Local Lore of the Ghode Jatra Festival, Part 1
On March 27 2018, the Tundikhel ground in central Kathmandu will reverberate to the thundering beat of many hooves, as a score and more magnificent steeds race one another. The skilled riders will demonstrate their excellent horsemanship by putting them through their paces and displaying some amazing feats. The occasion of Ghode Jatra (Parade of Horses) is an annual event in the capital in which the army’s cavalry participates in front of an audience of high dignitaries, including the head of state and the Prime Minister.
So, what’s the myth behind this spectacular spectacle? Naturally, since it is a capital-centric festival, the story has its origins in Kathmandu. And, besides being quite a lengthy one, its one tall tale, let me warn you!
There’s a place called Kutumbahal in old Kathmandu where once lived a shrewd businessman called Kesh Chandra. Although he had admirable business acumen, the fellow also had a penchant for gambling. As is the case with most habitual gamblers, it wasn’t long before he had gambled everything away. Seeking help, he went to visit his elder sister, whose husband was a wealthy man. Unaware of her brother’s plight, she was delighted to see him, and made him sit down for dinner.
She served a variety of delicious food on a plate of gold, such was her status, and her affection for her brother. Kesh Chandra was hungry, no doubt, and ate heartily, but his eyes were transfixed on the golden plate. After having had his fill of the food, he somehow managed to steal the plate without his sister knowing about it. And then, it was back to the gambling den again for another joust with lady luck.
Well, she didn’t look upon him kindly, and he lost the golden plate, too. So, next day, it was back to the rich sister once again. His sister, in the meanwhile, had discovered his thievery, but decided to keep quiet about it. Sensing this, Kesh Chandra was somewhat shame-faced.
Again, he was served a delicious meal, this time on a silver plate, which he could not resist stealing, so desperate was he. The poor fellow seemed to have completely lost favor with lady luck, for this too he lost on the gambling table. Over the following days he wandered around here and there, not knowing what to do. He was penniless, and growing more desperate by the day. Unable to contain his hunger any longer, he again returned to his sister’s house, where he apologized profusely for his dastardly actions. This time around, his sister was not so forgiving, yet she could not refuse to give him food. However, now she simply dropped the food on the ground, not bothering to put it on a plate.
She meant to teach her brother a good lesson, but so humiliated was Kesh Chandra that he refused to eat the food. Instead, he gathered the rice on the ground, and bundling it in a piece of cloth, went off on his way. In this manner, exhausted, and with a growling stomach and the bundle of rice in his hand, he decided to rest under a banyan tree on the way to Swoyambhunath.
Filled with remorse and self-loathing, he eventually fell fast asleep in the cool shade of the tree, on the branches of which perched numerous pigeons. Their sharp eyes soon detected the rice in the bundle of cloth, and one at a time, had a nip at it. Naturally, with so many pigeons around, the rice was gone in no time at all, and the sated birds once again took up their respective positions on the branches. But then, these were no ordinary pigeons, for lo and behold, to thank Kesh Chandra for his rice, they started showering him with golden eggs!
Waking up, the fellow could not believe his eyes—golden eggs raining down on him! He hastily began gathering them and bundled them in the cloth. So, now he had a bundle of golden eggs instead of discarded rice. Luck was coming around in his favor at last, or that’s what he thought. He picked up the bundle, or at least tried to, and found that it was too heavy to carry. In fact, he could barely lift it from the ground.
As he was struggling with this unexpected dilemma, he spied a giant demon with a very big head full of matted red hair coming his way. As this monstrous figure came closer, he noticed that it had extremely large, sharp protruding teeth. He was huge, towering over Kesh Chandra, and around his massive neck was strung a necklace of wooden faces. The demon had bulbous hands and feet, and as it neared, it exclaimed in delight, “Ahh, at last! Here’s my meal for the day!”
What happened next? You’ll have to wait for part 2, coming soon!
Top image: Stephen Bugno/Flickr
Inspired by tours where you can see festivals like this? Have a look at festival tours offered by Royal Mountain Travel: