The Rato Machhindranath jatra kicked off today with the ceremonial pulling of the chariot carrying the deity Rato Machindranath.

The revered deity, known locally as “Bunga Dyah,” embodies the spirit of rain and harvest. Clad in vibrant red jackets, members of the Newa community dedicated nearly two weeks to meticulously crafting the colossal chariot, standing at an impressive height of 65 feet, without a single nail, showcasing their craftsmanship and devotion.

The festival, renowned as the longest-running Jatra in Nepal, holds significant cultural and religious importance.

As per tradition, the chariot’s journey begins with ceremonial processions from Pulchowk to Ga: Bahal, then onward to Sundhara, Lagankhel, and beyond, each stop marked by rituals and celebrations. When the chariot is pulled from Pulchowk to Ga: Bahal, then it is regarded as the festival of Kathmandu. When it reaches Sundhara, it is the festival of Bhaktapur, and upon rolling up to Lagankhel where a coconut is thrown from the top of the chariot, then it is the festival of Lalitpur.

A day has been separated for women only to pull on the chariot and take it to E: thiha.

Astrological considerations dictate the pace of the procession, with occasional pauses for auspicious moments, ensuring the divine journey unfolds in harmony with celestial alignments. Notably, the festival culminates in the grand spectacle of Bhoto Jatra, attended by the head-of-state and devotees alike, symbolizing the union of tradition and modernity.

Legend intertwines with ritual as the festival traces its origins to the mythical tale of Guru Gorakhnath and the liberation of captive serpents, bringing much-needed rain to the city of Patan. Since its inception in 897 AD, the Rato Machindranath Jatra has remained a testament to faith and community spirit, uniting residents in reverence and celebration.

There is a belief that failure to complete the procession before Dashain could result in the relocation of the deity to Bhaktapur for six months.