Rato Machindranath Jatra is the longest celebrated jatra in Newar community. This jatra last for a whole month and the month-long procession ends with Bhoto Jatra which is shown in Jawalakhel in the presence of the Living Goddess Kumari and the head of the state. The festival surrounds the tradition of displaying a diamond-studded vest at the time of the Rato Machindranath jatra. The story behind celebrating Bhoto jatra is really fascinating for the people as this story has brought into its celebration from its medieval time till now.
The story goes like this, once upon a time there lived the Serpent God Karkotak who lived with his wife in the Taudaha lake. One day his wife got ill, and the king got really worried about her health and went on for the search for a physician. He called the physician and asked for his help, who went on helping the king’s wife with various herbs and meditations – within no time the wife got cured. The physician whom he had called was also the farmer, the king was so happy and thankful to the physician that he rewarded him handsomely for his services. The Serpent God gave him with many beautiful gifts and among these gifts were a Bhoto(vest) decorated with a diamonds.
The vest so flabbergasted that the farmer started wearing it everyday and started going to the places where other people could see him wearing that shimmering vest. It caught the eyes of everyone. The vest was so indulging that it even got an eye by a ghost, one day a ghost saw the vest being worn by the farmer and this made the ghost to follow the farmer everywhere just to get a chance to take the Bhoto away from the farmer.
One day when the farmer went to his farm wearing his precious vest, he decided to put aside his diamond-encrusted vest in the farm and this decision of his made him regret in a while as the ghost got a chance to steal from him and then ran away. When the farmer noticed that his vest had been stolen, it was too late, as the farmer ran behind the ghost – he could not catch the ghost, and he was devastated that he had lost his most prized possession. After running all over the town behind the ghost, the farmer came across the wide planes of Bhaktapur, where the festival of the Rato Machindranath was going on in full swing.
The farmer was so frustrated and then out of sudden, he saw the ghost – whom he recognized by the shinning diamond shimmering all around, who had also come to watch the jatra among the people. The farmer then quietly sneaked behind the ghost and caught hold of him, tight. And soon a fight broke out between the farmer and the ghost and it caused a huge disturbance during the rath pulling ceremony.
At very moment, the King Kamadev had also attended the rath pulling ceremony and had noticed the argument, as he bought the ghost and the farmer before him and asked both of them to confess-out about whose the Bhoto belongs to. Both of them replied at one time – mine. On seeing this the King asked for the proof, to which both of them did not have one, so the next day the farmer went back to the Serpent god -who had given him that Bhoto, and asked for his presence to prove that the Bhoto was indeed of the farmer. The farmer had also told him that the ghost had stolen his Bhoto and claimed it to be his.
After hearing all this the Serpent God said that he would be present the next day and tell the King Kamadev that it indeed belonged to the farmer. The farmer was so happy hearing that he went back to the festival and waited for few days, but the Serpent didn’t show any sign to come. At the end of the third day, people were frustrated and were starting to go back home. In the meanwhile, the king Kamadev had made a decision that the possession of the Bhoto would be with the priest of the Machindranath chariot until either of them showed up with some concrete proof of the Bhoto belongs to either of them. The priest at the Machindranath chariot displayed the Bhoto to the crowd a final time during the festival asking “Who does the Bhoto belong to?” by displaying it from all the four corners of the chariot. And so, the tradition of Bhoto Jatra began, with displaying the Bhoto like this to the crowd every year.