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HomeArt & CultureGhodeJatra: The victory over the evil Demon

GhodeJatra: The victory over the evil Demon

GhodeJatra, also known as the Festival of Horses, is a popular festival in Nepal. People celebrate this festival during the new moon day of Chaitra which is in mid-March or early April. The government provides public holidays in Kathmandu, Lalitpur, and Bhaktapur during GhodeJatra so that people could enjoy the festival. During the festival, there is a parade of horses and competitions organized by the Nepal Army in Tundikhel. At the same time, the Newari Festival Pahachare is also celebrated with a feast and public holiday in Kathmandu.

The story behind the GhodeJatra

The GhodeJatra festival celebrates a story that occurred thousands of years ago in Kutumbahal. The tale is about a trader, KeshChandra who lost everything he had in gambling. That also includes his sister’s golden and silver plates. Because of that, he got nowhere to go. When he returned to his sister’s house, she served him a meal with no plate simply on the ground, with the intention of teaching him a lesson. Upon this behavior of his sister, he felt remorse and hurt. He couldn’t eat the meal from the ground so he decided to travel to Swayambhunath carrying a bundle of discarded rice. He rested under a Banyan tree where pigeons fed on his rice and left golden eggs as a sign of gratitude.

While collecting the golden eggs, Keshchandra saw the Gurumapa approaching him. Gurumpa was a legendary demon who was twice his size. Knowing that he could not outrun the demon, he used his wit to invite Gurumapa to his home. He also promised him a feast in his honor. To his surprise, the demon accepted the invitation.

The next day, KeshChandra organized the feast as promised. KeshChandra thought that after being satisfied, the demon would leave. However, Gurumapa decided to stay on KeshChandra’s lawn and started to demand more offerings. KeshChandra agreed to keep feeding him out of fear. The demon stayed for a month and terrorized the city by carrying off children. KeshChandra relocates Gurumapa to a tree in Tundikhel. When he ran out of food he couldn’t serve the demon anymore. This made the demon very angry so he dragged KeshChandra back to the tree and continued to terrorize the city for three months. Being fed up, the people of Kathmandu decided to form a mob to try and drive that demon away. However, they were unable to defeat him with their weapons. In the end, they released a stampede of horses on top of the demon, ultimately killing him.

To prevent the demon from returning, people established the Ghode Jatra ritual. They carry out the horse procession to ward off evil spirits. Over time, the ritual evolved into a parade where horse riders perform tricks and acts.

How do people celebrate the Ghode Jatra festival?

 Horse riders performing tricks during GhodeJatra
Horse riders performing tricks during GhodeJatra
Image source: Nagarik Network

The Ghode Jatra festival happens every year in Tundikhel, Kathmandu where People celebrate the victory over the demon. During the festival, a big parade of horses takes place to keep away evil spirits and to mark the beginning of the Nepali New Year. People also perform cultural dances and shows like the Lakhe dance, which represents the demon Gurumapa.

The festival also includes various rituals such as the worship of the goddess Taleju, the ceremonial placement of the chariot of the god Bhairab at Tundikhel, and the burning of wood and grass to signify the victory of good over evil. The festival attracts a large number of locals and tourists. People come to experience the unique cultural and traditional aspects of Nepal.

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