Kathmandu, Apr 15 (PTI) Buddha Krishna Bagha Shrestha got his tongue pierced for the sixth time today, as people in Nepal celebrated a traditional festival — that dates back to over a thousand years — to ward off “evil spirits”.

A huge crowd, including locals and tourists, gathered at a school in Madhyapur Thimi Municipality in Bode area near here, to witness the 46-year-old Shreshtha get his tongue pierced.

The tongue-piercing festival is held on the second day of the Nepali New Year, as a part of Bisket Jatra celebrated only in Bhaktapur district.

According to the tradition, only the locals of Bode from the Shrestha family can volunteer to get their tongue pierced. “Around one-foot long needle, which is soaked in oil for one month is pierced through the tongue of the volunteer,” local cultural expert Lochan Shrestha said.

Locals believe that the festival started during the Lichchhabi dynasty more than one thousand years ago. Legend goes that the historic settlement of Bode town was close to Nilbarahi forest, some 12 km from Kathmandu.

When the evil spirits of Nilbarahi started tormenting the Bode folks, the whole village shifted to the current location. However, the evil spirits continued to torment the Bode folks even in the new settlement.

To prevent the spirits from entering into their village, the villagers blocked all four entry points of Bode with invisible walls with the help of a religious scholar. Later, an evil spirit that tried to enter into Bode got stuck at one of the entry points.

The captured evil spirit was paraded throughout Bode with his tongue pierced. He was freed only when he made a promise that he would never cause trouble in Bode. “Ever since, Bode is free of drought, deadly earthquake, famine and epidemic,” said Juju Bhai.

He said Shreshtha got his tongue pierced today to carry forward this “time-honoured tradition” — indigenous to Bode.

Shreshtha’s brother pierced his tongue with a one-foot-long iron spike amidst traditional music. With the spike lodged in the tongue, he was taken to various places before taking the spike out of his tongue in front of the Pancho Ganesh temple.

“During the ritual the tongue should not bleed. It is believed that if the tongue bleeds, it will bring misfortune to the community,” said Juju Bhai, who himself got his tongue pierced eight times.

Shreshtha’s brother Krishna Chandra has got his tongue pierced 12 times, while the record is held by Bekhanarayan Haya Shrestha, who got it done 32 times, he said.

He said the practice is also considered an expensive ritual for the person as he is required to organise the community feast himself bearing all the expenses.

Although the Madhyapur Thimi Municipality and the Guthi Sansthan under the Ministry of Culture provide some financial support for the festival, it is inadequate, he said.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.