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Every 38 Years Comes Nepali Religious Festival
Citizens celebrate religious harmony during Dipankha Yatra, a procession of blue-horned oxen
Bikash Sangraula (vikaspost)     Print Article 
Published 2005-10-17 16:16 (KST)   
Nepal's love affair with deities and festivals is well known. Apart from over three dozen annual festivals that are celebrated with pomp and grandeur, Nepal is also home to one of the rare festivals in the world that takes place every four decades.

More than 100,000 Buddhists and Hindus are gathering at Patan, in Kathmandu's neighboring Lalitpur district at the dawn of Oct. 17 to celebrate Dipankha Yatra, a procession of Neel Thu (blue-horned oxen) that takes place every 38 years.

Kathmandu's indigenous Newari community that comprises of people with faith in Hindu as well as Buddhist religions particularly celebrates the festival.

According to a statement issued by Nagabahal, the festival's organizing committee, the procession will take place for 24 hours during which devotees will visit 141 temples and monasteries in the Kathmandu Valley, taking out a procession that will cover 60 kilometers on foot.

"Everyone is welcome to participate in the 'Dipankha.' It is not just a local event, it is the national event and every Nepali should be proud of it," the statement said.

The festival is believed to symbolize religious harmony in Nepal. Its celebration can be dated back to 1856 A.D. in the holy scripts of Lalitpur's Golden Temple. The festival is associated with the legends of Dipankar, one of the 14 Buddhas worshiped in Nepal.

On Jan. 17, 2002, one of the religiously significant masks of Dipankar Buddha was stolen from Nagbahal in Patan. Nineteen months later, the mask, believed to be nearly 400-years-old, was handed over to Nepal by Austrian Ambassador to Nepal, Jutta Stefan Bastl.

The fire-gilded mask of copper and bronze, measuring two feet in height, and valuable for its rich adornments with crystals, turquoise and precious stones, was stolen from the custody of a family. It was found in Vienna, Austria when a German art dealer, Peter Hardt, tried to sell it to the Ethnographic Museum in Vienna in April, 2002.

Hardt offered the museum curator the icon for a staggering US$200,000. The curator demanded a week to persuade the museum director for the purchase. Though it was easy enough to convince the director, the curator had a second thought. Luckily for Nepal, he decided to make inquiries about whether the icon was a genuine piece. The icon was soon identified by Professor Alexander Rospat of University of Vienna who had seen it in Patan in March 2000.

As a run-up to the festival, the organizers have published a book titled. "Publication on Dipankar Yatra" that describes the festival.
Photos of worshipped temples available at www.nagbahal.com.
©2005 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Bikash Sangraula

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