Rato Machhendranath Temple
- south of Durbar Sq Durbar Sq
Lonely Planet review for Rato Machhendranath Temple
South of Durbar Sq, on the western side of the road, is the Rato Machhendranath Temple . Rato (Red) Machhendranath, the god of rain and plenty, comes in a variety of incarnations. To Buddhists he is the Tantric edition of Avalokiteshvara, while to Hindus he is a version of Shiva.
Standing in a large courtyard, the three-storey temple dates from 1673, although an earlier temple may have existed on the site since 1408. The temple's four carved doorways are each guarded by lion figures and at ground level on the four corners of the temple plinth are reliefs of a curious yeti-like demon known as a kyah. A diverse collection of animals (including peacocks, horses, bulls, lions, elephants and a snake) tops the freestanding pillars facing the northern side of the temple. The metal roof is supported by struts, each showing Avalokiteshvara standing above figures being tortured in hell.
The image in the Rato Machhendranath Temple may just look like a crudely carved piece of red-painted wood, but each year during the Rato Machhendranath Festival celebrations it's paraded around the town on a temple chariot during the valley's most spectacular festival. Machhendranath is considered to have great powers over rain and, since the monsoon is approaching at this time, this festival is an essential plea for good rain.
As in Kathmandu, the Rato Machhendranath festival consists of a day-by-day chariot procession through the streets of the old town, but here it takes a full month to move the chariot from the Phulchowki area - where the image is installed in the chariot - to Jawlakhel, where the chariot is dismantled.
The main chariot is accompanied for most of its journey by a smaller chariot, which contains the image of Rato Machhendranath's companion, which normally resides in the nearby Minanath Temple.
The highlight of the festival is the Bhoto Jatra, or showing of the sacred vest. Machhendranath was entrusted with the jewelled vest after there was a dispute over its ownership. The vest is displayed three times in order to give the owner the chance to claim it - although this does not actually happen. The king of Nepal attends this ceremony, which is also a national holiday.
From Jawlakhel, Rato Machhendranath does not return to his Patan temple, but rather is conveyed on a khat (palanquin)to his second home in the village of Bungamati, 6km to the south, where he spends the next six months of the year. The main chariot is so large and the route is so long that the Nepali army is often called in to help transport it.