In the heart of Nepal, each April, the ancient city of Bhaktapur awakens to the vibrant festivities of Bisket Jatra, heralding the Nepalese New Year. The city, steeped in tradition, becomes a hub of jubilation as the nation welcomes Bikram Sambat, the official Nepali calendar.
Marking the new year, usually falling on April 14th, Bisket Jatra is a cultural spectacle, featuring grand chariots that embody the deities Bhairava and Bhadrakali. These monumental chariots navigate through the city’s alleys, drawing devoted followers and tourists alike, engrossed in the ceremony and celebration.
The festival’s climax is a grand tug-of-war, symbolizing the fight for honor and glory between Bhaktapur’s upper and lower sections. This tug-of-war, using Bhairava’s chariot as the rope, is not just a contest of strength but a celebration of community spirit.
The winning side earns the privilege of hosting the chariot, a symbol of divine blessing, in their neighborhood. This high-spirited event is further accentuated by the intoxicating aroma of local rice beer and the vivid hues of simrik powder, creating a mesmerizing tableau against the rhythmic backdrop of Dhimay music.
Bisket Jatra is just one of many celebrations that mark the Nepali New Year, a time of joyous gatherings and feasts. The Bikram Sambat calendar, approximately 56 years and 8 months ahead of the Gregorian calendar, is central to these festivities.
As Bhaktapur, once the capital of the great Malla Kingdom and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, bursts into life, it epitomizes the rich, diverse cultural tapestry of Nepal. Whether it’s the Sherpa communities celebrating Losar, the Tibetan New Year, in the year of the Iron Ox, or the nation embracing Navavarsha with parades and parties, Nepal’s New Year is a testament to its vibrant culture and enduring heritage.