Friday, August 5, 2016

Gathe Mangal- The Metal Day


Co-authored by Sajana Bhadel and Amanda Summers

Are you the kind of person who likes superstition? Can you walk under a ladder or cross the path of a black cat? If not, you'll enjoy this festival. Parents swing their children through the fire as the effigy burns to release demons and bad karma, like a fresh start. Everyone joyfully follows the straw figure down to the river to be done with negative energy, such are some of traditions during this lively festival.


Gathe Mangal, or Ghantakarna Chaturdashi, is a festival celebrated generally in the month of Shrawan, June/July. We have a special puja/offering to demons, serpents and other supernatural and natural elements like wind, water and fire to get rid of evils powers and the legendary demons. There is a belief among Nepalese that there used to be a Demon named Ghantakarna, a legendary demon who spread havoc against the people. Although this festival is celebrated throughout Nepal, Changunarayan celebrates it in its own, particular style, with even nearby villages having their own traditions.

Nepalese people started celebrating this festival to help survive from the demon attacks. People make hay dummies of the demon, "Ghantakarna," and erect them on side roads; then they set the effigy on fire. This festival is celebrated differently according to the beliefs and culture of the various villages. People make a human-like figure to ressemble a demon; they put a claypot on top to give the shape of a head. Then they decorate it much like westerners make a snowman. 



On this day, people also wear metal rings called “ gathemangal ko aunthi” which literally means the 'ring of metal,' worn for protection from all evil spirits. During the evening, people hammer three legged nails onto the door to keep out all the negativities and evil spirits from the house. We believe the house is purified when we have cow’s dung with different plants and medicinal herbs stuck on the door. The women hammer three legged nails and stick this small patch of dung on their door, they burn wheat hay with different weeds to take away the ills from every corner of the house. One person holds the burning wheat hay and the other drags a broom, which sweeps the demons from the house.

A villagers all gather together and make a dummy of Ghantakarna with various weeds and the clay pot on the top as the head. They draw a nice face on pot. Then, it is burned when all the people are gathered with their puja and their own, personal, hay figure. 


There are different shout outs during the session like “Aaju Jay Haa, Om Shanti Nepal,” a prayer for daily sustainance.

It’s not clearly stated just when this festival got started, although the earliest mention is during the Licchavi era, possibly as far back as 300 A.D. There are myths and stories about this festival. The demon,Ghantakarna, had a pair of bells on his ears used to terrify people with his scarey face. He was called Ghanta (Bell) Karna (Ears) to identify him by the bells on his ears. It is believed that this demon was killed by the clever frog, so Newar communities worship the frog on this day. There is still contradictory on whether Ghantakarna was a demon or a god as Hindus worship him as a devotee of Lord Shiva, while Buddhists have their own beliefs and celebrations surrounding this festival.


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