Tamangs believe that the tradition of celebrating Temal Jatra was initiated 300 years ago by King Rhinjen Dorje Bal.
According to historical data, it is believed that in the late Middle Ages, when Nepal was divided into many small states like Baisi (a group of 22 states) and Chaubisi (a group of 24 states) in the present province 3 – Kavrepalanchok District, also called Nepalmandal, Bagmati – there was a kingdom Timal.
The Ancient Timal was the residence of Guru Padmasambhava, who came here to meditate in Gelung U Cave. The inhabitants especially praise the great Guru Rinpoche here because they think he killed the demon living in the Rho Saib Glya area. Leaving, Timal Guru Rinpoche gave the inhabitants of the region knowledge of a plant known as Buddhi Chitta – as well as Bodhi Chitta, Fryangba or Thenga – giving fruit used today as japamala beads. The fruits of this plant are particularly related to the recitation of the great Avalokitesvary mantra – om mani peme hung.
Rhinjen Dorje was the last king of the ancient kingdom of Timal, based in Kavre in the 18th century. Soon after, the rulers of the Grand Duchy of Gorkh took power in Timal, and the members of the noble old palace in Kavre would lose their glory. The descendants of the royal family are still present in Kota Timal.
Rhinjen Dorje Bal, anticipating the approaching end of the great Tamang era, instructed his subordinates to go to the Bouddhanath stupa, and there they lit nangsal – butter lamps – on behalf of the deceased relatives of the king and members of the subordinates’ families.
Since then, the Timal festival – held in the Nepal month of Chaitra, ie at the turn of March and April – is an opportunity for families scattered around the country to meet and pay homage to the deceased family members.
The Tamangs gather to offer nangsal, utter mantras, offer bows and express their wishes. They also offer grains of rice around the hungry ghosts on behalf of their deceased relatives. It is believed that making sacrifices on behalf of the dead will help them quickly achieve nirvana. Because it is a time of remembrance about them, apart from popular games and feasting, there are also people for whom Jatra is a memory of losing loved ones and sometimes sadness.
Temat Jatra is one of the main festivals of the Tamang community. Thousands of people spread their mats on the street around the Great Stupa. They set up tables set for all kinds of goods. With them, they visit their lamas and buddhist rinpoche, who perform pujas there and give blessings. Together with them, they eat meals in this place. They offer passers-by or street children, who are full of fruits and sweets around the stupa. Some of them take fasting and meditate in monasteries around the stupa. They sing an old traditional Tamang song, a love story called Phapare Geeta. They turn prayer mills, and the festival night – this year on March 30 – is usually marked by singing and dancing.
The arrival of rain
About a week before, the weather in our Kathmandu began to change. It got a bit warmer, storms and rains appeared. According to the Tamang circle, the Temat Jatra celebrated annually by this community sets the time of rain. A feast at the passage around the stupa is not threatened – all this time, when partying literally dropped only single drops in spite of dangerous stormy murmurs of cloudy sky. The pujas performing by rinpoches and the Tamang prayers maintained all conditions as auspicious for good fun.
One of the legends – belonging to the canon of the story about the origin of the Boudhanath stupa – says that it was built to end a long period of drought. Because the drought did not stop, people from nearby areas began to hang pieces of fabric on the roofs all night to collect dewdrops. In the morning, drops pressed into dishes served to build a stupa. The construction of the stupa lasted 12 years. And according to the prophecy revealed to the then ruler, when the construction came to an end, rains appeared.
From our European point of view, Timal Jatra is simply a big party around the Boudanath stupa. On that day, the passage to the upper floor of the stupa is opened and the Buddhists celebrate the ritual ‘kora’ right next to the canopy of the great stupa. The event lasts 24 hours and is a combination of feasting, the opportunity to gather blessings and to remember the dead.
Full moon, next day
After the night of celebration all the Tamangs at 4 A.M. go to Ratna Park in the city center, from where they get to the Gate of Nagarjun via a minibus. The journey lasts less than an hour and costs 25 rs.
The Gate of Nagarjun is the southeastern gate of the great Shivapuri National Park. Entry ticket costs 30 rs. There are many caves hidden in the forests on Mount Nagarjun. According to a local legend, one of them was the place seattled by grest mahasiddha Nagarjuna. There is also Balaju By Pass – a sacred place of both Buddhists and Shivaites – where in 22 waterfalls the people takes a holy bath that day. It is said that the full moon day after Timal Jatra is the ‘day of water’.
Then the Tamangs go to Swayamhunath, a huge stupa on the west side of Kathmandu, and there the party goes on.