Of masks, monarchs & Maoists
Another Indra Jatra - Nepal's most colourful festival (and here, that's really saying something. If there are 365 days in the year, there must be 366 festivals) is once again at an end. Amid rumours of Maoist disruption, and a few anti-monarchist demonstrators waving black flags and shouting "death to the King," King Gyanendra and Queen Komal made a dignified appearance in Durbar Square.
It was six days of medieval pageantry, military pomp and ceremony, rain, mud, and ritual - that combination of majestic, macabre, arcane, occult and festive that is so unique to Nepal.
The world-famous Gurkha soldiers, a nearly-deposed monarch of the world's last Hindu kingdom who had taken the throne amid murder and controversy, political street agitation, a pipe and drum corps dressed in vintage garb of the 18th century, animal sacrifices, ancient virgin goddesses, masked dancing gods and demons doing battle in the streets, a lunar eclipse, a 50-foot wooden pole being worshipped as a sacred phallus, streets lit with oil lamps and primitive torchlight, massive chariots with wooden wheels that rumbled like the monsoon thunder - did I leave anything out? I mean, what more could you possibly ask for in a show of barbaric splendour? I have spent the past 3 hours (literally) trying to get a strong enough connection to upload these photos, so I'm too tired to write more now. It will be a miracle if all these photos upload without a glitch....
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