Bisket Jatra Festival: Bhaktapur, Nepal

Travel Photography

I thought it was just a dance ritual. Nope.

Nepali New Year usually falls mid April and is celebrated all over Nepal but in Bhaktapur, it’s special because it’s connected with the Bisket Jatra Festival, which means the Celebration after the death of the serpents and it’s the only festival that does not follow the lunar-based Nepali calendar. The festival begins 4 days before the Nepali new year and lasts 9 days. Animal sacrifices are other relegious rituals are preformed to revere all the Hindu deities attending the festivals.

On a sunny day in mid April I found myself lost with a group of fellow travelers, exploring the winding alleyways of the beautiful ancient city of Bhaktapur. I was completely unaware of this festival, but when I heard the beat of the drums, I was drawn to this little town square where a small crowd of adults and young school children were gathered.

At first I was very excited. A group of men were wearing these beautiful costumes and they started dancing to the beat of the drum. A few animals were lingering around, but this is not unusual in Nepal. Everyone was very friendly and after gesturing to my camera, they allowed me to photograph their ritual. I then noticed one man started dancing with a small rooster and after a few laps, twirls and shakes of his hips, he put the rooster’s head in his mouth and bit it off!

To say I was in shock would be an understatement. I had no idea THAT was going to happen.

This was not the only animal sacrifice that I witnessed during this ceremony. Next came the sheep, the goat and finally the young Buffalo. For me personally, it was difficult to watch. They collected the animal’s blood at an alter and from how I understand it, these animal sacrifices were done to honor the Hindu gods.