Another cultural expert, Lochan Shrestha, disagrees, saying Bhaktapur cannot risk spreading the pandemic by allowing large congregations of people. He says, “It is true that the jatra’s true essence comes from the crowd that comes together to celebrate it, and we cannot risk that right now.”
Festivals in Patan, Kathmandu, Kirtipur, Bungamati, Khan and Sankhu are also going to be affected, including the Machhendranath festival next month, according to Hari Subedi, of the Guthi Sansthan for Kathmandu.
In Bhaktapur itself, other local and smaller jatra like Tipwa, Kha: Lwakegu and Dhyo Swanga Biyagu have already been cancelled for this year.
“To give continuity to our tradition in a safe way, our panel of organisers have decided to just carry out private rituals at the temples and not have large gatherings,” says Bhaktapur’s Chief District Officer Humkala Pandey.