Ghode Jatra, the Horse Racing Day falls on the month of mid March or early April. A grand horse parade takes place at Tundikhel, the central point of the city reputed to have been in the former days the largest parade ground in Asia.
It is said that in the olden days the Kings of Kathmandu use to go to worship the Bhadrakali temple in a courtly cavalcade following the Living Goddess Kumari. This visit could have been modified into the parade of horses and finally the horse athletics and racing contest as it is today, held by the army in the presence of the King.
There was a time when the festival was considered only for the residents of Kathmandu. But today it’s popularity has attracted people from all over Nepal. It’s said to be a propitious day for consuming a large amount of garlic and meat, some even consider it a day when citizen in the streets may inebriate themselves.
Legend reveals that this festival was held to celebrate the victory over a demon named Tundi who resided over the meadow, today known as Tundikhel. Tundi was a terror, so when he met with his death people rejoiced by dancing on his body with horses. So it’s believed that the clamor of horses’ hooves on Ghode Jatra at Tundikhel keeps the demon’s sprit at bay as it still threatens to ruin the city.
It’s said, the faster the horses run quicker will Tundi’s spirit be dispelled. The swift running of the horses on this day is also considered to be a good omen for the Nepalese people.
Another event takes place on Ghode Jatra at Bal Kumari area in Patan where a horse is intoxicated with spirits and an equally drunk person in a traditional Newari attire rides it. People shout to frighten and enrage the animal until it runs widely with the rider clinging to it.
This race is thought to have been commenced in the olden times by a certain king of Patan to give a better show in comparison to Tundikhel’s parade, as in those days no one from Patan could attain it. The most worshiped goddess on this day in Bhadrakali also known by the Newari people as Lumarhi Devi.
Ghode Jatra is a festival, which doesn’t have a lot of religious ceremonies, but the horse parade, is a big attraction and people always look forward to it.
Article by Padmakshi Rana
Photographs collected from Deependra Bajracharya and Min Bajracharya.