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A Burst of Red: Experiencing Sindoor Jatra in Bhaktapur

Home » Blog Post » Festivals of Nepal » A Burst of Red: Experiencing Sindoor Jatra in Bhaktapur

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Introduction: A Festival Like No Other

Imagine a sea of people, a riot of colours, and the air filled with the melodies of traditional music and the fragrance of incense. This is no ordinary celebration; this is Sindoor Jatra, Bhaktapur’s most vivid and lively festival. Held annually in the heart of Nepal, Sindoor Jatra marks the Nepalese New Year and celebrates the victory of good over evil. During this time, the historic city of Bhaktapur recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, shifts into a panorama of red hues, with locals and tourists alike joining in the festivities. For those seeking a deep dive into Nepal’s rich cultural tapestry, Sindoor Jatra is an unmissable event that promises an unforgettable blend of tradition, community spirit, and jubilation.

Locals joyously participate in the Sindoor Jatra festival in Bhaktapur, Nepal, filling the streets with vibrant colors, traditional music, and lively dances, marking the auspicious occasion with fervent devotion and community spirit.
The streets of Bhaktapur, Nepal, are alive with energy as a diverse crowd gathers to partake in the vibrant Sindoor Jatra festival.

The Essence of Sindoor Jatra: A Testament to Tradition

The origins of Sindoor Jatra are as colourful as the festival itself. Steeped in ancient mythology, Sindoor Jatra celebrates divine victories, symbolizing soul purification and the onset of prosperity. Central to the festival, the jubilant tossing of ‘sindoor,’ a bright red powder, drenches the town in vermilion. This act transcends mere fun, embodying renewal and unity, and mirrors the community’s enduring bonds and legacy.

The festival also showcases a spectacle of musical talent and cultural display. Traditional Newari music, with its dhime drum rhythms and flute melodies, sets the festival’s sonic scene. Alongside, the ‘Bisket Jatra’s‘ grand chariot procession amplifies this vibrant showcase of faith, art, and community.

Coinciding with the Nepalese New Year, Sindoor Jatra marks a time of new beginnings and unity—honouring the past, celebrating the present, and embracing the future with optimism.

A Tourist’s Guide to Sindoor Jatra

Visiting Bhaktapur for Sindoor Jatra offers a unique chance to immerse in a festival as ancient as the city itself. Here’s everything you need to know to make your visit a smooth and memorable experience.

When and Where: Sindoor Jatra takes place mid-April, marking the Nepali New Year, with the main events in 2024 scheduled for April 13th, from 5 PM to 10 PM, and April 14th, from 8 AM until the afternoon. The heart of the festivities can be found in Bhaktapur, an ancient city renowned for its well-preserved heritage and architecture. Getting to Bhaktapur is straightforward—a short drive from Kathmandu will transport you into the midst of Nepal’s living history.

What to Expect: Expect to be awestruck. The festival is a sensory overload in the best possible way. From the early hours, the streets filled with residents and visitors alike, filled with enthusiasm, ready to engage in the day’s events. The air hums with anticipation, soon giving way to ceremonial music that heralds the procession’s onset.

Participation Tips: Dress comfortably and be prepared for a colourful day. Wearing white can make the sindoor (red powder) thrown during the festivities a vibrant souvenir of your participation. Respect rituals and connect with welcoming locals to learn about festival traditions.

Highlights of the Festival

The Procession of the Chariots: The centrepiece of Sindoor Jatra is the chariots carrying the images of gods and goddesses through the city streets. The energy of the crowd, combined with the rhythmic music and the ornate chariots, creates an unforgettable spectacle.

Musical Harmony: Traditional Newari music is a crucial element of Sindoor Jatra, with live performances that invite you to sway to the rhythms. The Dhime drum and Bhushya cha are among the instruments that create an enchanting musical landscape.

Tongue-Piercing Ceremony: A particularly fascinating tradition exclusive to the locals of Bode in Thimi, Bhaktapur, is the ancient tongue-piercing ceremony. This ritual, exclusive to the Shrestha caste, involves piercing the participant’s tongue with a needle soaked in oil for a month. Preceding this daring act of devotion, the individual observes a three-day fast, spiritually and physically, preparing for the ceremony. Witnessing this profound expression of faith offers tourists a glimpse into the depth of cultural heritage that Sindoor Jatra embodies.

The Throwing of Sindoor: Anyone attending the festival must participate in throwing the sindoor. It’s a playful, communal activity that brings everyone together and symbolizes joy, renewal, and dispelling evil spirits.

Local Delicacies: The festival is also a great time to try Newari cuisine. Street vendors and eateries feature traditional foods like Bara (savoury lentil pancakes), Juju dau (sweet yoghurt), and spiced meats.

Tips for Enjoying Sindoor Jatra

  • Respect the Culture: While it’s a joyous occasion, remember to respect the religious and cultural significance of the festivities. Follow the locals’ lead in participating.
  • Stay Hydrated: April in Bhaktapur can be warm, and you’ll be amidst large crowds. Keep a bottle of water handy.
  • Capture the Moments: Sindoor Jatra is incredibly photogenic, from the explosion of colours to the dramatic chariot processions. Have your camera ready yet, remain considerate of individual privacy and preferences.
  • Ensure your safety: Be vigilant with your possessions, and stick with your group. Given the overwhelming crowds, staying alert is crucial.

Conclusion: A Festival Not to Be Missed

Sindoor Jatra transcends being merely a festival; it stands as a vibrant affirmation of Nepal’s rich cultural legacy and its people’s spirit. For tourists, it offers a rare opportunity to experience the depth of Nepali traditions and the warmth of its community. Finding yourself draped in red, moving to dhime drum beats, and exchanging smiles with locals, you discover Sindoor Jatra not only colours your attire but also leaves your heart tinged with enduring memories.

Bhaktapur’s Sindoor Jatra is an invitation to explore, celebrate, and connect—truly a highlight for any traveller seeking to immerse themselves in the cultural heart of Nepal. Thus, pack your bags, embrace your adventurous spirit, and prepare to plunge into one of Nepal’s most memorable experiences.

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