Buddha Krishna Bagha Shrestha got his tongue pierced for the ninth time on Friday, as people in Nepal celebrated the unique tongue-piercing festival after a gap of three years due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Dating back to over a thousand years, the tongue-piercing festival is held on the second day of the Nepali New Year as a part of Bisket Jatra and is celebrated only in the Bhaktapur district. The festival, celebrated to ward off evil spirits, is linked with the social welfare and well-being of the people. It falls at the beginning of the New Year as per the Bikram Era calendar.

The festival could not be observed for the past three years due to the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the tradition, only the locals of Bode from the Shrestha family can volunteer to get their tongue pierced. The needle is wet in mustard oil for the whole night before piercing the tongue for antiseptic purposes.

One who participates in the tongue-piercing festival has to observe fasting for three days, without taking solid food.

An ambulance driver by profession, Shrestha, 49, has been piercing his tongue every year and got his ninth piercing done in Bode of Madhyapur Thimi Municipality.

Locals believe that the festival started during the Lichchhabi dynasty more than one thousand years ago. The 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 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 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.