Samyak, the unusual festival of Nepalese Buddhists
There is a Buddhist festival that is celebrated only here in Nepal, it is Samyak. All the three cities in the Kathmandu Valley celebrate the Samyak festival, but at different time intervals. In Kathmandu it is observed once in 12 years; in Patan - once in five years; and in Bhaktapur - every year. The main point of this festival is to honour Buddhas, especially Dipankara Buddha, who predicted Lord Sakyamuni Buddha’s enlightenment in a previous lifetime. At this time, Buddhists also honour the Bodhisattvas Avalokitesvara, Arya Tara, and so on.
In the evening of the first day of the Samyak Dipankara festival more than hundred statues, big and small, of Dipankaras and other Buddhist deities are taken out from the temples and carried through the streets to the wide square in Patan called Nag Bahal. The biggest Dipankaras, the face and hands are made of shiny bronze, are hollow inside so a man can fit in. So you get impression that the statues are walking themselves. Each statue-bearer is preceded by a band beating the cymbals and the drums or play a kind of wooden flute.
The idols are lined up in the Nag Bahal courtyard to allow the devotees to have a glance and pay homage to the gods. A big bowl is placed in front of every Dipankara where devotees can put five types of materials (cereals, salt, pulses and money), so called Panch Daan. The following morning a huge crowd assembles on the Nag Bahal square. There is a long queue to get there. People parade in front of all the statues, throwing coins and the grains of rice, putting fruits and food in front of Buddhas.
Ten honoured elders are also invited and sited in line. They also receive blessings and daan from the devotees.
It takes all morning and part of the afternoon. Around 4 pm the statues begin their jorney back to their temples and the festival is over.