Rato Macchindranath and Four Turns Of The Wheel

The Rato Macchindranath Jatra or festival is supposed to have begun in 640 A.D, in the time of King Narendra Dev. Rato Macchindranath is worshipped by both Hindus and Buddhists. Hindus see Rato Macchindranath as being an incarnation of Lord Shiva while Buddhists as Avolokiteshwara.

Beginning some time in April, thousands come out to celebrate the pulling of Rato Macchindranath from Pulchowk to Patan, a journey that takes over a month to complete. This chariot festival is the longest in Nepal.

It is believed that Rato Macchindranath actually represents the serpent deities or Nagas who are associated with rain or water. Hence, God of Rain. Kathmandu Valley suffered from a severe drought in the 5th Century and legend has it that Macchindranath brought in much needed rain. Since then, the festival has been an annual event ushering in the monsoon.

Anil Chitrakar, a well-known cultural expert, tells Onward Nepal that there is beauty in the way the chariot is built. Its height is always measured in “Hands” (elbow to tip of middle finger), and is always the sum of the distance covered by one turn of the four wheels of the chariot. The chariot is normally 32 hands or about 50 feet in height.

Historically, there used to be four such Jatras, one each in Patan, Kathmandu, Chobhar, and Sangha. Chitrakar says the practice has died out in Chobhar and Sangha, but remains alive in its present form in Patan and Kathmandu.

The festival is a huge tourist attraction as well.