Kathmandu [Nepal], April 21 (ANI): One of the biggest chariot festivals celebrated in Kathmandu valley, the three-day-long Seto Macchindranath Jatra started on Tuesday amid a surge in COVID-19 cases in the country.
The chariot procession honouring the God of Rain is also known as 'Jana Baha Dyah Jatra'. In the procession, a skyscraping chariot of Seto Machindranath is pulled from place to place during the three days. Each day when the chariot reaches its terminus, a group of soldiers fire their rifles into the air.
"Seto Macchindranath is regarded as the god of contemporaneous and god of rain who brings on rain and good harvest. It is believed that after celebrating this festival, there would be plenty of rainfall and famine would stay at bay," Prabha Shrestha, a resident of Kathmandu, told ANI.
Hundreds of devotees flocked to Tindhara Pathsala in Durbarmarg where the chariot was being built for the procession from last week. Flouting social distancing norms amid the COVID-19 pandemic, devotees pulled the chariot through various locations of the city thereby increasing the possibility of widespread infection.
"There is a belief that our illness would get cured, there won't be situation like that of famine and that it would bring prosperity for all the Nepali," Shrestha added.
A total of 1,736 positive COVID-19 cases were registered in Nepal while 11 people lost their lives on Tuesday. 251 people, who had earlier tested positive for the virus, recovered in the past 24 hours.
Nepal's COVID-19 case tally has reached 2,87,567 including 3,102 deaths. There are currently 8,659 active cases of COVID-19 across the country.
The government on Monday had decided to cap number of people to 25 in public gathering and making it mandatory to seek local authority's permission before holding any events which would bring large number of people.
"This celebration is related directly to rainfall. There is a belief that if it isn't celebrated or observed then there would be less rainfall. Last year only the Jatra was halted due to coronavirus, but this year, all the conservationists pressurised the government to not put a ban on this event. Political gatherings, protests, show of power and other events are taking place without any restraints, so why is the Jatra being targeted only? After raising over this question and adopting precautionary measures against COVID-19 infection we are undertaking this event," Manish Manak, another devotee claimed.
According to myth, during the regime of Yakshya Malla -- King of Kantipur, people used to bathe in a holy river and visit Swayambhunath which was believed to possess the power of sending people to heaven after death.
Once Yamraj (God of Death) came to know the power of Swayambhunath and visited the holy temple. At the time of his return from the temple, Yama was captured by king Malla and his guru who possessed powers and demanded immortality.
As the king and his guru didn't let Yama escape, he prayed to Arya Awalokiteshwor (Seto Machhindranath) to free him. God heard his prayers and immediately appeared from the water.
The god was white in colour with his eyes half-closed. He told the king to build a temple where Kalmati and Bagmati met and to organise the chariot procession so that god could visit the people and bless them with contentment and long life. Since then, people started to celebrate this three-day-long procession to honour the god. (ANI)