On the Road With the Red God

Every 12 years, impassioned devotees pull a 65-feet tall unwieldy chariot in the Kathmandu Valley, its rider an enigmatic god worshipped by Hindu and Buddhist, on a months-long journey proceeded by abundant ritual and animal sacrifice. The enterprise calls for extreme cooperation and rigorous observance of ritual in the building, sanctification and pulling of the chariot. But the jatra (festival) is an arena of gritty reality, where participants vie for everything from a share of ritual meat, to status and proximity to the god. The chariot teeters, as does the community, between chaos and order, conflict or solidarity. Thus, every 12 years, there’s the same question: will the journey succeed?