Ghode Jatra: The Festival of Horses

Before, the celebration was believed to be primarily for Kathmandu residents, but it is nowadays popular among people from all across the nation, as well as foreign visitors.

19, Mar 2023 |

Ghode Jatra is celebrated to commemorate victory over evil, and to protect the Kathmandu valley from Gurumapa’s wickedness.

Ghode Jatra is nothing new to those who have lived in Kathmandu. It is an exciting celebration for those who have figured out how to embrace the valley for its colours and creativity. Kathmandu has a horse parade every year in mid-March or early April. The Horse March is organised at Tudikhel, an open place in the centre of Kathmandu, by the Nepal Army and Nepal Police with public displays. The entire event is performed in front of the President and the Prime Minister of Nepal along with other ministers and dignitaries of the nation. 

The celebration is largely dedicated to the Hindu goddess Taleju Bhawani, who is revered as the protector deity of the Kathmandu Valley. The celebration is also related with the New Year that takes place according to the Nepal Sambat calendar. 

The celebration has its own narrative about a victory against a monster named Gurumapa, who inhabited the Tundukhel. There is still a tree in Tundikhel’s south-east corner where Gurumpa is said to have lived. 

It used to harass people, abduct and devour children. Many were outraged by it. And one day, the demon was killed by horses and buried under a tree, near Tundikhel. The narrative did not stop with the demon’s death. Its ghost is still said to be alive, causing problems for locals in various ways. To conquer the demon, the then king commanded legions of horses to rush across the field and trample the spirit back into the ground. The horse race on the day of Ghode Jatra is seen as a celebration of the demon’s slaying. It is also claimed that the uproar of the horse’s hooves keeps the evil spirit underground. 

It is celebrated by army forces doing various acrobatics, parachuting, and equestrian displays in Tundikhel ground. General people gather around Tundikhel to observe and enjoy the show because they are not permitted to access the ground. The army drops paratroopers from helicopters flying near above to demonstrate a variety of abilities, to the delight of the crowd. The day also marks the start of the New Year

Another Ghode Jatra event takes place in Patan’s Bal Kumari Mandir, where a horse is intoxicated with liquor and ridden by an equally drunk rider dressed in traditional Newari attire. People yell to terrify and enrage the animal, causing it to flee as the rider clings to it. This race is said to have begun in the past by a Malla king of Patan in order to provide a greater spectacle than Tundikhel’s parade, as people there were not enticed to go Tundikhel at the time. The most revered goddess on this day is Bhadrakali, also known as Lumarhi Devi by the Newari people. 

Ghode Jatra is distinguished by a variety of cultural events and performances, including traditional music and dance, in addition to the horse procession. It is a time when people gather to celebrate their culture and heritage, as well as to pray for good fortune and success in the next year. 

Compiled By: Rebika Bishokarma

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