The Bisket Jatra is considered one of the liveliest cultural festivals in the world. The celebration in Bhaktapur (14km, 1 hour drive, from Kathmandu) is a nine day celebration at the time of Nepalese New Year.
The festival is centered on creation and the mating between the God Bhairav and Goddess Bhadrakali which produced the world and everything in it. The God Bhairav is the fierce form of Lord Shiva, who cut off Brahma’s head. Bhadrakali is the wrathful form of the Mother Goddess.
On the first day of the street festival a large 25 ft Yoshin-Pole is placed into a hole and raised vertically in the air. Then the Gods are removed from their temples and placed in large wooden chariots. The chariots are pulled through the crowded streets by the people of Bhaktapur.
On the last day of the festival the Bhairav Chariot is parked in Gahi Tole. At midnight the smaller Bhadrakali Chariot is repeatedly rammed against the Bhairav Chariot in a not very subtle display of their explosive copulation. It is destructive and a little bit dangerous for those standing close.
A giant game of tug-of-war is performed between the east and west side of the city. It is said the side of town which wins the tug-of-war will be the most prosperous for the following year.
Bisket Jatra is a fascinating display of a traditional Nepali festival. Large excited crowds pack into the small town squares. There are a number of processions and wandering musicians, music and dancing add to the colorfully festive atmosphere.
It is easy to spend a day or two watching the festival and miss out on the other treasures of the city. Bhaktapur is the third largest city in Nepal and a UNESCO world heritage site. The city centre has been closed to vehicles to preserve the medieval setting.
Bhaktapur's Durbar square is the town’s main attraction. It houses the 55-window Palace and the National Gallery. The Golden Gate, Mulchok Court and the Taleju Temple are all close by. The buildings are all in traditional Newari style with wood carving and red bricks.
Bhaktapur is one hour by bus from Ratna Park. The local bus should cost around 40NR. Entry into Bhaktapur is NR 1100. Care should be taken during the festival as it is a hot spot for pickpockets. The crowd can also be quite rough close to the chariot or tug-of-war. Extra care should be taken if travelling with children.