Newari celebration of the New Year
Biska festival is a multifaceted-grand festival of Newari people celebrated in Bhaktapur. It is celebrated in the month Chaitra-Baisakh that corresponds to the month of April as per the Gregorian calender. This festival is also part of new year celebration as well.
This festival lasts for 8 days and 9 nights. This festival is dedicated to the god Bhairva and his consort Bhadrakali along with god Betal, the vehicle of Bhirava.
The main attractions of this festival are Bhaila:Kha (wooden chariot of god Bhairav), Nakinju:Kha (small chariot of Nakinju Ajami or Bhadrakali) and Yoshin Pole (a complete tree without branches and leaves).
Legendary Stories :
These are legendary stories related to Lyasing-Deo (erection of Lingo).
It is a story around the 5th century, Kathmandu valley was ruled by Licchavi King called Shiva Dev and Kiratis were attacking upon the kingdom creating trouble to the rulers and people. King Shiva Dev requested the tantric newar priest for help and tantric priest agreed. Priest disguised himself into a tiger by eating a handful of magical rice and invite other tigers from nearby jungle by roaring thus chasing away invading Kiratis. Later, the king sprinkled a handful of magical rice upon him to transform back to human as he was instructed.
Similarly, that same priest disguised himself into a python as his wife wished to see. But his wife being afraid and nervous, ate the other handful of rice instead of sprinkling. She also transformed into another python. These pair of serpents roamed around the city and even reached the nearby palace but nobody would recognize them that they were tantric priest couple. They gave up the hope and committed suicide near the bank of river and soon later, there was great drought in Bhaktapur.
Later, King came to discover that those two roaming snakes were tantric priest and his wife. King started a procession and ordered to erect a pole with two long banners called Halipata in local dialect representing Priest and his wife to commemorate the contribution of priest for the kingdom.
Legend 2 :
Once upon a time in the medieval period, a Malla king had married his daughter to a prince and his son-in-law died on the same night of marriage. Again, that princess was married to another person, that person also died. The king lost few numbers of son-in-laws, that is why many princes had denied to marry her. Despite knowing the fact, a wise and brave prince decided to marry her. He stayed awaken whole night with his sword at standby position. Soon her bride fell asleep, a pair of snakes slithered out of her nose. The groom immediately took his sword and killed those snakes thus giving a great relief to the whole kingdom. Actually, he was advised by Goddess Bhadrakali and public came to know about this fact later on. So, the Yasin Pole with two long flags represent those two snakes killed by the prince.
Legendary story related to Chariot of Bhairava:
Being curious, god Bhairav went to Bhaktapur in human disguise from Kashi as his consort Bhadrakali did not return back to home. He found that his wife was occupied being worshipped by peoples of Bhaktapur. Bhairava appeared taller than other people in the crowd. He was noticed by one of the Newar tantrics thus he tried to catch the god Bhairava so that if god stays in the city good things will happen. While Bhairava was penetrating through land, the tantric person became able to hold his hair. Hence, the body of the god Bhairav vanished back to Kashi and his head bounced here and there on the ground. There are holes that witnessed the bouncing points. So, the mask of Bhairava is kept inside the Bhairavnath temple in Taumadhi as representation. So, people give a tour for Bhairavnath in a chariot for his refreshment by Tug of War in terms of pulling Chariot calling the festival Bhaila:kha Lyegu Jatra.
Historical background of Bisket Festival:
This festival is believed to exist from ancient period with Lingo erecting when Nepa (Kathmandu) Valley was ruled by Licchavi dynasty. Later, Biswo Malla of Malla dynasty, in medieval period added Chariot Pulling festival along with Lingo Erecting festival where as the chariot beongs to Bhairav-Bhadrakali. Then, King Jagat Jyoti Malla commissioned big wheels for Chariot. He also commenced the tradition of pulling chariot up to the Bhelukhel square and worshiping the chariot there after erecting the Lingo and again pulling chariot back to Ga:Hiti courtyard after pulling down the Lingo next day. Also, King Bhupatindra Malla commissioned to enlarge the size of chariot with gilded roofs architect like a temple and thus extending celebration days of festival from 2 days to 8 days 9 nights.
How is bisket celebrated ?
On the 1st day of festival, people from Thane (inclined part of the city) and Kone ( declined part of the city) enjoy tug of war by pulling the chariot enshrined with Bhairav- Bhadrakali and Betal. Initially, chariot will be placed in Taumadhi Square. People compete to pull the chariot towards their region with the belief that people of that region will be blessed. Later, people on combine effort will roll the chariot back to Ga:Hiti courtyard (100m away from the Taumadh square towards south).
For 2nd and 3rd day, palaquin procession of Astamatrik i.e. 8 mother goddesses will be taken around the cities where they are enshrined.
The 4th day will be new year where Lingo called “Lahdama Yosin-Dya” pole in local dialect will be erected at the big sqaure called Bhelu-Khel which is around 3 km away from Taumadhi square. It will happen in the evening time. Then, the chariots of Bhairav and called Bhaila-kha and Nakinju-kha will roll down to Bhelu-khel. In the same morning, another Lingo called “Lahmarum Lyasin-Dya” pole in local dialect will also be erected in Pottery square. Family will feast with relatives.
The 5th day will be the day for pulling down the Lingo in the evening. Some people will attempt to climb to the top of Lingo and throw the flowers down to people. It is believed that one who climbs up to the top of Lingo will be bestowed with a son in family. As soon as the Lingo is pulled down, people will pull the chariots back to the Ga-Hiti courtyard. Also, there will be an event of collision between Bhaila-kha and Nakinju-kha. It symbolised the reunion between Bhairav and his consort Bhadrakali. Family will feast with relatives.
On the 6th day, people will go to the Bhelukhel for paying homage to Lyosin-Dya and visting temple in Chupinghat with traditional music procession as well.
The 7th day will be the presentation of delicacies in all Astamatrika temples.
In the 8th day, Lingo in pottery square will be pull down.