Reasons Behind Celebrating Bhoto Jatra

Rato Machhindranath is the Buddhist deity of rain and water known as the God of rain.The name Rato Machhindranath means ‘Red Fish God’. Rato as in red, Machhindra or Matsyendra means fish and Nath means god, even the statue of the deity is red in color.

The legends behind Rato Machhindranath (also known by the names of Karunamaya and Bunga Dyah) are so many that is hard for us to say which one is the real one. Maybe that’s why they are called legends. All legends are not contradicting to each other. It’s just that they are like different versions of the same story told by different people in their own set of values and beliefs. Most of the time the names and characters differ but the story is the same of a drought in the valley for which to end people seek out the help of Rato Machhindranath.

The legend states that when Guru Gorakhnath came to Patan, no one knew his true identity. When he wasn’t given any meals from the locals he found the Nags (serpents) responsible for the rain in the valley and he captured them, then he went on to mediate. While the nags were in captivity they could not make rain bringing in severe drought in the valley. So, the advisors to the King Narendra Dev then asked the King to bring Machhindranath, teacher of Gorakhnath from Assam in India in hopes to end the drought. And when Gorakhnath heard his teacher is in Patan he decided to visit him setting the serpents free. The valley then had plenty of rain, being thankful to Machhindranath the local started to worship him for saving them from drought and King Narendra Dev started the festival of Rato Machhindranath in 879 A.D.

The legend behind Bhoto Jatra comes from the story in which a farmer was gifted the bhoto in gratitude by the Karkotaka Nag (snake) for curing the eye aliment of his Queen. One day the farmer lost the bhoto when he took it off to go work in the field. Later he saw a man wearing the same vest among the crowd in the festival of Rato Machhindranath, which resulted in a quarrel between the man and the farmer. At the festival, the Karkotaka Nag was also present in human form. He then proceeded to settle the dispute between them and offered the vest to Rato Machhindranath saying whoever brings the proof of ownership of the bhoto shall have it, till then it will remain in the custody of the deity.So every year, on the last day of Rato Machhindranath Jatra, the bhoto is shown to the public in presence of Patan’s Kumari (living goddess) and the president, the head of state (previously it used to be the King before abolition of monarch system in Nepal) in hope that the owner will come forward with the evidence to claim it.

After Bhota Jatra, the statue of the deity is transferred to the shikhar-style temple in Bungamati where it will stay for six months before the jatra next year. The chariot is then taken apart. Once in every 12 years, the festival of Rato Machhindranath starts and ends in Bungamati, a small Newar village, believed to be the birth place of Machhindranath, 6 km to the south of Patan.

Bhoto Jatra, another separate ritual and an addition to festival which has now become a part of Rato Machhindranath Jatra marks the end to this month long lively festivities. On the fourth day after the chariot reachesJawalakhel, Bhota Jatra is held.

The legend behind Bhoto Jatra comes from the story in which a farmer was gifted the bhoto in gratitude by the Karkotaka Nag (snake) for curing the eye aliment of his Queen. One day the farmer lost the bhoto when he took it off to go work in the field. Later he saw a man wearing the same vest among the crowd in the festival of Rato Machhindranath, which resulted in a quarrel between the man and the farmer. At the festival, the Karkotaka Nag was also present in human form. He then proceeded to settle the dispute between them and offered the vest to Rato Machhindranath saying whoever brings the proof of ownership of the bhoto shall have it, till then it will remain in the custody of the deity.So every year, on the last day of Rato Machhindranath Jatra, the bhoto is shown to the public in presence of Patan’s Kumari (living goddess) and the president, the head of state (previously it used to be the King before abolition of monarch system in Nepal) in hope that the owner will come forward with the evidence to claim it.

After Bhota Jatra, the statue of the deity is transferred to the shikhar-style temple in Bungamati where it will stay for six months before the jatra next year. The chariot is then taken apart. Once in every 12 years, the festival of Rato Machhindranath starts and ends in Bungamati, a small Newar village, believed to be the birth place of Machhindranath, 6 km to the south of Patan.

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