Indrajatra - a step towards a cultural revival

Gangtok, 15 Sept:

A number of community specific holidays have been declared in Sikkim in the past few years. One of them is the Newar festival of Indrajatra, previously a Kathmandu specific event but now adopted by Newari diaspora across the world.

“I didn't know about the festival until it was declared a state holiday,” says Barsha Pradhan, a teacher.

Since the declaration of Indrajatra as a State holiday in 2010, the festival has gained momentum in Sikkim.

“We have been joining the procession religiously every year,” says Sagar Shrestha, a government employee.

Jatras are specific to the Kathmandu valley, where the Newars are the indigenous community.

“The adoption of Indrajatra as a festival by Newars across the world is a recent phenomenon. It’s more about saving our culture,” explains Bal Shrestha, an anthropologist.

For some, the much celebrated festival of Kathmandu valley, the Indrajatra is also a part of childhood nostalgia.

“I remember as a child we used to celebrate this festival in a grand manner. I am elated when I see it being celebrated in such a grand manner here as well,” says Renu Pradhan, who hails from Kathmandu and is married to a Sikkimese.

For many youngsters, the celebrations are very new and it is more about connecting to their roots.

“I never knew much about our culture, but we need exposure to such events to know more about our culture and tradition,” says Anand Pradhan, a teenager.

An elderly Newar lady, Kalpana, rues the fact that youngsters nowadays are exposed to their culture only during festivals and more needs to be done to save the culture from extinction.

“The youngsters now know only about some general customs like Dasain ko tika or Bhai tika. Intricate details of our culture are lost. First is the language,” she says.

However, the large presence of young people in such events like the Indrajatra proves that not all is lost and slowly but steadily there is a revival of traditions, culture and customs.

The cultural revival is not only unique to Newars. Many other Nepali communities like the Tamang, Mangar, Gurung, Rai, Khas and Sunuwar are also moving towards getting reintroduced to their cultural heritage and festivals.

“I didn't know about our festival Barahimizong until it was declared a state holiday,” says Pinky Mangar, a business woman.