Daily News header

Nepal's Horse Festival Has Deep Cultural Roots

By

Every spring as the dogwood and bougainvillea bloom, Kathmandu's maidan, the ancient parade ground, echoes with the sound of hoofs. Ghode Jatra, the Horse Festival, features the army's cavalry brigades in races, jumping, dressage, polo and more. The festival's historic beginnings are lost in time, but legend records an origin story.

A gambler named Keschandra, who lived in Kathmandu in a place called Itum Bahal, is believed to be responsible. Keschandra's father died when his son was young, leaving the boy all his wealth. Keschandra loved to gamble, and before long he had squandered his entire inheritance. Reduced to begging, he went to Pashupatinath Temple to ask for alms from the worshippers there. One day he was given a bowl of rotten rice, which he spread out on the ground to dry, so that he could separate the grain from the maggots. While he was begging nearby, pigeons ate all the rice.

horse festival nepal
Horse carriages line up during the annual Horse Festival in Kathmandu's maidan, the ancient parade ground
Photo: Nepal News video screenshot

The god Bhairab, patron of Kathmandu, took pity on Keschandra and turned the pigeons' droppings into gold. When Keschandra returned he found so much gold that he could not carry it all, and he enlisted the assistance of a demon that lived at Pashupatinath's cremation ground to help him carry it home. In return for his assistance the demon, named Gurumapa, was allowed to live in the monastery compound that Keschandra built at Itum. He was also accorded the right to eat all the disobedient children in the neighbourhood. To this day, residents of the area warn their children, "Be good, or Gurumapa will come for you!"

But as is the way of demons, Gurumapa got out of hand and began eating good children too. Keschandra decided to solve this problem and prepared a huge party for Gurumapa. Sated by a feast of rice and meat, Gurumapa agreed to leave Itum Bahal and live at the parade ground east of the city. He stipulated though that he must be served an annual feast in compensation for not being allowed to eat children.

To this day every year on the eve of the new moon in early spring, the men of Itum Bahal prepare a huge kettle of rice and buffalo meat and carry it at midnight to the Tundikhel grounds for Gurumapa. And next morning the cavalry takes over the ground, for the beating of the horses' hoofs is said to send Gurumapa, now well fed, back to his underground home for another year.

John Child is The NewsBlaze Nepal Correspondent, a journalist in Kathmandu who writes about goings-on in and around Nepal and her neighbors. Read more stories by John Child in Kathmandu.

  Please leave a comment here     If it does not display within 10 seconds, please refresh the page

Related Nepal News

(CNS): It is not only about preventing new births of thalassemic infants; about chelation, about blood transfusion and about availability of services needed; but also about preventing complications related to Thalassaemia.
'Nepal is not a poor country; it is just poorly governed.' The aspirations of the people are the best law. To implement the thoughts of the people the political leaders should have to fulfill the needs of people.
A new report by Corporate Accountability International uncovers how the World Bank uses ponzi-style marketing tactics to sell privatization projects around the globe that it is positioned to profit from.
TB is a crisis of epidemic proportions. In 2013, TB killed 1.5 million people out of the estimated 9.0 million people who developed it.
Globally, 370,000 million children are married every day. By 2020, an additional 142 million girls will be married before their 18th birthday.
Low expectations for the meeting between eight South-Asian SAARC heads of state in Kathmandu last week, and the pessimism was justified.
...More Nepal  

 

NewsBlaze Writers Of The Month


Popular Stories This Month

newsletter logo

landing page ad

NewsBlaze
Copyright © 2004-2014 NewsBlaze Pty. Ltd.
Use of this website is subject to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy  | DMCA Notice               Press Room   |    Visit NewsBlaze Mobile Site