Kartik Naach (Kartik Dance) is an originally 27-day-long traditional dance and drama festival that takes place in the Hindu lunar calendar month of Kartik, which falls in October/November. This festival is performed on a public platform in front of the seventeenth-century Patan Palace, a World Heritage Site.
The dance depicts the story of how Lord Vishnu incarnated as a half lion half human called Narsimha and killed Hiranya Kasipu immediately after the sunset for protecting his son Prahald, a devotee of Lord Vishnu. Hiranya Kasipu has the boon of none of the humans, animals or birds can kill him at any time of day or night.
It is believed that King Siddhinarsingh Malla started this tradition for the good of his people and the initial plays we based on stories of Vishnu. These included: i. Sudaman, ii. Bhakta Surdas, iii. Jalashayan, iv. Varasha Avatar, v. Narshimha Avatar, vi. Vastraharan Lilla, vii. Dadhi Lila, and viii. Boudhha Lilla. These dramas are of religious nature and are performed on specific days san sequence. For example, Jalashayan is performed on Harbodhani Ekadasi, followed by Varaha and Narsimaha avatars.
In 1723, King Srinivas Malla introduced the stories of the three Bathahs (the clever men), which add humour to the performances. These folk stories represent society of the times and have moral messages. The seven stories are i. The Unfaithful Wife, ii. Prince of a Goat, iii. Tricking the Brahmin, iv. Selling the Earrings, v. Crossing the River, vi. Unfortunate Bathahs, and viii. The Greatest Fool.
King Yoganarendra added two lengthy dramas and further extended the festival to be performed for a month of Kartik except for the three days of Tihar. The final two chapters of Kartik Nach are i. Ushaharan, and II. Madhavanal. While Ushaharan is again based on the stories of Krishna, Madhavanai Kamakundala is based on the poem written by Ganati Kayasth, a medieval Rajsthani Poet in the 16th century (c. 1527) about the love between Madhavanal and Kamakundala. The lengthy Ushaharan Is divided into seven days and Madhavanal is shown in five days.
The dance performance has continued for around 376 years. “If we have to preserve our identity, we need to preserve our culture first.