The name Rato Machhindranath means ‘Red Fish God’. Rato as in red, Machhindra or Matsyendra means fish and Nath means god, even the statue of the deity is red in color.
The legends behind Rato Machhindranath (also known by the names of Karunamaya and Bunga Dyah) are so many that is hard for me to say which one is the real one. Maybe that’s why they are called legends. All legends are not contradicting to each other. It’s just that they are like different versions of the same story told by different people in their own set of values and beliefs. Most of the time the names and characters differ but the story is the same of a drought in the valley for which to end people seek out the help of Rato Machhindranath.
The legend states that when Guru Gorakhnath came to Patan, no one knew his true identity. When he wasn’t given any meals from the locals he found the Nags (serpents) responsible for the rain in the valley and he captured them, then he went on to mediate. While the nags were in captivity they could not make rain bringing in severe drought in the valley. So, the advisors to the King Narendra Dev then asked the King to bring Machhindranath, teacher of Gorakhnath from Assam in India in hopes to end the drought. And when Gorakhnath heard his teacher is in Patan he decided to visit him setting the serpents free. The valley then had plenty of rain, being thankful to Machhindranath the local started to worship him for saving them from drought and King Narendra Dev started the festival of Rato Machhindranath in 879 A.D.
During the Rato Machhindranath Jatra, street vendors align the surrounding area where the chariot is kept to put up their businesses early in the morning. It is quite a scene to watch devotees praying while people shop nearby. When the chariot leaves the area where it was kept for resting, it can feel empty and quiet for days.
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