Ghodejatra is a grand Horse Parade or say popular horse festival to native of Kathmandu, Nepal. Ghodejatra is celebrated annually on the New Moon of Chaitra Shukla Pakshya (corresponding to Eastern Lunar Calendar) which is around mid-march or early April (corresponding to English Calendar). Public holiday is announced on this day in the valley (Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur). Another festival called ‘Pahachare’ is celebrated by Newar community during this period. Ghodejatra falls within Pahachare, a three-day long festival.
Why is it celebrated?
It is said that, there used to be a demon called Gurumapa (or Tundi) in the valley. It used to terrorize people, kidnap children and devour them. People were exasperated with it. And one day the demon was slain when trampled by horses and was buried under a tree in Tundikhel. The story did not end just by killing the demon. Its spirit was still believed to be living, creating trouble to people in different ways. Hence, to subdue the demon, the king ordered the troops of armies with horses to gallop on the field and trample back the spirit into the ground. Also, the horse race organized on the day was taken as rejoice for demon’s slay. And it is believed the horse’s hooves clamor keeps the demon spirit under the ground. Hence, since the day of demon’s slay, it is celebrated as Ghodejatra, the day of rejoice and as threaten to the evil spirit.
How is it celebrated?
It is celebrated by the troops of army performing different acrobatics, parachuting and equestrian in the Tundikhel ground which is located in the centre of Kathmandu. The army top brass, the top of government officials and diplomats attend the celebration. Since, people are not allowed to enter into the ground, they watch and enjoy by gathering around Tundikhel. The army drop down paratroopers from the planes flying close overhead and perform many of their skills and entertain the people. The day also welcomes New Year.
While Nepal army performs its acts at Tundikhel, the idols of the god of many localities are taken in a parade in their area in small chariots (Rath) in Kharpan. As the demon Gurumapa is also propitiated at Tundikhel during the time, the community organizes big feast.
Since, Ghodejatra falls during Pahachare, Ghodejatra is the 2nd day of this period. The surroundings are cleaned, lord Lukumahadev is worshiped and some sacrifice animals on the 1st day of Pahachare and also Feast is organized. Beside the Annapurna Temple, Palanquins are dashed against each other, which is considered as the symbol of meeting sisters. The idols of the goddesses are then taken around the city in a ‘khat’ in the evening. This is all about 1st day. 2nd day is the Ghodejatra. During the event in Tundikhel, another event takes place in Patan similar to Ghodejatra. It is organized because in the early days when different king ruled the states, people of Patan were not allowed to see Ghodejatra in Tundikhel. So, they had created their own kind of celebration to give comparison. Drunken men in traditional Newari attire ride on the horses which are intoxicated with alcoholic spirits. People shout to frighten, enrage and cheer the horses so that they get wild and run fast. They keep doing so until the horses throw the riders off them. The occasion is very enjoying.
On the 2nd and 3rd day of Pahachare married daughters and sisters are invited to home for a grand feast. In this way Ghodejatra and Pahachare are celebrated.
-Article written by: Anu Wasti for Land Nepal