Dubbed the longest Naach(Dance) in the world "Kartik Naach" has been entertaining the crowds that gather in Kartik Dabali on the chilly nights of Autumn for more than 376 years. Siddhi Narsingh Malla, staged the first ever performance in 1641 AD (1728 B.S). During his era, Kartik Naach lasted for 15 days which was extended to 25 days by his son Srinivasa Malla and to 27 days by his grandson Yog Narendra Malla. But nowadays, due to lack of proper funding it is only performed for 10 or 12 days according to the astronomical charts.
This dance has faced many hurdles and obstacles such as during the revolution of 2007 B.S(1950 AD), the dance was only performed for two days. Before which it was performed for the complete 27 days, only two acts were shown till 2037 B.S the dance of "Barahi and Narasimha". In 2048 B.S (1990 AD) the dance was lengthened to 8 days with the help of different groups and individuals. In 2070 B.S(2013 AD), two more days were added and again in 2071 B.S (2014AD) it was extended to a 12 days.
The main crowd puller is on Kartik Krishna Pakshya Trayodashi Tithi, when the Narasimha avatar is staged where Narasimha an incarnation of Lord Bishnu who is part a fiery lion with the body of a human kills the demon Hiranyakashyapu. This particular act carries a message that anyone who tries to do ill and harm others, s/he is punished and no one escapes justice. According to Bhagwat Purana, Hiranyakashyapu was a powerful demon king and had a son Pralhad. The son refused to acknowledge his father as supreme lord of the universe and claimed that Bishnu was all omnipresent and described the benevolence of the deity. The demon king became angry and tried to kill the son. All his efforts went in vain. One evening Hiranyakashyapu asked his son if his god was there in the pillar. Upon hitting the pillar, out came Narasimha, an incarnation of Bishnu, in the form of half-man and half-animal. The deity then killed the demon with his nails keeping him in his lap, standing on the threshold at dusk.
This year, it shall be staged on 2nd of November ( 16th of Kartik). Kartik Naach as 11 more acts this year which started form 24th of October with the act of Sudhama and shall end on 4th of November with the Act of Dadhi Leela.
A Brief History
During the reign of Siddhi Narsingh Malla, relating the legend, a great misfortune befell on the land. It was as if the city had lost its luster. No amount of pujas and yagyas seemed to restore the original splendor of the city. Downhearted, the king consulted with his learned gurus. They advised him to invoke Narasimha, the ferocious, wrathful and blood thirsty incarnation of Bishnu, to help him solve the problem. But there was a catch—invoking Narasimha to his aid demanded a hefty price—narbali, the ritual sacrifice of a man, which had to be performed annually, without fail.
The King was skeptical. Surely, none would gladly put their life on the line, not even for the Gods. His gurus, Haribansha Rajopdhayay and Bishwanath Rajopdhayay, suggested an alternative , one that would avert disaster and, most importantly, spill no innocent blood. They would invoke the gods through Tantrik means, with strong spells, a form of symbolic narbali.
A brilliant idea struck the king; to stage a play. The play would symbolically offer the gods their desired narbali, it would be a good education for the people. He wrote the complete play by himself . The theme revolves around Narasimha, the wrathful god, who was called forth to divert the disaster.
Times have changed, since the golden era of the Malla Kings were spells and magic averted and lifted misfortune, Nepal is in a tunnel of transition from a traditional to a modern society. During the struggle for economic and individuals prosperity, we have lost allot of valuable historic traditions, rituals, culture and literature. The rise of globalization and technology has changed the way we view the world and western influence has charmed us with its appeal. Which is leading us to a complete white wash of our cultural identity, archaic traditions like the Kartik Naach are in much need of the peoples attention and support as this is not just a dance , but a peak into the culture and history of the people of then Nepal.