Biska Jatra should probably be the main festival in many of the historic towns in Kathmandu valley and the one celebrated in Bhaktapur is the most famous. This festival is celebrated to symbolize various sentiments like triumph, energy, excitement, rejuvenation with due respect to the past and its glory. No doubt, this festival is all about emotions and entertainment for the people in town and of the country for its pride.
The emotion remains not just within the moments of the celebration but equally in its preparation too. It generally comprises two significant phases of celebrations i.e. the first is Yo: sin jatra and the other is Kha: jatra (Bhaila: Kha and Nakinju Ajima: Kha). Yo: sin has its history for more than two millennia while Kha jatra already passed 3 and a half centuries. Despite such historical significance, the emotions that people express superficially about this festival sound a bit awkward.
This year and the last, it is a pity that we had to go through the hardships of Covid-19, which almost squeezed the rituals into formalities. Personally, I don’t have much to speak about Yo: sin jatra in this article. However, I had a wonderful opportunity to document the MAKING OF BHAILA: KHA AND NAKINJU AJIMA: KHA the last year. It ought to have been completed last year but unfortunately did not happen.
While observing the making process of Bhaila: Kha and Nakinju Ajima: Kha, it is more than an extraordinary skill demonstrated by various artisans of the town. Such a meticulous making process should not end in a momentary celebration, a reckless way to pay tribute to these masterminds and artistic hands.
Our ancestors probably must have thought of a thousand reasons to introduce this festival in town, which the present heroic crowd have no value for. Its reflection can be seen on the very first day of the festival when the chariot has to be taken to the lower part of the town and settled in Gahiti. But the heroism of this silly crowd (present generation) has over pondered and drifted the chariot hard towards the upper town again at midnight with a lot of crashes vandalizing such a wonderful masterpiece into a mere scrap.
The next day, I found the chariot hardly crumbled with many parts dislocated and broken. I heard an old folk saying “even if it is made with just gold, this situation is inevitable into such merciless behaviour”. My heart was crying and my eyes looked for Mr Prem Lal Shilpakar, who was the lead artisan for making this chariot. I can understand what is going on in his mind. However, his face was dark too but seemed hopeful as if nothing is irreparable to him.
That day the whole team was inspecting the condition and thinking about how they proceeded to repair the damage as it needs to be ready for the next day’s major event in Yo: sin khya. Anyway, I am sure that Bhaktapur has as many artisans as Prem Lal Shilpakar in her lap willing every time, but it doesn’t mean that the new generation takes things for granted and acts foolishly just like in recent years.
Nevertheless, the condition of Bhaila: Kha on the last day of this festival was even very pitiful that its main skeleton further cracked and many parts were disjointed. I am shocked by the irresponsible behaviour of the crowd that the chariot was left posthumously at the eastern square of the town in the middle of the night, which otherwise need to be taken to the central square to settle down.
I would therefore request them to demonstrate their heroism successfully accomplishing the festival in descent, discipline and in a systematic way with no mishaps. I could wish for an alcohol-free procession of the Bhaila: Kha so that the young crowd would dare think of adding emotions and excitement to our ancestral flavour of celebrating Biska. I could wish the intensity that the people demonstrate for celebrating the moment of New Year while the chariot dances in the midst of the square with blessings and boons to all who witness it. I could wish the Bhaila: Kha forever resembles the legendary art and culture of the people.
Along with this note, I am putting on some glimpses of the documentation process while getting involved in the making process of Bhaila: Kha.