It’s the center of the capital. The horses are running. Stomping it out. The national army men in tow. The heads of state, the President, the Prime Minister, the army brass, diplomats and all the ministers in the crowd. It’s the parade of the horses. The Ghode Jatra, as the locals calls it.
Falling on the night of the new moon in the month of Chaitra, which is sometime in the month of March- April, the Ghode Jatra is a festival of victory. Celebrating the demise of a demon in the ancient times of the valley of Kathmandu, the Ghode Jatra has in its modern state, turned into a day when the military shows their horsemanship prowess and skills.
The origin of the Ghode Jatra has many stories. One of them includes that of the demon named Gurumapa, who terrorized the people of Kathmandu some thousands of years ago. The demon couldn’t be killed by the range of weapons the townsfolk threw his way to slay him, always getting back up. However when the people sent a horde of horses to stomp the demon, Gurumapa didn’t stand no more. Believing the demon to have perished, the people rejoiced however fearing the demon’s spirit, the townspeople made a tradition of running a horde of horses in that area every year to ward off the spirit of the demon away. That location is the modern day Tudikhel. The festival has over time evolved into its modern day celebrator form.
The Events during Ghode Jatra
The official and formal celebration is done at the Tudikhel Grounds, which lies in the heart of the city of Kathmandu. This is the event that is attended by all the people running the country and the dignitaries and diplomats. The common citizen too can view this event however they cannot access the Tudikhel grounds that is used and hosted by the military who partake in various competitive sporting events such as horse racing.
Away from the formal celebration, in the valley the statues of many local deities and gods are taken out in processions. The ones in Kathmandu are brought to Asan Chowk just in time for the main celebration in the day and in Tudikhel at night. This tradition is not part of the Ghode Jatra however; it’s part of a festival called Pahachare, which just happens to coincide with the day of the Ghode Jatra. This is the day all these local gods meet up together, every year. It’s a three day festival.
Over at Patan, another even takes place on this day. A horse is intoxicated with local beers. A local man, wearing traditional newari clothes, is also intoxicated and made to ride the horse. The onlookers cheer and shout to frighten and enrage the horse while the drunken man holds on for dear life. So yeah, its an interesting event.
So that’s Ghode Jatra, a festival originally celebrated only within the capital. However due to its popularity, the event became a national holiday and that still holds to this day. So do remember to enjoy if you get a chance to enjoy it.