Nepal in the Mahabharata Period, Part 42

BY: SUN STAFF

Lord Nrsimhadeva prepares to destroy Hiranyakasipu
Photo: Prabal-tamraker @ Flikr


Mar 23, 2013 — CANADA (SUN) — The Yadava dynasty's presence in Nepal, and the events that preceded and followed.

In October 2012 we ran a Feature article that inspired us to present the current in-depth series on Nepal. The article, entitled "Nrsimha Yatra of Lalitpur, Nepal", describes the royal religious processional in honour of Lord Nrsimhadeva that is held each year in Lalitpur (Patan). The festival, also known as Kartik Naach, is held in the first week of Kartik month, and is conducted by the local Rajopadhyaya brahmans.

The performance of Kartik Naach was begun by King Siddhi Narasimha Malla of Lalitpur in Sambat 762. The King is said to have initiated the festival on the advice of two religious leaders, Hari Bansa Rajopadhayay and Bishwanath Upadhayay, who suggested the festival to celebrate the completion of the new Krishna temple.

Kartik Naach initially ran for five days, but Siddhi Narasimha Malla's son, King Srinivas Malla, extended it to 15 days by adding a number of satirical acts to the festival, called Batha Pyakha. In turn, Srinivas Malla's son, King Yoga Narendra Malla, extended the festival to be celebrated for the entire month, and that tradition continued for about 350 years.



In 1951, political unrest in Nepal resulted in the festival being cut down to only two days, and this went on for 30 years, until it was again extended to eight days. Today, the festival begins on the 5th or 6th day of Kartik. Whatever the start date, tradition requires that the central part of the religious observance -- the Narasimha dance -- be performed on the 13th day of Kartik, the last day of the festival (usually the 8th day). Scheduling of the Narasimha dance determines the schedule, and other elements of the festival are cancelled if needed so the traditional closing dance falls on the proper day.

On the first three days of the festival, the Batha Pyakha satirical dramas are performed. On the 4th day, there is a performance depicting a battle between Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva. Devi Naach, performed on the 5th day, depicts the battle between Lord Krishna and Banasura. On the 6th day Jalasayan is performed, with Lord Vishnu lying on the Ananta Sesa in the cosmic ocean. On the 7th day is a performance of Varaha Avatar's battle with Hiranyaksha.



The dance of Narsimha Avatar is performed on the 8th and final day of the festival. The performance begins late in the evening, when a huge crowd gathers to watch the masked dancers and actors. The performers are believed to be empowered for this divine performance, exhibiting spectacular performance skills due to divine energies (siddhis).

Lord Narsimha tears down a pillar-like structure made of Nepali paper as the crowning dance of Kartik Naach begins. A white-masked dancer acting as Narasimhadeva chases the demon Hiranyakashipu, as the two circle the stage in choreographed strides. As the dancers move around the stage some thirty times – Karti Dabu –the oil lanterns around the stage grow dimmer, until finally Lord Narasimha catches the demon, thus concluding the dance festival.


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