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Neku Mataya: Festival of Light and Carnival (Kathmandu)

Mataya “Festival of Light” in Patan
Date: August 15, Protected content Time: Protected content Venue: Ikhalakhu
Participation: Free Contact Person: Raju Gurbacharya Host: Ikhalakhu, Protected content
A little foot weariness is a small price to pay for the joy you get from participating in the holy parade of Mataya, the ‘Festival of Lights’.

Very few cities in the world compares with Patan (Lalitpur) in the richness of its cultural heritage—a claim that really makes sense, especially when you are talking about something with the unmatched wonder of Mataya. For Patan’s Newari community in a city where festivals function as rites of passage throughout the year, the series of festivals during Gunla (the ninth lunar month) has become a way of life. The highest point of this greatest of all Buddhists months is Mataya (and its twin procession, Neku Jatra, both celebrated as one) which follows the day after Gai Jatra. This day-long journey around the historical city starts at the dawn, on the third day of the dark fortnight of Shrawan (August).

Inhabitants of Lalitpur are obliged to participate if they have lost a relative during the preceding year. Those who are particularly going through austerities for the merit of their deceased loved ones wear sacking over their near-naked bodies to protect them as they prostrate themselves before each shrine that they visit. It is believed that this helps their dead ones rest in peace. Despite the seriousness of this parade, connected as it is to death and tragedy, it is carried on with a carnival atmosphere. People gather to observe the fun and give a helping hand to the participants of this holy parade. Since helping the participants earns religious merit for oneself even if one does not join the procession, people gather at intersections to offer assistance to the devotees. Friends and relatives stand by the roadside with rice and coins to replenish their stock. Some guide the traffic while others stand with containers of cold water and first aid. It is an interesting and inspirational sight to see people with spray cans dousing water on the marchers to cool them down, as the going gets a bit too hot.

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