Indra Jatra or “Yenya” is the biggest festival for the Nepalese “NEWAR” community in Sikkim and is celebrated with much fanfare throughout the state. Named after the Hindu God of Rain and also the King of Heaven, Lord Indra, the festival’s prime objective is to seek his blessings in the form of rains and showers. Huge chariot processions accompanied with eclectic drum beats, masked dance performances and various classical dance performances are the integral elements of this vibrant festival that takes the streets of Gangtok in great awe of its cultural harmony. Needless to say, for cultural aficionadas, sociologists and anthropologists, this is one of the best times to plan their trip to Sikkim and other parts of North East.
The legend of the festival goes back to the Vedic times when Lord Indra was imprisoned by the people of Kathmandu Valley, after having him caught stealing the rare and fragrant ‘Parijat Flowers’ from the valley for his mother. It is then when the people realized who he actually was, they released him and promised to dedicate one of the most colourful festivals to him, also in return requesting him to visit the valley every year, thereby blessing it with rains and prosperity.
While it is pre-dominantly a Nepalese festival, it is celebrated with great zeal and enthusiasm by the Nepalese Newar Gutthi community in Sikkim too and was introduced here in the year 2000 followed by its declaration as the state holiday in 2011.
The extravagant cultural fiesta of Indra Jatra is celebrated around August-September and lasts for eight days, bringing the whole valley to life with vibrancy and mood of festivity all around. Cultural programs, chariot processions and masked dance performances representing various deities and demons, take everyone in awe of their hypnotizing splendour.
The festival’s most significant highlight is marked by a huge procession that is taken along the streets of Gangtok after performing various religious rituals at Bhanu Park. A number of masked dance performances including Pulu Kishi, Lakhey, Mahakali and Sawa Bhaku along the pageant provide for an enchanting sight to all the spectators. One of the yet another much awaited events of the Indra Jatra Festival is the ‘Kumari Jatra’ where in the living Goddess ‘Kumari’, an incarnation of Goddess ‘Telaju’ is taken out on a procession in a chariot. People gather in huge numbers to have a glimpse of the Kumari, thereby receiving her blessings for a happy and blissful life.