Ghantakarna figurine is set ablaze to mark the victory over evil powers. Photos: Shahin Sunuwar Rasaili/Republica
Ghantakarna Chaturdasi, also known as Gathemangal, is celebrated every year on Shrawan Krishna Chaturdashi. This festival is celebrated to mark the killing of a demon, Ghantakarna, who used to kill humans. Newars celebrate this festival for protection against demons and evil spirits. On this day, old and young generation work together to erect an effigy from materials like green reeds or hay straw. These effigies, placed at the crossroads, symbolize the demon Ghantakarna. The festival ends when the hay figurines are burnt to ashes.
At Bhaktapur, people were seen swinging their children toward the blazing fire. It is believed that doing so would keep the children safe from disease and would prevent enuresis among children.
There are various legends associated with the festival. Om Dhaubhadel explained, “In ancient time there used to be a demon named Gathemangal in Nepal. He hated those who believed in god and truth. He used to kill people. It was his regular task, to wait at the crossroads and eat anything and ask people who passed through the crossroad for money. He would kill and eat those who could not offer him money, and also rape women. One day when he asked a frog to show him the way to the human settlement. The frog showed him the way to a muddy river where he collapsed. When the people saw him helpless, they threw stones and hit him with sticks until he died.” He added that hitting the Ghantakarna effigy with sticks represented the event of his downfall.
Burning of the haystack is a representation of victory over evil.
Burning of the hay stack, representing Ghantakarna, has been in practice since ancient times.
Parents swing their children into the burning flames with hopes of curing their children’s diseases and preventing enuresis.
A man poses in front of ‘Ghatakarna’ for a quick selfie.
Locals of Bhaktapur constructing a hay imitation of Ghantakarna.