariot is led by people from Lalitpur-natal, Gabalal, Mekhabahal, Kusunti, Kayani, Walmaya, Dhaugol, and SachhiChhe. This event was founded by Lichhavi king Narendra Dev to properly appeal to rain and grains, and it is now observed every year. To commemorate the start of the event, a chariot with a height of around 60 feet is built at Pulchowk. The statue of Rato Machindranath (god of rain) from his temple is set in the chariot once it is finished. Rato Machindranath is accompanied by another smaller chariot known as ‘Mimnath.’ The chariots are then dragged through the streets of Lalitpur, passing past Natole, Gabahal, Mangal Bazaar, Sundhara, Lagankhel, Kumaripati, and eventually resting at Jawalakhel. The Bhoto jatra is held a few days after the chariot arrives in Jawalakhel. The chariot is destroyed after the event and Rato Machindranath is transferred to a shrine in Bungamati.
Rato Machindranath Jatra: The Myth and the History:
The Rato MachindraNath, also known as BungaDya, is said to have originated in India rather than Nepal, according to legend. Where that place is depending on the myth, however Rato MachindraNath is from a place named yaksha Desh in India, which is thought to be somewhere in modern-day Assam in this narrative. There had been no rain for the previous 12 years, and the river had dried up completely. The King of Bhaktapur kingdom at the time traveled to Swayambhu to meet Tantrik in order to find a solution to this predicament. The Tantrik then explained that Guru Gorakhnath is enraged, thus he is meditating on the cushion of nine strong serpents, whose job it was to bring rain to the valley.This was done in attempt to attract his guru’s attention, but he was also preventing them from providing rain to the valley.
The legend goes on to state that the three heads of the Kathmandu valley at the time, Lalitpur Jyapu of Lalitpur, Narendra Dev of Bhaktapur, and Bandana Bajracharya of Bandana Bajracharya, comprehended this. They then banded together and decided to call this god. A Karkot Naga joined them along the trip to guard them from the unknown. There were many ceremonies performed to tempt and beg with the god to come and save them from the drought. The god then transformed into a black bee and flew into Bandhu Dutt’s body before being transferred to Nepal. The god was released from the vessel on the banks of the Nakhu River. The god then granted the sage’s wish and unleashed the rain serpents, causing it to rain once more. Every year since that day, people in Lalitpur have celebrated this event and prayed for rain.
The chariot procession of Bunga Dyah Jatra culminates with Bhoto Jatra, which literally means “vest festival.” According to Nepal Bhasa, the Jatra should be called Pwaklo Jatra since Pwaklo means vest and Bhoto means sleeve. Astrologers determine an auspicious day for the Bhoto Jatra event after the two chariots arrive in Jawalakhel. On the specified day, a government official mounts onto the chariot in the presence of the head of state and holds up a jewel-studded black vest from the four corners of the chariot for all those assembled to see. The show is a recreation of an incident that occurred many years ago.
Bhoto Jatra: The Legend:
According to legend, a Jyapu (Newar farmer) misplaced the vest that the serpent god Karkotaka Naga had given him as a reward for doing him a favor. There are two traditions about the favor, one of which is that Jyapu gave him some ayurvedic medicines after examining Karkotaka Naga’s ill wife, which healed her. Another legend claims that the Jayapu was terrified when Karkotaka Naga requested medicines to cure his sick wife, but the Jyapu, who had no knowledge of herbs, gave him his own ‘khiti’ (dirts from his sweaty body), which healed her. The farmer had traveled to Jawalakhel to observe the chariot pulling event when he noticed his lost garment being worn by someone. Because neither party could confirm ownership of the vest, it was agreed that the undershirt would be retained with Bunga Dyah until the rightful owner came forward with sufficient proof. Since then, the vest has been displayed in public every year to encourage potential claimants to come forward.