(MENAFN- AFP) Kathmandu's feared Demon Dancer finally performed again after a two-year break at this year's Indra Jatra festival, an annual celebration that marks the end of the monsoon and the beginning of the harvest.
The "Lakhe" is meant to protect the city from evil, but Laxman Ranjit, who comes from a long line of Lakhe dancers, broke with a centuries-old tradition and refused to dance for two years as he mourned the loss of his wife and mother.
His wife died in the 2015 earthquake that devastated swathes of Nepal, crushed to death inside a temple. Ranjit escaped with just a broken foot after he dashed out of the building to save his young son.
A year later, Ranjit's mother died, leaving him alone to raise his son.
"My wife died and I was mourning for an entire year. And on top of that I had a fractured leg. The year after that my mother passed away," he said.
Now, after a two-year break, Ranjit has once again put on the huge red mask to become the Lakhe, a feared demon that is meant to scare away any evil spirits that threaten Kathmandu.
"Laxman is the real Lakhe for us. He has feelings, emotions, and a fierceness that cannot be substituted by anyone else," said Bipin Tamang, 26, who came to watch Ranjit dance again.
"I know he can make the kids scream like no one else can. It is amazing to see him back after two years."
The Lakhe was first brought to Kathmandu by a powerful king, so the myth goes. The king made the flesh-eating demon promise that he would not harm the city's residents but instead serve as the capital's guardian.
"The history of the Lakhe is that he was allowed outside his home only during the eight days of Indra Jatra. The Lakhe protects the city from drought, diseases, accidents, ghosts, spirits and demons," said L.R. Ranjit, a member of the Lakhe caste.
The role of Demon Dancer has been passed down through the generations of the Lakhe caste, and Laxman Ranjit will one day pass it on to his young son.
"The Lakhe made me who I am," said Ranjit as he put on the red Lakhe mask, which weighs around 10 kilograms (22 pounds).
"People say that I am in a trance, that I embody the Lakhe, but it's not like that. When I put the mask on, there is a different kind of extra energy I have."
This year Ranjit's son will dance with his father as a young Jhyalincha, a small demon that taunts the Lakhe testing his promise not to eat the city's residents.
The father and son will continue this age old tradition to vanquish evil from Kathmandu -- and this time they will also chase away their own demons.
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