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Gathe Mangal, the festival to chase away evil spirits abserved

Devotees watch as a straw effigy of Ghanta Karna burns during celebrations of Hindu festival of Gathemangal, in Bhaktapur. Photo: Nepal Mountain Focus
Devotees watch as a straw effigy of Ghanta Karna burns while others carry another one during celebrations of Hindu festival of Gathemangal, in Chunikhel of Kathmandu. Photo: Nepal Mountain Focus

KATHMANDU, Nepal- The Newar community of the Kathmandu Valley observed Gathe Mangal, a festival celebrated to chase away evil spirits and usher in good fortunes, with much fanfare on Monday.

The Newar people say they celebrate Gathe Mangal to bar Ghanta-Karna, a mythological demon, from entering their houses and keep themselves, especially children, safe from diseases.

On the occasion, a variety of traditional foods is cooked by the Newar people. They usually celebrate it within their tole to protect the whole tole-inhabitants.

On the day of the festival, they place beaten rice, rock sugar, blood and lungs of animal, egg, among others, on a small plate and keep it at a road intersection close to their homes.

The Newar people also wear iron rings in their fingers in the faith that the rings will protect them from demons. They also make an effigy of the demon Ghantakarna using straw, which is also called Narkat in Newari language.

And a man from every tole imitates Ghantakarna by painting himself with different colors and roaming the streets and begging for money from all the houses.

At the end of the day, the person imitating Ghantakarna collects everyone´s Narkot and burns them and throws the remains into a nearby river. That person must bath in the river before entering the house. Finally, people eat Samay Baji, a traditional dish of Newar community.

According to culture experts, the Gathe Mangal festival dates back to the Lichhavi period. There are no clear views about how the demon Ghanta Karna looked because it looks like god Bhairab, one of the forms of Lord Shiva. On this day, people also worship lord Nawa-Durga in Bhaktapur.

Whatsoever be the cultural beliefs, but the festival has some social benefits in it as on the day, people used to clean their homes and garden specially, which protect them from snakes or other dangerous creatures. While burning the Narkat, it emits huge amount of smokes which help to minimize the mosquito and other harmful files.

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