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Chapter Fourteen The Events of the Solar Cycle
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Biska: [20-29]: The Solar New Year Festival

Three months after the winter solstice period of Ghya: Caku Sa(n)lhu, the sankranti[*] at the approximate time of the vernal equinox marks the beginning of the solar New Year. The solar New Year comes in the course of a nine-day festival, Biska: (also sometimes written "Biska") (see fig. 25). The New Year's Day, which in 1975/76 fell on the fourteenth day of the waxing lunar fortnight of Caulathwa (Caitra, in March/April), is the fifth, the midday, of the nine-day sequence. Biska:, which draws spectators from all over the valley, is unique to Bhaktapur,[5] and one of the four annual festivals of focal importance for the city. The beginning of the solar New Year is signaled on the fifth, the central day of the sequence, with the pulling down of a great tree-trunk pole, the yasi(n) —also locally called lya:si(n)[6] —which had been erected on the previous day. In the course of the nine days themes of division, conflict, and reintegration are represented and enacted. Images of sexuality and images (and realities) of physical struggle embody these themes, which ultimately have as their reference the city as a whole. The themes are expressed through a pattern of interlocking im-


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Figure 25.
Biska:. The struggle to pull the Bhairava chariot into the upper or
lower city.


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ages, stories, and actions with three main foci: (1) the city's major space-protecting deities, (2) the adventures of two of Bhaktapur's dangerous deities (Bhairava and Bhadrakali[*] ) who are dominant during the festival, and (3) the "Yasi(n) God" whose actions mark the end of one year and the beginning of the next.

The chronicles have references to the supposed historical introduction of the Biska:[7] festival into Bhaktapur (Wright [1877] 1972, 191):

[Jagajjyotir Malla, in the early seventeenth century] introduced at Bhatgaon [Bhaktapur] the custom of holding the rath-jatra [a chariot procession] of Adi-Bhairava on the anniversary of the Mesh [Mesa[*] ] Sankranti when a tall pole was erected in his honor as a flagstaff. . .. Having on one occasion suspected that the Bhairava of Bhatgaon had improper desires regarding a certain Sakti or female deity, he punished him by bringing the rath [chariot] of Kali into violent collision with the Bhairava's rath.

In the two large complex festival sequences, Biska: and Mohani, there is some arbitrariness in deciding which of the several component events should be listed as elements in themselves for the purposes of a catalogue of annual events. For Mohani (chap. 15) we were able to follow the conventional local festival calendar in listing component events. For Biska:, however, that calendar indicates only the central portions of the nine-day sequence, the raising [21] and lowering [24] of the Yasi(n) God to signal the ending of the old and the start of the new solar year. As the description of the sequence that follows indicates, there are approximately ten major component events,[8] and many minor ones in the course of the sequence. One of these "events," the Bhairava/Bhadrakali Jatra, takes place intermittently m a set of component phases throughout most of the nine days of the Biska: sequence.

There is a further difficulty in comparing the components of the complex focal sequences (and the components of the Devi cycle) with the relatively disconnected events of the remainder of the annual cycle; this is in the evaluation of the importance of individual component events. Components of larger sequences are of varying importance in two ways—in themselves, in some sense, and in the extent and nature of their contribution to the meaning and significance of the larger sequence. For our purposes of providing an approximation of the quantity and significance of calendrical events we are conventionally designating the components of focal events as of "major" importance.

In our descriptions of the "structural focal sequences," here Biska:, and in the next chapter Mohani and its associated Nine Durgas performances, we are faced with the descriptive problems produced by a


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change of the scale that is now of importance to us. In earlier chapters we have tried to filter out unnecessary details, sometimes placing them in appendixes, for the sake of keeping a narrative or an argument relatively clear. However, these focal festivals are not only relatively massive and complex, but their details are particularly meaningful in relation to the organization of the city at its own level. While the preceding chapters were able to build to a large extent on what had gone before, the reader who wishes to follow the meaningful patterning of the focal sequences of this and the next chapter must be faced with large quantities of fairly minute descriptive detail out of which the festivals' meanings slowly arise.

The Preliminary Preparations

1. The yasi(n).

A few days prior to the start of the sequence a group of men from the Sa:mi thar[9] go to a forest in the hills, about a two hours walk east of Bhaktapur.[10] They select a tree for the large yasi(n) by releasing a goat and waiting to see which tree it rubs its head against. The goat is then sacrificed to the tree, and the tree is cut down. The trunk is cleared, except for selected branches at the top that will represent the Yasi(n) God's hair. A second smaller tree is also selected for a secondary yasi(n) , and its limbs are cut off. Ropes are attached to the shorn trees and they are then dragged along the river bed toward Bhaktapur by men chanting a rhythmic work chant to coordinate their efforts. Each evening at sundown the trees are left, the men returning the next day to begin dragging them again. They will finally, after two or three days, be dragged into Bhaktapur, respectively to the field, the Yasi(n) Khya:, where the large yasi(n) will be raised, and to the location in the potters' quarter where the smaller one will be raised.

2. Bhairava and Bhadrakali[*] .

Eight days prior to the solar New Year's Day, and thus three days before the festival sequence is to begin, the jatra image of the dangerous goddess Bhadrakali[*] is taken from the inner room of her god-house and brought to a front room where non-initiates may enter. The god-house of Bhadrakali[*] is the house that also houses the mandalic[*] goddess Vaisnavi[*] , and it is only during the Biska: festival that the goddess of this location is exclusively thought of as Bhadrakali[*] ,[11] who is in her form, legend and consort quite distinct from the other goddess.[12] Vaisnavi[*] , although a dangerous deity, is a beautiful form of the Goddess. For this particular festival she is trans-


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formed into the terrible form of the Goddess as Bhadrakali[*] , and the jatra image represents this form, with its frightening face, fangs, and multiple arms. Our informants do not know why Bhadrakali[*] is associated with Vaisnavi[*] rather than another deity. The image of her coprotagonist, Bhairava, is also brought down from its ordinary hiding place in the main Bhairava temple into the public area of the temple, on the first day of the sequence.

During the days prior to the festival the chariot that will carry the public jatra image of Bhairava will have been refurbished.[13] This is the responsibility of several craft guthis , including those of the painters, carpenters, and the Sa:mi, the traditional oil pressers, who have several important support functions in this festival.

3. The representation of Royalty.

On the day before the beginning of the festival an official of the central government's Guthi Samsthan comes to Bhaktapur from Kathmandu. Accompanied by musicians, he walks around the city festival route carrying an ancient sword representing "the king,"[14] which will be used in later stages of the festivals.

The First Day Start of the Bhairava/Bhadrakali Jatra [20]; The Struggle Between the Upper and Lower Halves of the City

On the first day of the Biska: sequence, four days before the solar New Year's Day proper, some of the festival's central topics are introduced—two of its main actors, Bhairava and Bhadrakali[*] ; the representation and involvement in the festival of important segments of the city's macrostatus system; and the themes of division and struggle.

For this festival (and in Bhaktapur, only in this festival) chariots are used for the jatra procession. There are two of them, one for Bhairava and his high-status attendants, and another, a smaller one, for Bhadrakali[*] , and her lesser attendants. These chariots, kha :s,[15] are of great size; the larger one, that of Bhairava, is about twenty-four feet in height.[16]

The larger of the two, that of Bhairava, is placed in Ta:marhi Square. This square is just "below" (i.e., to the southwest of) the line dividing the upper from the lower city, and at about the central point on that line (for the movements of the chariots see map 5, above, chap. 7). During Biska: it is considered to belong to neither the upper nor lower city and, thus, to he a neutral and central point. It is one of the central reference points in the festival sequence, and marks the starting point from which


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Bhairava and Bhadrakali[*] will be displaced and to which, finally, after many adventures and dangers they will return on the ninth day of the festival sequence. The smaller chariot, that of Bhadrakali[*] , is placed in front of her god-house (the structure usually referred to as the "Vaisnavi[*] god-house" [see map 2]) in the western part of the city.

During the early part of the day the chariots are completed, decorated, and prepared for the jatra . An image of Bhairava's vahana or "vehicle," Betadya: ("Beta God"), is attached to the front of Bhairava's chariot by a member of the Sa:mi thar , and its face is painted by a member of the Chathar Dhaubhari thar , who worships the image at this time. Crowds of people come to the square to watch the preparations of the chariot. The jatra images of Bhairava and Bhadrakali[*] meanwhile are still in their god-houses.

The representative of the central government's Guthi Samsthan goes to the Taleju temple and presents the royal sword to Taleju's chief Rajopadhyaya Brahman priest. This priest represents—or rather becomes—the king for the remainder of the festival. He is, in traditional local perspective, the Newar's Malla king. It is said that in the past, when the Malla kings still reigned, it was the Malla king himself and not a surrogate who rode in the Bhairava chariot during Biska:, as his Brahman representative now prepares to do. Another Taleju Brahman will accompany the "king" throughout the many occasions in the festival sequence when the Bhairava chariot is in use, as the king's special priest, his "Guru-Purohit."

The king, as we will henceforth call him—dressed like all the others who will join him in the chariot in what is now understood in Bhaktapur to be the traditional clothes of the Malla period—and his priest, his Guru-Purohit, go from their royal palace and Taleju temple area, Laeku, to Ta:marhi Square by a traditional route. Throughout the day, and whenever they take part in the later festival, the king and the Guru-Purohit are always side by side, the king to the right, the Guru-Purohit to the left. They are accompanied by music, and shaded by a large ornate ceremonial umbrella. One attendant also carries a large and ornate ceremonial oil lamp, a sukunda .[17] When the king arrives at the chariot at Ta:marhi Square, he orders that the jatra image of Bhairava be brought from its temple, and he and his party wait in the square. Messengers go to the Bhairava temple to ask the god's attendants that he be taken out.

At the time the Bhairava image is ready to be taken from the Bhairava temple another group leaves it on an ostentatious "secret mission."[18]


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These are men from families at the Jyapu level that traditionally perform services for the Bhairava temple. One man precedes the group to clear onlookers out of the way. He carries a heavy iron chain that he swings in front of him as he walks. He is silent during the procession, but he has a bell hung on his back that sounds as he walks and swings the chain. The bell's sound and the dangerous chain are warnings to bystanders to stay out of the way of the group. The first man is followed by another man carrying a large oval object wrapped in cloths, called a "Jaki Gwa," a term whose literal meaning is a "ball of uncooked husked rice." This man is surrounded by other men who are conceived of as guards for the Jaki Gwa. The group moves through the crowd on their way to the Bhairava god-house—used only during Biska:—near the Ga:hiti (map 5) area to which the two gods in their chariots will eventually be brought. These three sites, Ta:marhi Square, Ga:hiti (and its adjacent Bhairava god-house), and the field just beyond Ga:hiti in which the Yasi(n) God will be eventually erected form the main spatial axis for the festival events. It is generally known to the onlookers that the group is carrying the "secret god," of which jatra image is a less powerful public representation. It is popularly believed by most bystanders that the major image is wrapped in the attention grabbing Jaki Gwa itself, which, it is believed, contains the head of Bhairava.[19] Some few bystanders suspect that one of the other men in the group, probably the one who follows the man carrying the Jaki Gwa, is carrying what is perhaps the "true" secret image, that is, an image duplicating the form in which Bhairava is represented in his temple's inner and hidden sanctum.

Meanwhile the jatra image of Bhairava is brought from the Bhairava temple out into the adjoining Ta:marhi Square. This is the beginning of his kwaphaegu , his "being taken down"—the term used for the movement of the god out of his temple and "down" from Ta:marhi Square to the more southerly and peripheral Ga:hiti. This foreshadows the taking out of dangerous deities from temples and god-houses throughout the city, which will take place on the fourth day at the approach of the new year. Now the procession that had left Laeku, including the king, Guru-Purohit, umbrella, ceremonial sukunda , musicians, and attendants—who had been informally awaiting the arrival of the chariot—is reconstituted and now circumambulates the chariot. The Bhairava image is placed in the chariot facing toward its front. The king, doing a brief puja to the image and carrying the sword that had been brought to him by the representative of the Guthi Samsthan, enters the chariot, seating


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himself to the right of the Bhairava image. The Guru-Purohit seats himself to the image's left. Now the representatives of other crafts and professions station themselves on the chariot in their proper stations. Four carpenters, representatives of the builders and repairers of the chariot, stand at the four corners. Two non-Brahman Taleju priests (a Josi and an Acaju), the Acaju pujari from the Bhairava temple, the leader of the Bhairava guthi , and a member of the Bhairava bhajana group (a group of Jyapu who play music as worship to the Bhairava of the main temple) sit to the rear of the king. Also seated behind the king is a Jyapu, the representative of the group of farming families who farm the granted land, a portion of whose revenues help support the expenses of the Bhairava jatra segments of the Biska: sequence. At both the front and at the rear of the chariot stands a member of one of the Maha(n) thars , representing both charioteers and royal guards.[20] All these personages, like the king and his attendants, are dressed, as we have noted, in what are taken to be the traditional costumes of the Malla period. The chariot is facing south, in the direction in which it must eventually move so that Bhairava, the king, and the other riders of the chariot may witness the fall of the Yasi(n) God and the beginning of the new year.

Now the Bhadrakali[*] chariot, in which the Bhadrakali[*]jatra image, taken from its god-house, has been placed, is brought to Ta:marhi Square from in front of the Bhadrakali/Vaisnavi[*] god-house. The pujari of the god-house, who is a Jyapu Acaju, accompanies the image in her chariot, and another Jyapu sits on the front of the chariot, to call out the rhythmic chant that coordinates the joyful efforts of children who have come to the god-house to pull the chariot by means of long ropes attached to its front. When the Bhadrakali[*] chariot is brought to Ta:marhi Square, it is placed to the right side of the Bhairava chariot (a reversal of the ordinary relative positions of Tantric couples). It is said that Bhairava has now been able to get a glimpse of Bhadrakali[*] , and this introduces their later unfolding relations.

In contrast to the Bhadrakali[*] chariot, the Bhairava chariot has ropes attached both to its front and its back ends. Traditionally, it is said, there were eight ropes attached to the front of the chariot and only six ropes at the back. In more recent years, perhaps because fewer haulers took part, this had been reduced to six at the front, and four in back. The tug of war that will ensue as people pull the unequal number of ropes is thus biased toward the forward direction. This compensates in part for the comparative difficulties of the terrain in the two directions of the tug of war.


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The Bhadrakali[*] chariot is pulled out of Ta:marhi Square in the direction of the Ga:hiti Square, in whose vicinity it will make an intermediate stop toward its ultimate destination in the "Yasi(n) Field" (map 5). The Bhairava chariot is also to be pulled to that square—but first there will be a major diversion often called the "playing" of Bhairava. The king tells the two Maha(n) charioteers to start, and after asking the king for a confirmation, the Maha(n)s, one at each end of the chariot, call out to the men who have come from the crowd of bystanders to take hold of the ropes at the two ends and begin to pull. (These men, usually young men, may come from any of the thars including the Brahmans except the untouchables and the groups just above them.) Men from the lower city take the ropes at the front of the chariot; men from the upper city, at the back. This is congruent with the direction—front to south—in which the chariot is facing. It is now the late afternoon or early evening of the first day. Ta:marhi Square is full of thousands of spectators, massed shoulder to shoulder in all the available spaces, including the stairs and terraces of the great temples adjoining the Square.

Now a tug of war begins to determine to which half of the city the chariot will go first. It is considered that the presence of the chariot represents a darsana , a manifestation or "showing himself" of the deity Bhairava to that city half. The men from the lower half of the city try to pull the chariot out of Ta:marhi Square into and along the Bazaar street to the south and then west as far as the Tekhaco twa: . The people from the upper city try to pull it out of the square along the Bazaar street to the north and east into their half of the city as far as Dattatreya Square. These two terminal goals are roughly equidistant from the central point (map 5). Access from the square to the southern route is much more obstructed and winding than the upper route and this gives the people from the upper city an advantage that balances their fewer ropes and participants. Ideally the main struggle is within Ta:marhi Square itself, which is the main arena and theater for the struggle, and once the chariot has reached the exit of the square leading to either the upper or lower city, the struggle should become perfunctory. Again ideally, when the chariot reaches its goal in either the upper or lower city, even the perfunctory struggle should be over. Then, when all goes well, the people from the losing half of the city either quit the struggle or join the people from the temporarily winning half, who now pull the chariot back through Ta:marhi Square into the other half of the city as far as the jatra 's traditional furthest point in that half for a darsana for the


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losing half of the city. When the chariot has been to both halves of the city, all join together on the ropes at the front of it, and pull it back to its proper destination, Ga:hiti Square, which ideally should be reached during the course of the first night. During all this the king, the Guru-Purohit, and the other officials and representatives in the chariot are submitted to a long, tiring, bumpy, swaying, vertiginous, and dangerous ride, which at best takes several hours. Although, as we have noted, ideally the chariot should reach Ga:hiti during the first night, this often does not happen, the chariot is delayed. Whatever happens, however, the chariot and its god and riders must reach Ga:hiti Square before the time of the raising of the Yasi(n) on the fourth day of the sequence, the sankranti[*] , which marks the beginning of the solar New Year.

In chapter 7 in our discussion of Bhaktapur's city halves we noted references to serious conflicts, sometimes bloody ones, in other Newar cities beginning with some ritual event that eventually pitted one half of the city against the other. We argued that ritually organized antagonisms between the upper and lower city halves served to deflect antagonisms from within smaller local areas, particularly between the groups of economically and socially interrelated thars in such areas, antagonisms whose overt manifestations would have been considerably more serious in their consequences. The struggle with the chariot is the major manifestation in Bhaktapur's annual calendar of this conflict.[21] We have emphasized the ideal timing and action of the movements of the Bhairava chariot. But the idealized struggle is liable to turn into a ritually uncontrolled one, and other accidents may also delay the movements of the chariot. In the course of the tug of war, fights sometimes break out. These are usually fights between individuals or small groups from the opposing halves of the city. Sometimes these fights may escalate, larger groups may become involved, stones may be thrown. In such cases the bystanders may flee to their homes, and the jatra may be temporarily discontinued. In the years preceding this study the outbreak of fighting was unusual. It is estimated that there were perhaps four or five occasions in the twenty years before this study in which fights broke out, but they did not interfere with the completion of the jatra .[22] But the ever-present possibility of the eruption of dangerous conflict gives this phase of the festival a particular tone of anxiety for observers and participants, particularly for the entrapped riders in the chariot. On the occasions when a fight does break up the tug of war, or if the chariot becomes stuck in the narrow streets, requiring a long complicated pro-


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cess of extrication, the chariot may be left, its riders returning to their homes for the remainder of the night, leaving behind only the deity and its pujari attendants. In such cases the chariot will be pulled directly to Ga:hiti on the next day, and the excursion into the city halves will be aborted.

Yet, ideally and almost always, in fact, the Bhairava chariot arrives at Ga:hiti on the evening of this first day of the festival sequence. Earlier the Bhadrakali[*] chariot had been pulled first to Ga:hiti, and then down the road toward the field where the Yasi(n) was to be erected on the fourth day. It was left at a point about half way along this road, where there is a special Bhadrakali[*] god-house used only during Biska:. Ga:hiti[23] is an irregularly shaped square into which four crossroads enter. It is a part of the Lakulache(n) twa: , which adjoins the Ta:marhi twa: . It is bordered by shops and religious structures and contains some temples.

On the arrival of the Bhairava chariot at Ga:hiti the king and Guru-Purohit, followed by the other officials and crew of the chariot, take flowers from the Bhairava image as prasada and descend from the chariot. They circumambulate the Bhairava chariot and then walk on in a procession to the Bhadrakali[*] chariot, take flower prasada from her image, and circumambulate that chariot. Now shaded by the ceremonial umbrella, accompanied by the ceremonial sukunda , musicians, guards, and attendants, the king, bearing the royal sword, returns to the Taleju temple, the site of the Malla palace.

Now the god images are taken from their chariots with music and procession each to their respective special jatra god-houses, Bhairava's being some forty yards to the west of Bhadrakali's.

The Second Day

The chariots are where they had been left on the previous night. The deities are in the special jatra god-houses. This is a quiet day after the late-night events of the previous night, an interlude before the crowded days that are to follow. People go about their ordinary activities, although many may go to one or both god-houses and offer minor sacrifices.

The Third Day

The third day of sequence is the occasion for a feast, a bhwae , the first feast of Biska:, with meat eating and the drinking of alcohol. The day is


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popularly called syakwa tya , a word of uncertain meaning now, but thought to have reference to the eating of large and thus stomach-disturbing quantities of food.[24]

There is an important secret puja in the Taleju temple on this day, during which several goats and a buffalo are sacrificed to one of the esoteric forms of the goddess contained in the temple.

The Fourth Day

Preliminaries

The events of the fourth day fall into three events or clusters of events, which occur sequentially. The first is the raising of the secondary yasi(n) . The second is the raising of the primary yasi(n) , one of the pivotal events of the Biska: sequence. The third is the "taking out" of certain god images, in preparation for the local areal jatras that will follow on succeeding days.

During the morning of the fourth day a yasi(n) , the shorter of the two tree trunks that had previously been dragged to Bhaktapur by the Sa:mi, is erected in the Talakwa area of the Bolache(n) twa: . Talakwa is the larger of the city's two potters' quarters. This yasi(n) is popularly known as the "Yasi(n) God without arms," in contrast to the main yasi(n) , which has a transverse crossbar toward its top representing, among other things, arms. The armless Yasi(n) God will remain standing until the final ninth day of the sequence. After the Armless Yasi(n) God is pulled into upright position by means of ropes and pushing, a local man acting as a priest quickly leads the god through the dasakarma , the ten basic samskaras or rites of passage, to bring it to its "mature" form.[25]

Meanwhile the Bhairava chariot has been moved into the proper position for Bhairava's next journey. It is arranged with its front end facing south toward the Yasi(n) Khya, the field where the main Yasi(n) is to be erected. Once again with the same processions and ceremonies as on the first day the king, his Guru-Purohit, and the rest of the chariot crew assemble and wait by the Bhairava chariot. Bhairava is brought from his jatra god-house to the chariot and placed in it and is followed into it by all the riders who take their positions as on the first day. The Bhadrakali[*] image is then brought from the special jatra Bhadrakali[*] god-house and placed in her chariot, which is also facing toward the Yasi(n) Khya. Now the Bhairava chariot, with the Bhadrakali[*] chariot following it, is pulled down the road to the upper end of the Yasi(n) Khya (map 5), "so that the two deities can watch the erection of the main Yasi(n)


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God." This brings together the Bhairava/Bhadrakali pair and the Yasi(n) God, the deities around whom most of the stories, ideas and action of the festival are gathered.

The Raising Up of the Main Yasi(n) God—The Ending of the Old Year

The erection of the Yasi(n) God pole[26] is one of the foci of the festival sequence (see fig. 26). The yasi(n) draws to itself, as we will see, diverse legends and meanings. These are, superficially at least, almost entirely separate from the Bhairava/Bhadrakali story, although there is a very tangential reference in some of the yasi(n) stories to Bhairava. The falling of the yasi(n) will indicate the coming to an end of the old year, and the beginning of the new. It marks a focal point not only in time, but in space for people throughout the city who, if at all possible, come to witness its raising and its bringing down.

In contrast to other points that are given a focal and central meaning in other events—such as the palace area, Ta:marhi Square, and the Tripurasundari pitha —Yasi(n) Field is in a vaguely defined boundary area. Not far to its east is the area where the Po(n) untouchables live in an area that is clearly outside of the symbolic city (map 4). The position of Yasi(n) Field; the peculiarity of the second Yasi(n) in the potters' area, which seems disconnected from other events and whose existence has no present doctrinal[27] or legendary explanation; the presence of additional, secondary god-houses for Bhairava and Bhadrakali[*] ; and, for some observers, the struggle between the upper and lower city halves, have led to some attempts at historical rather than structural and functional explanations for these phenomena (e.g., Kölver 1980, 168; Guts-chow 1984). Such explanation takes these features as indications of residues of old, separate, and antagonistic communities, and witnesses of the locations of now forgotten centers of ancient once unamalgamated towns.[28]

As we have noted, the very tall tree, perhaps forty feet in height, which will be the Yasi(n) God has been divested of all its limbs, except for the branches at the summit, which represent the god's hair. A straight segment of another tree is attached at right angles some feet below the top of the trunk, giving it a cruciate form. This is said to be the yasi(n) 's arms, which, it will be recalled, differentiate it terminologically from the smaller yasi(n) . Some small branches and leaves are attached to the ends of the crosspiece to represent the god's hands and fingers. The yasi(n) 's form, then, is given an anthropomorphic inter-


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Figure 26.
Biska:. A stage in the raising of the Yasi(n) God to mark the solar
New Year.


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pretation, in keeping with its designation as a deity, the Yasi(n) God. Toward the juncture of the crossbranch and the main trunk two long strips of cloth are tied, one at each side. These are pata , banners,[29] of the sort that are sometimes tied to the pinnacles of religious structures and which, like many other aspects of the Yasi(n) God, are given more than one interpretation. Thus, in an echo of the later developments in the Bhairava/Bhadrakali plot, they are said to represent Siva and Sakti, and when they move in the wind, this represents their sexual intercourse. The two banners are also related to a legend about the saving of Bhaktapur from two snakes by a Tantric magician who came to a bad end through the weakness of his wife, a story that we will recount below. Sometimes the banners are said to represent the snakes; sometimes the Tantric Acaju and his wife. A bundle of eight ropes is also tied onto the upper part of the trunk. In one interpretation the eight ropes represent the eight Matrkas at Bhaktapur's borders, and the yasi(n) represents Bhairava. When the ropes flutter in the wind, this represents the intercourse between Bhairava and the Matrka[*] .[30]

The stories about the snakes come in different versions, borrowing freely and heavily from widespread and well-known Hindu folk tales. Some versions are quite long and detailed, and are popular local stories recounted by traditional Brahman storytellers in the city. We will paraphrase (and shorten) the two major variants of the stories.

The first version is in itself a cluster of unrelated stories, which rather clumsily gives a legendary warrant to miscellaneous aspects of Biska:. In the first version of the story, it happened that a long time ago there was a king in Bhaktapur whose daughter married. On her wedding night she and her groom went to their room, "had a friendly talk," and then had sexual intercourse. After that they slept deeply. As they were sleeping a pair of snakes came out of the princess's nose.[31] The snakes grew bigger and bigger. They then bit the prince, who died. The snakes, shrinking to their original size, crawled back into the princess's nose. The princess, who was unaware of the snakes that she harbored, awoke and was distressed to see her dead husband. The king was also sad, and arranged for a funeral procession and cremation. This occurrence was repeated with many new husbands over the years.[32] The local people, therefore, had to arrange for many expensive royal funeral processions and cremations, and they formed a special guthi to take care of them.

One day a prince came to a forest. He met an old woman there, at a river that flowed among the trees. He asked her what she was doing there, and she said that she had come to meet him to advise him to marry the princess. He asked what he should do and whether he would


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have a happy marriage with the princess. The old woman told him about the snakes, and told him to stay awake and kill them with his sword. "Then you will have a beautiful wife, wealth, and a kingdom." She told him to go to the eastern part of the forest and that he would find a sword at a place where three rivers met. The story then recounts his meeting and marriage with the princess. "After the marriage they went to sleep in their room. The young man had great courage. It was a very difficult thing to do. They had a good conversation, then they had sexual intercourse and the princess went to sleep, but the young man did not sleep. He was very cautious. He remembered what the old woman had said." When the snakes appeared, he killed them. But before they died, the snakes said to him "You are a lucky and a great man. We have killed many princes and now we are going to die. That may be good or it may be bad. Please do a memorial for us every year." The story recounts the surprise and happiness in the city the next day at the prince's survival.

The prince established a festival on the last day of the solar month of Caitra. He erected a yasi(n) ), and attached the two patas to it to represent the two supernatural snakes or nagas . The festival is called bisket (the Nepali language version of the name), bi meaning "snake," and syat meaning "he killed." The old woman whom the prince met in the forest was really Bhadrakali[*] , which is why the festival is dedicated to her. In the forest where they met there were many tall trees and it is a tree taken every year from this forest which incarnates the Yasi(n) God. The tirtha , the place where the prince found the sword, is at the river Hanumante just at the Bhadrakali[*] (Vaisnavi[*] ) pitha . Because it was Bhadrakali[*] who helped the prince, it was decided to erect the pole in sight of Bhadrakali's pitha , which is just to the south of Yasi(n) Field.

Now the appearance of Bhadrakali[*] allows another piece of the story to be attached. One day, after the Bhadrakali[*] Jatra had been established, Bhairava came from Kasi (Benares) to see it. This particular Bhairava was called "Kasi Bhairavanatha," the chief of the Bhairavas. A local Tantric practitioner recognized Bhairava in the crowd and tried to trap him by means of a powerful mantra . But Bhairava tried to escape by sinking into the ground. When all of his body except his head had disappeared below the ground, Bhadrakali[*] recognized him and said, "That is my husband, we must keep him here. At least cut off and keep his head." That was done. The head was placed in the Bhairava temple in Ta:marhi Square, and the body was returned to Benares (where there is an important headless representation of Bhairava).


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Thus, in memory of the meeting of Bhadrakali[*] and Bhairava, temples throughout Bhaktapur organized jatras for their gods and goddesses.[33]

There is another and different tale told about the Yasi(n) God. This one contains a theme that is echoed in the legends about the origin of the Nine Durgas (chap. 15). This theme concerns a man of great magical power whose power is lost through some error of his wife's, an error that is a sign of her weakness of character. If the story of the prince and the snakes is taken to mean in part that women are dangerous for domesticity until their dangerous "phallic" attributes have been brought under control by male action, then this story suggests that that control is always precarious. In a popular local version[34] told by Brahman storytellers, the protagonist in a long story is Sesar[*] Acaju, a Karmacarya priest with exceptional Tantric powers, who was the guru of a Licchavi king of Bhaktapur, Siva Deva.[35] The story tells how the priest protected Bhaktapur from an attack by the Kiratas by turning himself into one thousand tigers and chasing off the Kirati army. "But after I have chased off the Kiratas, I will return to you in the form of a tiger," said Sesar[*] Acaju to the king. "Don't be afraid. You must throw rice on me, and I will become a man again. The acaju gave the king some grains of husked rice to which the proper Tantric power had been added. He chased away the Kiratas, returned to the king, and was turned back into a man. The king welcomed him gratefully to his palace. The tale continues:

Sesar[*] Acaju returned to his own house. His wife was very happy to see him, she respected and loved him very much. One day Sesar[*] Acaju talked with his wife of his feats. His wife said, "Can you turn yourself into a python (aji[n]gar )?" Sesar[*] said, "Yes, I can." His wife said, "I am very curious to see you as a python." Sesar[*] Acaju agreed with her wish, and said "I will show you myself as a python, but don't be afraid." He gave her some magical polished rice (kiga: ) [given special power by a mantra] and said "I am going to become a python. You can see me as a python for as long as you like, but then you must throw the rice at me and I will become a man again." He showed himself to her as a python but she became frightened and forgot about the rice. She ran away. The python followed her in order to get the rice. While his wife, Nararupa, was running away in her fear she put her hand to her mouth and happening to swallow some of the rice she was carrying she also turned into a python.

The story goes on to say how the two great snakes moved through


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Bhaktapur trying to find the proper kiga: to change them back into human form. They went to a Tantric temple in the hope that people with Tantric knowledge there could help them, but they had no luck. They then went to the palace in the hope that the king might help. The king did not know who they were, but he announced to the people that the two serpents (referred to at this point as naga and nagini , as supernatural serpents) had come for asylum, and therefore should not be harmed. But the snakes, not understanding this, were in despair and so commited suicide in front of the palace. And now a great famine came to Bhaktapur. The people consulted an astrologer, a Josi, who told them that the death of the naga and nagini was its cause. The king wished to do something to overcome the difficulties and went to seek Sesar[*] Acaju. But his house was empty and the door was unlocked. The king found the trail of naga there, and he followed it to the place where the naga and nagini had killed themselves. He thus finally came to understand the true nature of Sesar[*] and Nararupa's suicides. The king felt great sorrow. He remembered Sesar's[*] good qualities. He wanted the people to know about and remember Sesar[*] Acaju's great contributions to the city. Therefore the king organized the jatra of Sesar[*] and his wife Nararupa, which is called "Biska:." The two patas on the yasi(n) represent the two nagas .

The yasi(n) has been prepared and is lying in Yasi(n) Field. Earlier in the day ceremonies for installing divinity or "life" into it took place, and an Acaju administered to it as a newborn (or reborn) deity the entire set of samskaras , or life-cycle rites, necessary to bring the newborn god to his maturity. The arrival of the two chariots, that of Bhairava and Bhadrakali[*] , signals the time when people may begin the attempt to raise the yasi(n) . At the point where the yasi(n) will be erected there is a permanent hole, surrounded by a wall about five feet high, with an opening to the west. The pole is first put through the opening, and maneuvered into the hole. After the pole is raised, the edges of the hole and the wall will support it.[36] The yasi(n) is very difficult to manipulate and raise. Scores of people come to cooperate in its raising, pulling on the ropes and pushing with their hands and with long poles. When, on the next day, the erect yasi(n) is rocked back and forth in preparation for its lowering as a sign of the beginning of the new solar year, it is said that the god is being rocked to sleep, as he is very tired from having stood up all year. The erection of the yasi(n) is to represent that old year—and it is only its taking down that marks a sharply transitional time. Now, at the approach of the transitional


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point between two solar years, the Yasi(n) Field and the Yasi(n) God have become the focus of attention of the whole city, which has participated in and watched the erection of the pole in a coordinated cooperative act.[37] When the Yasi(n) God has been raised, young men climb the ropes attached to it representing the Astamatrkas[*] , and present an offering of small coins at the knots where the ropes are attached to the pole.

Now the two chariots are pulled in front of the standing Yasi(n) God. In Yasi(n) Field there is a temple, the Cyasi Ma(n)dap, which is only used during this phase of Biska:, that has a small window in its north side. The Bhairava chariot, facing east, is placed parallel to the Cyasi Ma(n)dap, and aligned so that the window of the Ma(n)dap is at its right side and exactly in line with the side opening of the chariot. This exact ordering is said to facilitate the movement of the Bhairava image, which is always placed into the chariot from its left side, and removed from its right side. The Bhadrakali[*] chariot is placed at the other side, the southeastern side of the field, and lined up with similar precision alongside the Bhadrakali[*]pitha . Now most of the riders of the Bhairava chariot, who had remained there during the raising of the yasi(n) , descend and circumambulate the Bhairava chariot, and take a flower as prasada . They then circumambulate the Bhadrakali[*] chariot and take prasada there. Finally they circumambulate the Yasi(n) and the Cyasi Ma(n)dap at the same time. Then this group, including the king and his Guru-Purohit and most of the officials, return with music, sukunda , and umbrella first to Ga:hiti and then, after the others leave them there, the king, Guru-Purohit, and the two Maha(n) charioteers return to Laeku and the Taleju temple.

Certain priests and officials attached to the Bhairava temple, an Acaju and some assistants, had remained on the Bhairava chariot. Now they descend and take the jatra Bhairava and bring him to the Cyasi Ma(n)dap, where he joins the "true" Bhairava image and the Jaki Gwa that had been brought there on the first day of the sequence. Now there are offerings and sacrifices by many people at the temple to the jatra image, and to the enwrapped Jaki Gwa. The true image remains hidden from sight.

The Bhadrakali[*]jatra image is removed from her chariot by her priest. She is brought to an open building, a phalca , near the Bhadrakali[*]pitha , which adjoins Yasi(n) Field, where she will be kept during the night. Up until this point the two dangerous deities have been near each other, but there has been no direct contact.

That evening there are large feasts in people's houses, and guests and extended family are invited.


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Taking Out the Gods: The VarahiJatra After the Yasi(n) God has been raised, the jatra images of certain deities throughout the city are taken from their god-houses and special rooms in temples and placed either on the cheli , the open ground floors of the god-houses, or on nearby phalca , open rest houses, each conventionally associated with a particular god-house. They will be left outside of their god-houses and temples for the next four days, to be brought in again on the eighth day of the cycle. The deities so brought out include all the Mandalic[*] Goddesses (except Vaisnavi[*] , who is represented by Bhadrakali[*] ), other dangerous goddess figures—particularly the ones identified as Bhagavati, some minor Bhairavas, and the major Ganesas[*] . These are, in short, the major dangerous city deities, and Ganesa[*] , who is as much of a Tantric god as he is an ordinary one.[38] Blood sacrifices are routinely offered to these deities during this period, certain of whom become the foci for important local areal jatras that are considered major events, and which draw people from all over the city. Varahi is the focus for this night. The next day, the fifth, will belong again to Bhairava and Bhadrakali[*] . The sixth and seventh days, which echo some of the activities of the fifth day, have Mahakali and Mahalaksmi[*] as the central actors (on the sixth day) and Brahmani and Mahesvari (on the seventh). The eighth day centers around a form of Ganesa[*] , Chuma(n) Ganesa[*] . Seven of the nine Mandalic[*] Goddesses (if we take Bhadrakali[*] to represent Vaisnavi[*] ) are foci of jatras of city-wide interest (even though their movements are restricted to some limited area of the city), the remaining two, Kumari and Tripurasundari, have festivals in their own mandalic[*] areas at the same time as the mass of other deities who have been brought out of their god-houses and are not otherwise emphasized.[39]

The remainder of the deities who have been taken outside have small jatras of only local and sometimes very limited importance.[40] On the evening of this day many people make sacrifices at their local Ganesa[*] shrines and at one or another local temple or shrine of a dangerous deity. Over the next four days the areas in which the various local areal jatras take place are sites for household feasts and sacrifices to the particular local deity who has been "brought outside."

Although there are now, as we have noted, activities at many Tantric temples and shrines, the city's focus is now at the god-house of the Mandalic[*] Goddess, Varahi. After the yasi(n) has been raised, a procession of some thirty or forty people who are members of the Varahi mandalic[*] area, and who belong to the Varahi guthi (which supervises and arranges Varahi ceremonies) or the Varahi bhajana , or music group, bring clumps of dry reeds, called ti or ti(n)pwa , to the cheli of the


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Varahi god-house where her jatra image had been placed. Taking some fire from a votive oil lamp that had been set in front of the image, the reeds are set afire as an offering to Varahi. Then the image of Varahi, placed in a palanquin, is carried, followed by many hundreds of people, across the river to the Varahi pitha . As the procession moves toward the river through the mandalic[*] area it stops many times in front of houses, and householders make animal sacrifices to the goddess in front of their houses. When the procession reaches the river it stops and the Varahi Acaju touches the palanquin with river water, and then offers some water to the jatra image. The people accompanying the jatra drink river water, wash their faces with it, and splash each other with it. This water is prasada from Varahi. Now the procession continues to the Varahi pitha , where the jatra image is placed on the pitha stone.[41] The goddess is worshiped by means of an animal sacrifice. Now the procession takes her back to the open cheli of her god-house.

The Fifth Day: Taking Down the Yasi(n) God—Beginning of the Solar New Year

The fifth day of Biska:, the central day of the sequence, is a sankranti[*] , the first day of the solar month, the day that begins the new solar year. Its ceremonial beginning will be at the fall of the yasi(n) in the late afternoon toward sunset.

On the morning of this fifth day everyone who can—that is, many thousands of people—go to the Hanumante River at the Cupi(n) Ga, which is the location of the tirtha associated with Bhadrakali[*] . There, in what is a kind of mela , people enter the river for a ritual bath.

During the course of this New Year's Day there are a number of esoteric activities in the Taleju temple. Among these is the worship by the "king" and his Guru-Purohit of the dangerous deity Dui(n) Maju, a deity said by some to be Taleju's own pitha goddess, and a deity of special historical interest (chap. 8). She is worshiped on this day as a "sister of Indrani[*] ," a deity to whom this day makes special reference. On this day, also, those Jugis who during the year play their special instruments at the Taleju temple come to the temple and are offered food on which the king throws masala (a mixture of betel nut, nuts, cinnamon, raisins, etc.), as a token of gratitude for their work.[42]

This is the day of the Indrani[*] Jatra,[43] which involves, exactly like the Varahi Jatra of the previous day, the taking of the deity from its outside resting place to its external pitha . In addition, in the course of this jatra


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the procession brings the Indrani[*] image to the front outer gate of the Taleju temple, opening on Laeku Square, where she is met by the king and the Guru-Purohit and worshiped by them.[44]

Now the king, carrying the royal sword, the Guru-Purohit, and the two Maha(n) charioteers, accompanied by musicians, the royal umbrella, and the ornamental sukunda , return to Yasi(n) Field, and meet the remainder of the chariot passengers there. All seat themselves on seats to the north side of the Cyasi Ma(n)dap. Meanwhile the Bhairava chariot has been turned around to face the west.[45]

The leader of the Bhairava guthi makes an offering of yellow pigment to the Yasi(n) God, and then gives some of it as prasada to bystanders. Now the Bhairava jatra image is placed in the chariot. All the passengers and the charioteers mount the chariot and take their proper positions in relation to the Bhairava image. Meanwhile the Bhadrakali[*] chariot has been readied near her pitha and her image put into it, and the riders of her chariot have mounted and entered the chariot. The secret Bhariava image and the Jaki Gwa had earlier been returned to the Bhairava jatra god-house (where the jatra image of Bhairava will later join them) by the same group of men running in the same order who had brought the two images down to Yasi(n) Field on the first day.

Now it is the time for bringing the Yasi(n) God down. First the Yasi(n) is rocked back and forth in an east-west direction, in a motion called "rocking to sleep." The god is said, as we have noted, to be tired for "he has been standing up all year." At the time of the rocking the eight ropes representing the Astamatrkas[*] and the two patas representing the Tantric guru and his wife move, and this is interpreted by religious specialists as representing the sexual intercourse of the Astamatrkas[*] and the Yasi(n) as Bhairava, and of the two nagas with each other. The pole is slowly rocked back and forth, and finally, after perhaps ten minutes to half an hour of swaying, eased down to the west so that it falls outward through the opening of its retaining wall. People who wish a son try to pull one of the leaves from the yasi(n) or its crossbar, and if they get one they will not only have a son, but he will be an important man. When the pole falls, the new year begins.

When the Yasi(n) God is down, the Bhairava Acaju and guthi leader decorate the Bhairava image again with yellow pigment, bhuismba(n) , which is then given as prasada to the other chariot riders. Now there is the beginning of a unique episode—the Po(n) untouchables become integrally involved with the sequence. The Bhairava Acaju and guthi leader, standing on the chariot, place some yellow pigment as prasada


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taken from the Bhairava image, on the foreheads of Po(n)s who crowd around the chariot to receive it.[46] At any other time this contact would be greatly contaminating to these two men, but at this one time in the year it is not.[47] Now some of the Po(n)s take hold of the ropes at the back of the chariot, and other men, mostly Jyapus,[48] take hold of the ropes at the front. Again a tug of war begins to determine the direction in which the chariot will move. The Jyapus are trying to pull the chariot back toward the city, while the Po(n)s are trying to keep the deity in Yasi(n) Field, which adjoins the "Po(n) twa: ," the area where they live, just outside of the symbolic boundaries of the city. This struggle does not (at least in the memory and expectation of present informants) lead to fights, and gradually the more numerous Jyapus with the advantage of the two extra ropes at the front of the chariot prevail. At the top of Yasi(n) Field, where the road to Ga:hiti enters it, the Po(n)s let go of the ropes, and return to their own area. The turning back of the Po(n)s indicates that the chariot is now within the symbolic boundaries of the city. The Bhadrakali[*] chariot, pulled only from the front, is drawn up after the Bhairava chariot is on its way. The chariots are hauled up the road that they had descended at the beginning of the sequence in the direction of Ta:marhi Square. But when they reach Ga:hiti there is an essential episode, a further interruption to Bhairava's civic journey.

The chariots are arranged in Ga:hiti Square, with the Bhairava chariot facing north toward Ta:marhi Square and the Bhadrakali[*] chariot moved in front of him blocking his path and facing south, in the direction from which they had just come. They are placed near the stone deity Swatuña Bhairava, which represents (among other things; see chap. 8) the body of Bhairava, at the place where Bhadrakali[*] first recognized him, where he sank into the ground in an attempt to escape, and where Bhadrakali[*] ordered that his head be cut off.[49] Now the two chariots, with their passengers aboard, are pushed toward each other. Most of the movement is by the Bhadrakali[*] chariot, which is crashed into the comparatively immobile Bhairava chariot. This is in keeping with Bhadrakali's meaning as a Sakti, for the banging together represents sexual intercourse, and the Sakti is the active partner. Each time the chariots crash together the people in and on them throw flowers out into the crowd, and people rush to gather them as important prasada . The chariots are banged together three times. There is a certain hesitation in the interpretation of the meaning of this banging together between sexual intercourse and aggression. It is said by upper-status informants that the esoteric meaning is sexual intercourse. Although, such informants


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say, lower-status people often understand this meaning, they also may be unaware of this, and may misinterpret it as the two gods fighting. The banging together is, in fact, called lwakegu , from a verb meaning "to fight, to quarrel" as well as "to collide, or to hit against each other."[50] Even among those who hold the "correct" interpretation of sexual intercourse, however, it is believed that at the time of the sexual banging together Bhadrakali[*] becomes angry with Bhairava for reasons that are unclear to present informants. Perhaps, it is believed, her anger is for someting that Bhairava has done wrong—for he will later try to atone for this and quiet her by means of a gift.[51] Now Bhadrakali[*] "returns in her anger to her home"; that is, her chariot is removed first from Ga:hiti to an area near Bhadrakali's jatra god-house where she will remain in angry seclusion until the seventh day of the sequence, when Bhairava will have to send her a present to placate her.

The Bhairava jatra image is now taken to its jatra god-house in Lakulache(n). His chariot is left in Ga:hiti, where it will remain until the ninth day. The evening of this New Year's Day, following the banging together of the chariots, is the occasion of major feasts in most households, with guests from other cities and towns who have come to watch the festival.

The Sixth Day: The Mahakali/Mahalaksmi Jatra

The previous day had continued the themes of struggle and still problematic unification, portrayed in ambiguous sexual and aggressive images. The events of the next two days echo these themes in an imagery which is said to show the "cooperation and friendship" of adjoining mandalic[*] sectors of the city.

The sixth day is the day for the special jatras of two of the Mandalic[*] Goddesses, Mahakali and Mahalaksmi[*] . In the morning of the day there are two important jatras in two nearby towns that are visited by many people from Bhaktapur. These are at Thimi, where there is a Ganesa[*] festival in which thirty-six chariots are paraded, and Bode, where there is an important Mahalaksmi[*]jatra . In Bhaktapur, in the afternoon, the jatra images of the two Mandalic[*] goddesses, Mahalaksmi[*] and Mahakali, who protect the two adjacent mandalic[*] zones of the north and northeast, are taken from the "outside" placements where all the Tantric deities had been brought on the fourth day of the cycle and taken on a jatra to their respective pithas . Their jatras resemble the Varahi and Indrani[*] Jatras, which we have described above, with an important addi-


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tional feature. The Mahalaksmi[*] image is taken on the usual traditional path between her god-house and her pitha , but the Mahakali image is taken out of its usual path so that she encounters the Mahalaksmi[*] image just before they reach the border of the city. On their meeting the palanquins bearing the two deities are bumped together three times. This, it is said, is not considered a fighting, but a mating, signifying the bringing together or unification of the two zones. There is no doctrine as to which of the two goddesses is male or female during their intercourse.[52] The goddesses then part, and continue on their respective jatras . That evening there are feasts in the households within these goddesses' mandalic[*] zones.

The Seventh Day: The Brahmani/Mahesvari[*] Jatra

During the afternoon of this day, the previous day's encounter of two neighboring Mandalic[*] Goddesses is repeated in exactly the same manner, including the encounter and the bumping together of the palanquins, but this time with the goddesses Brahmani and Mahesvari, of the adjacent eastern and southeastern mandalic[*] zones as the loci. That evening there are feasts in those two zones.

Earlier in the day, a member of the Bhairava temple staff has brought a sari to Bhadrakali[*] in her jatra god-house as a present from Bhairava—an offering to make peace with her and to appease her anger. On the evening of this day the jatra image of Bhadrakali[*] is brought to a special phalca , an open shed, adjacent to the western side of the Natapwa(n)la temple in Ta:marhi Square.[53]

Although the Bhairava jatra image is still in the jatra god-house in Lakulache(n), the main secret portable image, the "true" jatra image of Bhairava, is now in his temple in Ta:marhi Square, where it had been returned on the fifth day. The bringing of the Bhadrakali[*] image, now tranquil, to Ta:marhi Square represents, it is said, the visit of Bhadrakali[*] to her "husband's"[54] home, and a brief, but in the flow of Biska:'s imagery significant, movement toward peaceful domesticity.

The Eighth Day. Feasting the Gods—Chuma(n) Gandya: Jatra

On the morning of this day, crowds of people dressed in some of their best clothes and often accompanied by neighborhood music groups,


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visit the places adjoining those god-houses and temples throughout the city where deities had been taken out to public view on the fourth day of the Biska: sequence. As most of these places are on or near the main city festival route, the pradaksinapatha[*] , people are able to follow this route for the most part,[55] moving along it in the auspicious clockwise direction. At each place people present symbolic "feasts" to the deity. They offer eggs, swaga(n) (a mixture of husked rice, curds, and pigment),[56] sweets, alcoholic spirits, and beer.

One of the many local jatras of the Biska: period serves as a focus for the city on this day. This is the jatra of the local Ganesa[*] of the main Coche(n) twa: . This particular Ganesa[*] (or Gandya: in Newari) is called "Chuma(n) Gandya:, "Rat Ganesa[*] ."[57] The jatra image of this deity is carried on the afternoon of the eighth day in several processions around the twa: , and many people come from all over the city to watch. The importance of this Ganesa[*] is suggested by his surviving legends, which seem to reflect important aspects of the city's history. We will sketch two versions known to contemporary storytellers.

A long time ago the Malla king Ananda Malla (referring probably to the early-fourteenth-century ruler, Anandadeva Malla) wanted to make Bhaktapur into a larger city by extending its boundaries. It was only a small town then. He walked around the various places outside of the town. He reached a place in a forest, which is the location of the present-day Bhadrakali[*] . There he saw a very thin old woman who resembled a skeleton. Ananda Malla was very frightened when he saw her. Nevertheless, he approached her and asked, "Who are you, old woman? Why are you alone in this forest?" "I came here because I wanted to give you advice about making a city," she replied. "If you go north from this place, then you will see a wonderful scene, something which you have never seen before. Then [after seeing this sight] you must go on, and you will see Ganesa[*] . You must worship Ganesa[*] , and then you will be successful." The goddess revealed herself to him, and then disappeared. She was Bhadrakali[*] .

The king followed the old woman's directions and went to the north. There he saw a wonderful scene. A cat and a rat [or mouse] were fighting. The rat finally defeated the cat, and ran off, carrying the cat in its mouth. The king followed the rat. It ran up into a tree with the cat in its mouth and then disappeared. Ananda Malla was full of wonder. How did the rat take the cat up into the tree? This was surprising. He went to look but could not find it. But then he saw Ganesa[*] there. The


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king remembered what Bhadrakali[*] had said. He thus served [worshiped and respected] Ganesa[*] , and was given effectiveness [siddhi ] in many things. The place where the cat and the rat fought is called Bholache(n). The place where the rat ran up the tree is in Coche(n). [These are adjoining twa :s in the northern part of the city (see map 11)]. Ananda Malla built a temple for the rat in that place [where the rat climbed the tree]. Ananda Malla then divided the city into twenty-four twa:s, and he constructed the Astamatrka[*] pithas and god-houses. He established a festival [Biska:] for Bhadrakali[*] .

In another version of the story, Ananda Malla was hunting in a forest at the north of present-day Bhaktapur. There he saw a cat and a rat fighting. The rat vanquished the cat and then ran up a tree. The king went to find the animals, but could not find them. Both the cat and the rat had disappeared. The king thought the rat must be the vehicle of Ganesa[*] , otherwise he would not have been able to win the fight. The king, therefore, prayed to Ganesa[*] . Then Ganesa[*] showed himself to the king and said to him, "Go south from this place. There you will see an old woman. She is my mother [i.e., Parvati, but in the form of Bhadrakali[*] ]. When you see her, bow down to her and say that Ganesa[*] sent you. My mother will be pleased. We [Ganesa[*] and his mother] represent the north and the south. You should build a city between us [that is, the positions where the king encounters them] and we will help you." So Ananda Malla received help from Ganesa[*] and Bhadrakali[*] . He then built the enlarged city of Bhaktapur.

On the evening of the eighth day all deities are returned back into their god-houses, except the Bhairava and Bhadrakali[*] images, which are still, respectively, at the Bhairava jatra god-house, and the phalca in Ta:marhi Square. In the evening households throughout the city have feasts, often preceded by animal sacrifices.

The Ninth Day: Taking Down the Small Yasi(n) God—Final Phases of the Bhairava/Bhadrakali Jatra

In the morning of the ninth day the small Yasi(n) God in the potter's quarter, Talakwa, is pulled down with no special ceremony by the people of the area.

In the afternoon of the day the empty Bhairava chariot, which has been in Ga:hiti Square, is aligned so that it is facing west, with its left


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side facing in the direction of Bhairava Jatra god-house, in preparation for the placing of the image into the chariot at its left side. The Bhadrakali[*] chariot has been left in Ta:marhi Square, where it had brought Bhadrakali[*] on the seventh day. Now, exactly as on the first day, the king, Guru-Purohit, attendants, and chariot crew meet at Ga:hiti and circumambulate and enter the Bhairava chariot. At the same time, in Ta:marhi Square, the Bhadrakali[*] image is taken from the phalca , and placed in her nearby chariot.

The people from the upper and lower city grasp the ropes at the Bhairava chariot's two ends, as they had on the first day of the festival. This time, though, the men from the upper city are at the front end of the chariot and those from the lower city, at the back. Again, as on the first day but this time because of the slope of the land in Ga:hiti, it is easier for the chariot to be pulled into the lower city, and this is compensated for by the fewer ropes on the lower city end of the chariot. The entire procedure of the first day is repeated, and, again, if all goes well, the struggle supposedly ceases at the exits to the two squares—that is, of Ga:hiti if the chariot is being successfully pulled into the lower city, and of Ta:marhi if it is being successfully pulled into the upper city. It is then pulled first toward the traditional far point in the victorious half, then brought to the end point in the other half, as it was on the first day. Then, for the last time, it is cooperatively pulled back to Ta:marhi Square, where the Bhadrakali[*] chariot has been waiting.

But, as on the first day, all this may not go smoothly. Many people have been drinking on this day, and there may be resentments smoldering from the conflicts and violence of the first day. There is always anxiety that the tug of war may not follow its conventional script and might turn into a fight.

When the chariot is returned to Ta:marhi Square, after Bhairava has been to the upper and lower cities once again and shown himself again in darsana , the chariot is pulled up to the north side of the Bhairava temple and the jatra image is taken from the right side of the chariot and returned to its dwelling within the temple. The Bhadrakali[*] image, which has been waiting at the Ta:marhi Square phalca , is taken in its chariot to its ordinary god-house, the Vaisnavi[*] god-house, where it will be kept for the remainder of the year. The two gods are welcomed into their homes with the laskusa ceremony, the traditionally welcoming and sanctifying ceremony for moving a focal participant into a sacred area. While the two gods are being taken back into their homes, by-


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standers and the Acaju priest, who greets them in front of the temple to perform the lasakusa ceremony, tease them about their recent romantic and sexual adventures.

And now, finally, the passengers and crew of the Bhairava chariot descend. The king, carrying his sword, the king's Guru-Purohit, and the two charioteers, joined by the musicians, the carrier of the umbrella, and the carrier of the sukunda , take leave of the others, and, followed by representatives of the central government's Guthi Samsthan, return to the Taleju temple, where the king, becoming a Brahman once more, returns the sword to one of the Guthi's representatives, who will take it back to Kathmandu.

This final night is an occasion for feasts throughout the city.


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