12 barse Makar Mela in Panauti is a Hindu religious festival that is held every 12 years. Makar Mela to Nepal is what Kumbha Mela is to India. This month-long festival starts when the Sun shifts from Dhanu Rashi (Sagittarius) to Makar Rashi (Capricorn) according to the Vedic astrology, hence calling it “Makar Mela”.
The festival is also called “Panauti Mela” for it takes place in Kavre district’s old Newar town, Panauti, which is 32 km southwest of Kathmandu city.
Hindu pilgrims from all over Nepal and as far as India converge at this sacred site to take a holy bath and to audience Indreshwar Mahadev then after. Indreshwar Mahadev temple sits on the bank of Triveni, the confluence of Rudrawati, Lilawati, and Punyamati rivers. According to the legend, when Lord Indra of Heaven suffered a skin ailment, he descended down upon the earth, chose the Triveni ghat in Panauti, bathed every morning on the river confluence, and performed meditation to God Shiva for 12 years in order to seek the cure. Shiva pleased with Indra’s devotion poured curing nectar in the waters of Rudrawati and got Indra rid of his disease. And the tradition of taking a holy dip at the confluence continues.
Panauti is also regarded as a city of Nagas (serpents) and is guarded by Basuki Naga coiled around Shiva’s neck. So pilgrims also come to Makar Mela to propitiate all serpents in the Kathmandu valley. According to a myth, Karkot Naga, the king of Serpents residing in Taudha Lake, Southern Kathmandu makes a pilgrimage to Panauti to offer his reverence to Shiva during Makar Mela.
Feature photo of pilgrims taking bath at the Triveni in Panauti and on the right is Indreshwar Mahadev Temple by Priti Thapa