Is Nepalese culture compulsion or responsibility?

On the auspicious occasion of Indra Jatra, the current Minister for Culture, Tourism, and Civil Aviation said that the Indrajatra festival had fostered mutual harmony and developed understanding and brotherhood among all Nepalese as well as help strengthen national unity. This statement does not match the current situation. Those smart-suited statement needs to be practiced in reality.  Yeah, it’s true that the festival used to create an environment of mutual understanding among one another and impacting altogether to unity but relating to the prevailing situation, it is completely illogical.

Due to CoVid- 19, the centuries-long Jatras were halted. Perhaps, a bad indication for us since this had never happened before. We should indeed understand the condition and act according to it. But for all those Jatra and culture lovers who love, respect, and have faith in these cultural glories, it is evidence that the government had not shown traces of concern towards it. Indra Jatra, one of the cultural pride of Kathmandu Valley had never encountered a current situation like this.

During the time of the Last Malla King of Kantipur, Jaya Prakash Malla, when he was fully celebrating the festival on the day of Indra Jatra, after knowing that Gorkha King Prithivi Narayan Shah had entered Basantapur Durbar Square, he among his few soldiers flee to Lalitpur.

When the King ran away, the common people were in a dilemma about what to do next. But Prithivi Narayan gave continuation of this festival and put tika from Shree Kumari Dya. Similarly, during the prime ministership of Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, this Jatra process was affected when the government deducted the expenses of carrying out the rituals and ceremonies that had been carried out for many generations. But later the government, itself was guilty of it.

Because of this COVID-19, the situation is rare in a retrospective of Nepal when the whole Jatra processing system was canceled. Among many festivals, Rato Machindranath Jatra, Bisket Jatra, the tongue piercing festival of Bhaktapur, Seto Machindranath Jatra, and recently Indra Jatra were also canceled due to this pandemic. This is completely a disaster in the case of Nepal when the centuries-long tradition was just stopped in the name of the Corona Virus. In these critical hours, the government imposed a ban on involvement and participation in any culture-related activities from the initial phase of the lockdown that started on 14th May 2020.

It is a good effort to direct such rules but analyzing the situations, they failed to manage, supervise, direct, and control these cultural glories. In their influencing speeches, they always make people proud describing culture as the pillar of the nation, safeguarding and protecting them in crisis as their prime responsibilities but the reality is completely different. The chariot procession of Rato Machindranath was affected as there was no official announcement about whether to carry out the procession or not. Had it been an official process, people would not have gathered in this vulnerable situation. But everything remained in confusion.

It’s natural for any cultural lovers to feel sad to see the chariot standing like a statue. So with this confusion, they were forced to pull the chariot and move it to the respective places. Where were the concerned authorities? What happened to the government restrictions on not organizing and demonstrating culture-related events. People were pulling the chariots when the virus was at its peak situation. The policemen were watching. The situation was never expected.

The clash between the policemen and the people showed the failure of the system in Nepal. If the concerned authorities were accountable, they would have carried the procession of the chariot with the limited personnel in a much more responsible way, offering respective Pujas giving the continuation of this festival and making the general citizens informed and updated.

If it would happen, all those stopped Jatras would get a chance to continue in these critical hours. But the situation was the opposite. It seemed like because all these festivals were public events, nobody seemed to take responsibility which finally gave this shameful result.

We all have faith in these traditions, norms, and values being preserved and protected. It directly connects to our lives. But the incident related to the chariot procession of Rato Machindranath had shown the complete failure in the management of the culture of Nepal. The land of temples and gods in every corner of the valley would not have expected to see this bitter incident. Karnamaya Dya (Rato Machindranath) would definitely be proud for making this chariot procession even worse than expected. 2020 would be famed in history as the year when the chariot procession was disturbed due to police intervention and mismanagement of organizing Jatras and festivals in Nepal.

Long live our culture.


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