Every year during the pre-monsoon, Nepal celebrates the festival of horses, the Ghode Jatra in the large open playground of Tundikhel, in the heart of the capital, Kathmandu. Maneuvers of cavalry in Nepal is the center of attraction.
Kathmandu has a public holiday for celebration for a day in March-April each year. Guided by rooted folklore and religious and cultural parades, the festival today has two dimensions: adherence to an age-old tradition and a national army event with major dignitaries of the nation. Once the belief of chasing away evil spirits by racing horses has changed into a formal event. A choreographed event of hurdles, races, and spectacular maneuvers of horses awaits the cavalry day in Nepal. Various equestrian events, parachuting, paratroopers, and various forms of martial arts and acrobatics are also performed during the event. People are welcomed to see the spectacular event around the perimeters of the rectangular ground. For centuries horses are made to run to scare off the evil spirits and trample the demon.
The large ground of Tundikhel used to be the area at the eastern outskirt of the city of Kantipur. It used to be the camping site for outsiders and businesspeople for centuries in Kathmandu at the bank of the famous square-shaped 17th Century artificial pond of Rani Pokhari. Tundikhel used to be an open field probably famous for picnicking and religious events outside the historical city limits. A Kathmandu folklore goes that deities and demons especially child-eating demon Gurumappa do reside underneath the playground. Some important temples are situated on the perimeters on the ground and a few religious festivals are held on the ground. The legend goes that Gurumappa was negotiated with a promise of a huge annual feast with a ritual during the festival of color- the Holi Festival.
A religious festival of Pahan Chahre coincides with Ghode Jatra. Hundreds of enthusiastic worshippers carry palanquins of deities on their shoulders and parade through the centre of the city with portable shrines containing the images of various mother goddesses during the day and assembled at Tundikhel for a musical feast during the night. Flaming torches or swords of the deities are exchanged during the parades. In Patan, a horse is made to drink plenty of alcohol, and a drunk local is made to ride the horse for frenzied entertainment. In Newar communities, the day is marked with a traditional feast in the family.
By : Pramesh Pradhan