Good over evil. The notion present in every popular culture festival is, no doubt, a prominent factor that binds us all into a particular community. One such community-building festival is Ghantakarna or Gathe Mangal; widely celebrated by the Newar community in Nepal. The Newar community is one of the many ethnic communities of culturally rich Nepal.
Though there is a lack of historiography on the origins of the festival, it is believed to have been developed around the Licchavi period. Many folklores revolve around Ghantakarna. The most common legend describes Ghantakarna as a demon of whom the general collective were petrified. Ghantakarna derives its name from Ghanta meaning bells, and Karna describing ears, as the legend goes on that Ghantakarna had bells as its ears which chimed constantly with his movement. The horrifying appearance was made complete by the colors attributed to the demon’s body: red, blue, and black.
It is believed that the demon committed countless crimes, especially against women and children and there was widespread helplessness among the community because people were unable to resist anything due to the frightening appearance and acts of the demon. The myth also goes that the bells were worn by the demon to avoid the religious voices of the community.
The community was brought to relief when the “good” came to triumph over the “evil” in the form of a frog. The frog incessantly annoyed the demon and tricked him to jump into what looked like a body of water but was a swamp and marked the end of the demon Ghantakarna. Ghantakarna or Gathemangal festival emphasizes victory of good over evil, right over wrong, and over injustice. The Newari community celebrates the festival in July or August and the highlights are the Ghantakarna effigies made of hay and straw with a demon face attached, meant to be burned down. The festive day is marked by wearing iron rings, considered to be the protection against any evil spirit; warding off such spirits is also done by hammering three-legged nails on the door, and carrying out cleaning of the entire house. Tradition calls for people to stick some cow dung and burn some hay at different points of the house to purify their house and keep off the forces of evil and adversity.
The rituals and customs also have a fun aspect to them as families celebrate by cooking a particular dish known as Samaybaji, which consists of beaten rice, black soybeans, ginger, chhoila, potato, and garlic, sounds the best, right?
Festivals, however far away you might be, have instilled a sense of optimism and unity among people since time immemorial. So, it only makes sense to continue the traditions and foster a rich Newari culture. It might be overwhelming when you do not know where to look for things that feel at home, but don’t panic, because Foomantra has got you covered, with its range of products, from pooja samagris to clothing, art, and craft to musical instruments, you can head over for almost anything as distinct as your culture.