Every year Chaitra Sukla Pakshya in Nepali calendar is marked with Ghode Jatra, a grand horse parade day. This year it is on Saturday 3rd of Chaitra (17th of March). It is the oldest festival of Kathmandu valley. An annual horse parade will be held on Tundikhel ground. Tundikhel will resound with cheers and reverberates with the thundering hooves of horses. The head of the state and hundreds of spectators attend this show with a great gusto. Also, there will be the audience watching the live telecast of Tundikhel parade at the national channels. Not only Tundikhel but also Ason Chowk and Patan city will be celebrating Ghode Jatra in a different way.
Before further reveals let’s get into the brief legendary.
Legends have it as there was a demon, Tundi. He lived in a meadow, which is now at Tundikhel. He was actually the cannibal. After his death people rejoiced by dancing on his body by riding horses. There is a strong belief that that the horse parade at Tundikhel keeps the demon spirit away. The annual celebration at Tundikhel is a way to keep the nation free from the evil grip.
Despite the festival of a limited territory, there are three different styles of celebration.
The isolated landmark of Tundikhel is busy celebrating an annual military pageant on this day. Hundreds of spectators and head of the state at the pavilion attend this show at Tundikhel. The stadium resounds under cheering and reverberates under thundering hooves of horses. The finest horses are brought to Tundikhel. The outstanding stunts and horse racing around the ground with a breakneck speed will increase once excitement to the extreme level. In between this, there is a musical performance by army and police band and presentation of other skills like gymnastics, judo, karate and tae kwon do. Army paratroopers sailing down is as the highlight of the event. Plus, Nepali army demonstrates a rescue scenario in which injured man is rescued from a burning building with the aid of a helicopter injects bravery and courage.
Ritual ceremony at Ason Chowk
In another side of the city, Ason Chowk is also celebrating the joy of this special day. The Newar community here celebrates Pahachare which literally means inviting guests. The three-day celebration begins with cleanliness. The surrounding and especially the sewage cleanliness is the top priority on this day. After that, an annual chariot festival continues. Idols of God Lumadi, Bhadrakali, Kankeshwari and Bhairav join the celebration at Ason Chowk during the day. The palanquins of the gods face each other near the Annapurna Temple. This signifies their one and only meeting in the entire year. Married daughters and sisters get the special invitation on this date.
The neighboring city Patan is also enjoying this day in a different and yet in an interesting way. Originally Ghode Jatra was only for the residence of Kathmandu. The kings in Patan decided to have one of their own. The Ghode Jatra celebration in Patan is a wonderful compensation of the one in Kathmandu. On this day at Balkumari, a horse is made to drink copious amount of rice beer. Funnily an equally drunk man is to ride the drunken horse. The spectators try their best to frighten the horse into running wildly around the locality. The small hilly platform of Gwarko Domar at Balkumari is busy with family picnics.
In summary, Ghode Jatra is a heterogenic of ritual and adventure. It has something to offer for all age group. It is a special day for Nepali army and policemen. And of course, for the horses. After all they also get chance to perform on the national platform. Also, it is a farewell to the freezing fall and welcomes the vibrant colors of spring. It also reminds turning of a new calendar year in a unique style.