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This week marks the start of spring in the United States. Perhaps you’re doing something special to mark the end of winter and the beginning of a new cycle, like breaking out your warm-season wardrobe or participating in a special spring equinox yoga session.

The transition of seasons is one of the major themes present in the exhibition Nepalese Seasons: Rain and Ritual (open through March 27, 2017). For Nepali people, these transitions are marked by festivals and celebrations, which relate to the deep ancestral traditions of the people of the Kathmandu Valley. For the Newars (the indigenous people of the Kathmandu Valley), the beginning of the spring season coincides with the celebration of Bisket Jatra.


Ushering in the New Season and New Year

After a long winter, many people here in New York look forward to the first day of spring because it signals the start of new life and favorable weather. For the Nepali people, the start of spring is all this and more—it’s also the start of the new year!

The Bisket Jatra festival coincides with the Nepali New Year and, generally, it falls sometime around April 15. Nepalese Seasons curator Dr. Gautama Vajracharya suggests that the Newars keep this April date instead of the March equinox observed elsewhere in reference to a much earlier time in their ancestral history—the precise timing of the equinox has shifted over the centuries.


Bisket Jatra in Bhaktapur

Raised pole marking the festival of Bisket Jatra.
Raised pole marking the festival of Bisket Jatra.

Bhaktapur, one of the three major cities of the Valley, has the most dramatic celebrations for Bisket Jatra. During the festival, a large wooden chariot carrying a sculpture of the wrathful Bhairava are charted around town. At a certain point, the chariot stops to bare witness to a tug of war battle between the east and west sides of town. The most climatic display comes with the erection of twenty-five-meter-high pole which comes crashing down the next the day.

Continue your own springtime celebrations at the Rubin and see Nepalese Seasons: Rain and Ritual before it closes on March 27th! Below you can preview highlights from the exhibition and learn more about the seasonal festivities of the Kathmandu Valley:


Hatha Dya Nepal; ca. 16th century; gilt copper alloy; Rubin Museum of Art; C2005.16.14 (HAR 65436)
Hatha Dya; Nepal; ca. 16th century; gilt copper alloy; Rubin Museum of Art; C2005.16.14 (HAR 65436)
This impressive mask depicts the wrathful Bhairava, the same deity carried in the chariot during Bisket Jatra.


Red Lokeshvara Nepal; 19th century; pigments on cloth; Rubin Museum of Art; Gift of Shelley and Donald Rubin; C2006.66.45 (HAR 100013) A deity with many identities, Bunga Dya (as he is locally called) is a rain god who is also venerated by being carried in a chariot procession.
Red Lokeshvara; Nepal; 19th century; pigments on cloth; Rubin Museum of Art; Gift of Shelley and Donald Rubin; C2006.66.45 (HAR 100013)

A deity with many identities, Bunga Dya (as he is locally called) is a rain god who is also venerated by being carried in a chariot procession.


Kumara; Nepal; 11th century; metal; Rubin Museum of Art; C2004.14.10 (HAR 65337) Kumara is the son of the Hindu gods Shiva and Parvati and is worshipped just prior to the monsoon rains.
Kumara; Nepal; 11th century; metal; Rubin Museum of Art; C2004.14.10 (HAR 65337)

Kumara is the son of the Hindu gods Shiva and Parvati and is worshipped just prior to the monsoon rains.


Two-sided Festival Banner of Varunani and Varahi; Nepal; 17th century; pigments on cloth; Rubin Museum of Art; C2007.19.1 (HAR 69050, 69051) Varunani is one of the the mother goddesses that Newar's worship through masked dances
Two-sided Festival Banner of Varunani and Varahi; Nepal; 17th century; pigments on cloth; Rubin Museum of Art; C2007.19.1 (HAR 69050, 69051)

Varunani is one of the mother-goddesses that Newar’s worship through masked dances


Durga Killing the Buffalo Demon (Durga Mahisasuramardini); Nepal; 12th or 13th century; gilt copper alloy; Rubin Museum of Art; C2005.16.11 (HAR 65433)
Durga Killing the Buffalo Demon (Durga Mahisasuramardini); Nepal; 12th or 13th century; gilt copper alloy; Rubin Museum of Art; C2005.16.11 (HAR 65433)

One of the jewels of the Rubin Museum’s collection, Durga is worshiped during the autumn to give thanks for the harvest and to protect it from possible bandits.

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