Every year, people of Kathmandu come together in celebrating the Swetkali Ajima jatra in Nardevi area. Once known as Nyata Bhulu, Nardevi is believed to be the centre of Kathmandu. This is where the temple of goddess Nyata Bhulu – Nyata means centre and Bhulu means protector – was established by king Gunakamadev who is also credited of having founded Kathmandu.
During the Swetkali Ajima jatra (procession) that is celebrated over the course of three days, folk dancers dressed as different deities perform masked dances. These dancers are believed to be possessed by the deities themselves. It is also believed that the dance of the deities help the community to overcome their problems. Dressed in colourful clothes with heavy ornaments made of metal, these performers are accompanies by at least two other men who guide them while walking.
Although the festival is celebrated every year, once in twelve years it’s celebrated with a grand presentation. During the grand presentation, nineteen deities participate in the dances. During the yearly celebrations, twelve deities are part of the dances.
These deities include:
Nyata Bhulu (Swetkali) Ajima
Mahadev (Lord Shiva)/Purna Kalash
Su:tha Maju (Lokeshwor/ Karunamaya)
Chanashur Daitya (Demon)
The last six deities are part of the celebration that takes place once in every 12 years.
Through the procession, people are seen bowing down to the masked performers to receive their blessing. Scared kids accompanied by their parents are seen touching the performers. Young men are seen balancing a tall decorated bamboo pole in their hands as they repeatedly swirl it around their body. Folk musical instrument are played continuously.
The Swetkali Ajima jatra festival commences on the evening of 6th day of Nepali month Chaitra. This year it began on 20th March and ended on the 22nd.