Khame Jatra of Bhaktapur might have some issues regarding animal sacrifice and their rights. However, it is also protecting a religious faith that Bhaktapurians still have towards the Goddesses. It is one of the highbrow jatra of Bhaktapur even it indeed is a necessary jatra.
Khame, which represents a pure male buffalo and its street procession are what we call the Khame Jatra. This Khame is reared in the name of goddess Bramhayani in Bhaktapur during Dashain.
On the ninth day of the Dashain, the Khame is taken out in the streets for the procession from the Nava Durga Dyo chhen. As per the custom, it is brought into the Nava Durga Dyo chhen in Gatha Muga Cha: re (Gathamangal festival) and kept there until the day of Navami of Dashain.
Khame is a Newari term that is derived from the word ‘Kha’ and ‘Me’. In local terms ‘Kha’ means pure and ‘Me’ stands for male buffalo. Ultimately, it means a special male buffalo that neither should have any wounds nor any physical defects.
The Khame is kept in a special room of the Dyo Chhen. On chheli, the ground floor of the Nine Durga’s goddess’s house. However, do you know that it is all raised by the Banamala clan? Yes, that very clan, which also serves as the Nava Durga Gana of Bhaktapur.
Furthermore, unlike in other ordinary sacrificial, the buffalo is not chosen randomly. Instead, the buffalo (Khame) must cover some criteria like having seven chakras i.e. circles on the body. The hair in front of the middle part should be leaned down towards the front and the back part towards the back. The purity of the buffalo is measured on the basis of the Chakra (circle of the skin) on the body.
If by a fluke, such kind of buffalo is not found on the day of Gatha Muga Cha: re, it is said that a rope is tied as the symbol of Khame in the pillar in Nava Durga Dyo Chhen.
Now, if we talk about the Khame Jatra, then we cannot miss out on the drunken khame. During the ninth day of Mohani (Navami), the Khame is processed from the Navadurga Dyo Chhen towards the shrine of Bramhayani, east of the town.
Actually, it is not processed, it is chased from there. The Khame is given alcoholic liquids to drink and is made fully drunk until and end, it starts to act unusually like running carelessly and all.
This process of Khame chasing is called Kha Me Bwakegu Jatra in the local language. It is a typical Jatra that cannot be found occurring in other parts except Bhaktapur. Thus, it is a kinda feature of Bhaktapur culture.
The drunken Khame is first brought into Dattatreya Square and finally comes to an end after reaching the temple of goddess Bramhayani.
Finally, when Khame reaches the Hanumante River, it is taken into the waterhole for bathing. Thousands of people participate in the ritual bathing occasion and they sprinkle holy water on the body of Kha Me. It takes about half an hour to complete.
After the sacred bathing process, Khame is taken into the courtyard of goddess Brahmayani for sacrifice which is done at midnight. The sacrificing process is very different from any ordinary one. It is done by cutting the main vein of the throat and the blood is showered at the goddess.
Therefore, it is very difficult to observe the process of sacrificing the Kha Me. It is believed that ordinary people cannot see the sacrifice process if anyone who sees these things will face death. Hence, the process is strictly prohibited to ordinary people.
However, the very next day, the meat is distributed as the Prasad, which means sacred food, to the local people. It is believed that if the prasad is taken into the house the evils cannot do anything wrong in the family.
On the day of Laxmi puja, a piece of the prasad is kept in the fire as incense to the goddess Laxmi.
Locally, there is a belief that donation given for managing and rearing to the Kha Me, observing, touching, bathing, worshipping and sacrificing the Kha Me during the procession will fulfil their desire and gate emancipation through all kinds of sins and ultimately helps to the transformation of the soul into the heaven.
Reference: Lok Nath Dulal
Associate Prof. TU. Department of Culture