Kathmandu :

July 23 marked the Ghantakarna Chatu-rdashi, the day on which Gathemangal is observed.

This is a festival observed by the Newar community of the Valley and celebrates the exorcism of the demon Ghantakarna. The demon was so named because he wore bells (ghanta) on his ears (karna).

Legends also say that he wore these bells on his ears because he was an athiest and he didn’t want the name of any god to even fall upon his ears.

It is said that Ghantakarna was grotesque with his body painted red, blue and black. He had terrorised the Valley folk by stealing their children and womenfolk. So everyone was afraid to go out. One time, the rains came and went but the farmers were afraid to go out and work in their fields.

However, help came in the form of frogs. They croaked and croaked and croaked and Ghantakarna got so irritated with all the croaking that he tried to catch the frogs. But the wily frogs jumped in front of him and led him to a swamp where the demon drowned.

Thus, the Valley folk were freed from the terrors of Ghantakarna.

Gathemangal marks the death of Ghantakarna.

The lanes and the streets of the Capital are blocked by young children collecting money from passersby to raise an effigy of this mythical demon which is kept on a structure made of bamboo. A man impersonating Ghanatakarna goes around the neighbourhood. At the end of the day, this impersonator is placed on the bamboo poles and dragged to a nearby river and drowned (not literally but the drowning of Ghantakarna is enacted by this ritual).

The day also marks the beginning of the Newari festivals and the end of the sowing season.