Nepalis worship with fervour as ancient rain god festival adapts to the times

June 26, 2012

(A statue of the Red Machindranath is lowered from its chariot at the end of the Bhotojatra festival in Lalitpur June 24, 2012. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar)

Thousands of Nepalis threw coins and marigolds at a giant chariot over the weekend in a centuries-old ritual to appease the rain god and assure a good harvest, as well as guaranteeing good omens for the country’s rulers.

The annual two-month chariot festival for Rato Machhindranath, revered as the god of rain, has for countless generations been presided over by Nepal’s kings.

The monarchy was abolished in the Himalayan country in 2008 but that hasn’t stopped the festival. These days, the president stands in.

The centrepiece of the ritual in the old town of Pathan, 10 km (6 miles) south of the capital of Kathmandu, came with the display of a jewelled vest said to have been given to a farmer by a serpent king more than 1,000 years ago.

Lost by the farmer and claimed by a demon, legend has it that the vest has since been held by Rato Machhindranath for its rightful owner to claim in the presence of the king, or president.

“Whoever watches the displaying of the vest becomes free from troubles, disease and hunger,” said 49-year-old Hindu priest Kamal Raj Bajracharya.

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