Home > Festivals, Happiness, Kathmandu, Machhendranath, Monsoon, Nepal > The Macchendranath steeple didn’t fall!

The Macchendranath steeple didn’t fall!


… Nepal’s going to be okay! AND its going to rain (hopefully)!

S and I ran into the last leg of the Machhendranath festival yesterday. First we wondered why there were SO MANY PEOPLE near the Ekantakuna roundabout.

A sea of people comes towards us. Our first reaction: what the fuck?!

Then we asked two aunties who were sitting by the roadside, and they told us that the Machhendranath festival / rally was coming through on the last leg of its month-long journey. Aaah okay, we thought. We hung around for a bit, then decided to go to the restaurant that we were going to (it was nearby) and run outside when the chariot got closer.

According to this website:

Rato Machhendranath is the God who has power over rain and is also known as Karunamaya, the God of mercy. The Buddhists identify him with Lokeshwar. The festival is celebrated by constructing a chariot (rath in Nepali) with a long steeple made of wood. This chariot is then moved about from place to place often taking more than a month to reach its final destination before it is returned to its resting place.

Machhendranath is responsible for bringing rain. Hence the festival is held just before the monsoon is to arrive in Nepal. According to legend, there was a severe drought in the valley a long time ago during the reign of King Narayan Dev of Bhadgaon (today known as Bhaktapur). It lasted for twelve long years. It was discovered that Gorakhnath who is a disciple of Machhendranath had imprisoned all the Nags (Snake Gods) who are responsible for bringing rain into the valley. Seated on the top of Mrigasthali, a hillock from where he could control the movement of the Nags, he totally shut off the possibility of them bringing any rain. It appeared he was unhappy because the people had neglected him. Thus he wished to punish them, at the same time hoping that his beloved Guru would come to the people’s rescue when he would also get an audience.

It so happened that Lord Machhendranath then resided in Assam and the only way of getting to move Gorakhnath from his present location was to bring his Guru over to the valley. After lengthy discussions, it was decided that the King and two other officials would travel all the way to Assam to fetch him. The plan was to use tantric mantras to change Machhendranath into a bee and bring him back in a ceremonial vase. The plan worked perfectly and Bandhudutt, the tantric through rituals and mantras captured the God in his vase.

It so happened that when the committee was on their way back they stopped a few miles south of Patan. Gorakhnath hearing of his Guru’s arrival rushed out from his hilltop. No sooner had he left Mrigasthali to meet with Machhendranath, then the Nags escaped and brought rain to drought-ridden Kathmandu valley. As Machhendranath is also known as Bungadeo, a town was built in his honour and named Bungamati. Many years after his arrival in the valley, a special temple was built for Machhendranath at Bungamati in Patan district. More

So yesterday was the last leg of this journey. Suddenly, we saw the HUGE-ASS steeple turn a corner farther down the road, and the crowd went wild! The steeple was leaning at a very dangerous angle, and while I found all this exciting — especially the raw energy of the crowd — I didn’t really want to be anywhere near the tower if it fell.

Moreover, the fall of the steeple is considered a bad omen. It has collapsed twice in recent history — in 2001 (the royal family was massacred soon after), and in 2008 (the Maoists came to power *tongue firmly planted in cheek*).

The crowd as the chariot drew closer.

Oooh the chariot! Can you see it behind the tree?

The steeple sweeps into view!

And now, lets have some noise, folks! I can’t embed videos in free wordpress accounts, so I’ve uploaded it to youtube. Check it out!

And more pictures!

Wild cheers...

... and gasps!

Closer...

... and closer...

... any moment now!

The top of the steeple! That IS high. And there were two men right at the tip -- they've got balls...

The chariot below the steeple. See the ropes? That's how they pull the steeple back if it starts to lean too much.

Oh dear it leans again -- dangerously so! Heave-ho!

The chariot stops and everyone pulls on the ropes...

Relatively straight again, the chariot moves on, as does the crowd.

And that was all, folks. The chariot went on towards the end of its journey; we went back to our food-tasting, and then to Thamel for some fabulous conversation. The steeple did not collapse, Nepal’s going to be okay, and if legend is to be believed, its going to rain soon. Day well spent. :-)

[ Disclaimer: All these pictures were taken with my Nokia E63, so don’t crib about the quality. ThanQ. :-P ]

ato Machhendranath is the God who has power over rain and is also known as Karunamaya, the God of mercy. The Buddhists identify him with Lokeshwar. The festival is celebrated by constructing a chariot (rath in Nepali) with a long steeple made of wood. This chariot is then moved about from place to place often taking more than a month to reach its final destination before it is returned to its resting place.

Machhendranath is held responsible for bringing rain. Hence the festival is held just before the monsoon is to arrive in Nepal. According to legend, there was a severe drought in the valley a long time ago during the reign of King Narayan Dev of Bhadgaon (today known as Bhaktapur). It lasted for twelve long years. It was discovered that Gorakhnath who is a disciple of Machhendranath had imprisoned all the Nags (Snake Gods) who are responsible for bringing rain into the valley. Seated on the top of Mrigasthali, a hillock from where he could control the movement of the Nags, he totally shut off the possibility of them bringing any rain. It appeared he was unhappy because the people had neglected him. Thus he wished to punish them, at the same time hoping that his beloved Guru would come to the people’s rescue when he would also get an audience.

It so happened that Lord Machhendranath then resided in Assam and the only way of getting to move Gorakhnath from his present location was to bring his Guru over to the valley. After lengthy discussions, it was decided that the King and two other officials would travel all the way to Assam to fetch him. The plan was to use tantric mantras to change Machhendranath into a bee and bring him back in a ceremonial vase. The plan worked perfectly and Bandhudutt, the tantric through rituals and mantras captured the God in his vase.

It so happened that when the committee was on their way back they stopped a few miles south of Patan. Gorakhnath hearing of his Guru’s arrival rushed out from his hilltop. No sooner had he left Mrigasthali to meet with Machhendranath, then the Nags escaped and brought rain to drought-ridden Kathmandu valley. As Machhendranath is also known as Bungadeo, a town was built in his honour and named Bungamati. Many years after his arrival in the valley, a special temple was built for Machhendranath at Bungamati in Patan district.

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  1. June 25, 2010 at 14:59

    Now that is quite something Uzi. Had a look at the video…all seemed to be very good-natured and peaceful, no sense of ‘a dangerous crowd’ – is that how you read it?

    • Bolshevik
      June 25, 2010 at 15:16

      Yeah, very benign crowd. Very festive too. I walked right into the middle to get some pictures and didn’t feel claustrophobic at all at that point — no hanky-panky or shoving. I ran to the outskirts [of the crowd] when the chariot got near though, because everyone around was walking backwards then, and that freaked me out. Plus, too much noise in close proximity causes sensory overload and kinda shuts down my brain (which is why I can’t drive). :-P

      The claustrophobia came back later when S and I were trying to navigate the crowd AND traffic to get out towards clear roads and grab a cab to Thamel. All in all though, lots of fun!

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