KATHMANDU, Oct 4: It was a big day for Meera Singh, 50, who had been observing the Indra Jatra since her childhood but got an opportunity to pull the chariot of the living goddess Kumari and the deities Ganesh and Bhairav for the first time only on Wednesday.
A resident of Mahakal, Meera says she was no exception as over 300 women participated in pulling the chariot all the way from Basantapur, through Pyaphal, Yatkha, Nardevi, Kilagal, Bhendasingh, Indra Chowk, Makkhan, Hanumandhoka and back to Basantapur during the festival that concluded Wednesday.
The history of the festival dates back to 1756 AD.
Another participant in the chariot procession said she came to know about the women´s participation just that very day and immediately got ready for it. Lazimpat resident Sita Maharjan, who is 66 and a diabetic, lives with her son and daughter-in-law. She could not inform her family about her participation in the chariot pulling as she was alone at home at the time and the others were out at work.
“I will just walk in the procession but it is going to be a surprise for my children,” she said. Sita was among 40 women who participated in the function to represent the Lazimpat Maha Guthi Committee.
The idea first occured to Nani Hira Maharjan, member of the Jyapu Maha Guthi Committee, who shared it with Mohan Krishna Dangol, an engineer by profession who heads the Indra Jatra Organising Committee.
“I was afraid Dangol would not be interested. But he seemed both surprised and excited, and similar was the reaction throughout the Jyapu community,” said Nani Hira. She expressed her pleasure to be parting in the procession with her teenage daughter.
The occasion also saw significant participation by youths, and the hope was that the new trend would continued in coming years as well. Sushmita Shrestha, 16, is a higher secondary level student who joined in with her friends from Bhotebahal.
“It would be more exciting to take part in the function in our traditional wear. But jeans is also cool,” said Sushmita.
There was no specific dress code for the participants and the guthi authorities were liberal in allowing people from ouside the Newar community also in the function.
“The participants are not restricted to any food habit, everything is as usual”, said Rajan Maharjan, member of the Indra Jatra celebration committee.
Though the Guthi had initially asked the women participants to pull the chariot for 20 meters from Basantapur, the mixed participation continued till the conclusion of the function marked by the lowering of the ´Lingo´ wooden pole.
The tradition is to pull the chariots carrying the three deities Ganesh, Bhairav and Kumari to the accompaniment of musical bands through the old quarters of the capital in the course of the festival.
Meanwhile, DSP Dhiraj Pratap Singh of the Metropolitan Police Range, Hanuman Dhoka said that 700 security personnel were deployed to keep the environment safe during the celebrations.