Sunday, 5 December, 2021

Rato Machhindranath Jatra to be held with safety protocols


By Aashish Mishra
Lalitpur, Apr. 28: Ending the long uncertainty surrounding the fate of Nepal’s longest chariot festival, the stakeholders have decided to go ahead with the procession of Rato Machhindranath around the historic settlements of Patan.
A meeting of the related Guthis, Jyapu Samaj, Lalitpur Metropolitan City, Guthi Sansthan and the Chief District Officer of Lalitpur on Tuesday decided to hold the 1,600-year-old Jatra with all the required safety precautions in place.
Talking to The Rising Nepal, Chandra Maharjan, president of Jyapu Samaj – one of the main bodies in charge of managing the festival – informed that the chariot of Lord Machhindranath, also known as Karunamaya, would be towed around the city on its usual route Pulchowk-Gabahal-Mangalbazaar-Sundhara-Chakrabahil-Lagankhel-Jawalakhel adopting the health precautions.
“We will not allow people to crowd around the chariot. Everyone involved in pulling the chariot will mandatorily wear masks and face shields. We will make sure to maintain social distance and there will not be much fanfare,” Maharjan said, adding, “The police will provide security and we will enforce the safety measures. It will be just like last year.”
According to Maharjan, the ritual bathing or the Mahasnan of the Machhindranath idol will be conducted tomorrow on Wednesday, and the chariot construction will begin from Friday. The lord’s statue will be placed on the 32-feet-long chariot on May 12 and the festival will begin from May 15.
Chief District Officer Dhundi Prasad Niroula informed that the decision had been taken keeping traditions and culture in mind. “Stopping the Jatra is not considered auspicious. It goes against the local norms and customs. That is why the festival will be held with strict adherence to the government’s COVID-19 protocols,” he said. “The protocols will be enforced and monitored by the Guthis and the police.”
Work on the chariot will continue throughout the prohibitory order period, Maharjan and Niroula stated.
The District Administration Office had earlier decided on April 7 to proceed with the Rato Machhindranath Jatra with safety precautions in place.  However, the rise in the number of COVID-19 cases and the declaration of the 15-day prohibitory order had raised doubts about that decision.
There was a lot of back and forth regarding the organisation of the Jatra last year which culminated in a clash on September 3 after locals started pulling the chariots of Machhindranath and Minnath without receiving approval from the local administration.
With Tuesday’s decision, the authorities hope to avoid a repeat of those tensions.