Rato Machhendranath or Matsyendranath is a god of rain worshiped by both Hindus and Buddhists in Nepal. Hindus regard him as the reincarnation of the Lord Shiva, while the Buddhists regard him as the Tantric reincarnation of Avalokiteshvara. The temple of Rato Machchhindranath lies in the southern part of the Patan Durbar Square since 1673.
The Temples of Rato Machchhindranath
The Patan temple, also known as the Rato Machchhindranath Temple, is one of the oldest temple which dates back from the 16th century. It is one of the famous temples of the Kathmandu Valley. It lies in the southern part of the Patan Durbar Square. Each of the four well crafted wooden doors of this temple is guarded by two lion figures while the four corners of the temple are guarded by Khyah, a Yeti-like demonic figure. Rato Machchhindranath spends six months of the year in this temple.
The village of Bungamati, regarded as the birthplace of Machchhindranath, is a traditional Newar town located 10 km from downtown Kathmandu. The temple of Rato Machchhindranath is located in the heart of this village and it is known as his second home. It is a well crafted shikhara styled temple. After the chariot festival, Rato Machchhindranath spends the next six month in this temple.
Legend says that, when Guru Gorakhnath visited Patan, he captured all the rain showering serpents of Patan and started to meditate after he was disappointed by the locals as they did not grant him any alms on his request. As a result, Patan faced drought for a long time. The then king of Patan, on the advice of his advisers, invited Machchhindranath, Guru of Gorakhnath, to Patan. When Gorakhnath learned that his teacher was in Patan he released all the rain showering serpents and went to see him. As soon as the rain showering serpents were set free, Patan again got plenty of rainfall every year. After that day, the locals of Patan worshiped Machchhindranath as the god of rain.
The most important event connected with the deity is the annual chariot procession known as Bunga Dyah Jatra or Rato Machhindranath Jatra. Each year, the locals of Patan, Lalitpur celebrate the festival in order to show respect to the rain god. This festival is one of the oldest and the longest festival celebrated in Patan and is celebrated in April–May.
It is celebrated just before the monsoon season starts so that the city will get plenty rainfall for good growth of crops. During the procession, the image of Bunga Dyah is placed on a tall chariot about 65 feet high and pulled in stages through the streets of Patan for a month.
Before the chariot festival starts the ritual of Mahasnana is conducted in an auspicious hour as indicated by the astrologers about 15 days before the chariot festival. The deity is taken to a platform at Lagankhel which is about 200 meters away from the temple of Machindranath at Ta: bahal Lalitpur. There infront of a huge crowd the god is given a bath with the sacred water mixture of honey, milk and water fetched by the panejus or priests in the four silver kalasa(vessel). The four priests then pour the sacred water or jal from four direction in the platform to the deity and it is believed that from which ever direction 1st the jal touches the deity from the same direction monsoon will start or first rain will be granted.
After the mahasnana the repairs are done to the idol of the deity if required and the new face is painted. After the face painting is over various ritual are performed to the deity like Bareychukegu; Ihi; Bara tyegu as done to a human and at the end Dashakarma vidhi is performed.
While these all are going on the temple premises, the chariot or ratha is made at Pulchowk by the Barahi and Yawal clans, amongst which one only does the rope work and other only the wood work. In the construction of the chariot no nails are used to connect the joints of the huge chariot but are only tied with ropes and veds. The only part that uses iron to hold are the four wheels. After the construction is finished the deity is ascended in the divine vehicle i.e. 3 days before the pulling of chariot.
The route of the chariot procession starts at Pulchwok and passes through Gabahal, Sundhara, Lagankhel and ends at Jawalakhel.Previously the festival was called the festival of three states viz. Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, Lalitpur as the deity was brought by the alliance of these three states. So, previously the 1st day of festival was to be carried on by people of Kathmandu then by Bhaktapur and then 3rd by Lalitpur, and on last day all three sister cities come together for Jawalakhel jatra with other nearby city people from Kirtipur and others from the valley.
After the chariot reacher Jawalakhel, this festival concludes with Bhoto Jatra, which literally means "vest festival". During the ceremony, a government official holds up a sacred jewel-studded black vest from the four sides of the chariot so that all the people gathered around can have a look at it.
After the festival, the chariot is dismantled and Rato Machchhindranath is taken to a temple in the nearby village of Bungamati, also known as the second home of the rain god. Rato Machchhindranath spends the next six months in that temple.
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- Rato (Red) Machhendranath. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com/Rato+Machhendranath