The festival of Ghode Jatra falls between March and April every year. This festival takes place at Tudhikhel, central Kathmandu, which used to be the largest parade ground of Asia in former days. In the past, the Kings of Nepal used to go to Bhadrakali temple, accompanied by the living goddess- Kumari. This visit of the King and the Kumari to Bhadrakali temple, situated on the western side of Tundikhel, would have been accompanied by parades of horses. The horse races that take place on this day probably take inspiration from those horses’ parades. Earlier, this horse race was performed in front of the King, however with the removal of the monarchy system since 2008; this two hundred years old tradition has changed. At present, the horse race is performed in front of the head of nation, chief of the army, other dignitaries and foreign guests. Many citizens also come to see this horse race performed by Nepalese army personnel.
According to legend, there used to be a demon named Tundi who used to trouble the people of Kathmandu. The people killed him and buried him under the soil of Tudikhel. Every year horses trample over this legendry burial side so Tundi cannot rise again and trouble the people. It is said that the faster the horses run, the faster Tundi’s spirit could be dispelled. The faster the horses run, the better an omen it is for all Nepalese people. This festival was only for Kathmandu residents in the past, but now, people from all over Nepal can come and see this horse race.
A similar event takes place at Balkumari in Patan, because in the past, the people outside of Kathmandu could not observe this festival. So, the King of Patan organized a similar sort of event for the people of Patan. In their version, a drunken person in traditional Newari attire rides a horse which is intoxicated with spirits, and people scream to frighten the horse until it runs wildly, with the rider clinging to it.
Visitors can also see different cultural programs, gymnastics performances, firing of guns, acrobats and motorcycle displays on this very day. On the same night as Ghode Jatra, another jatra called Khat jatra, invoking eight sister goddesses who are believed to protect this city, is celebrated. The Newari people of the city celebrate this day as a day when families get together, called “Pachare” in their language. All eight sister goddesses are brought to Ason, an old part of the city, and worshipped by local people. People eat meat and garlic, and drink a lot and become intoxicated on this day. Bhadrakali is the most worshipped goddess on this day.
Ghode Jatra is the celebration of victory of good over an evil.