Even though horse racing dates back thousands of years, the sport isn’t spread evenly in terms of popularity all around the world. When we talk about horse racing, we immediately think about the United Kingdom or the United States, as countries where the sport flourishes.
However, there are still some countries under the radar that have a rather rich horse racing tradition, well embedded into their roots.
Such a country is Nepal. Nepal is located in South Asia situated in the Himalayas and due to the incredible geo-location; the country is rich with incredible scenery. Nepal is a country full of traditions and a land of joy and cultural wonders.
It is the perfect travel destination for everyone that likes to experience diverse cultures translated through its vast selection of festivals.
Since we are talking about horse racing in Nepal, it is time to reflect on some of the horse racing festivals that have a deeper meaning behind them.
Horse Racing in Nepal
Even though Nepal isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when we talk about horse racing and the country is not well established on a professional horse racing level, this doesn’t mean that they don’t have a rich tradition involving horses.
So, in order to reflect on their horse racing tradition, we have to dig a bit deeper and find out what are the main attractions that every horse racing enthusiast must visit.
The biggest and most important festival of horse racing also known as Ghode Jatra is organized in mid-March or early April, and it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Nepal.
On that day, everything stops and celebrates the bond between humans and these majestic animals through parades and games that take place at Tudikhel. In this event, people can guess between the free horse racing picks, tips, and expert predictions to know who will be crowned champion.
The story behind this carnival is very interesting and it didn’t start as a horse racing event. At first, the Kings of Kathmandu used to worship the Bhadrakali temple in a procession following the Living Goddess Kumari. This event (visit) was later modified to be a horse racing parade, and a few years down the line it was transformed again into horse athletics and horse racing competition as it is a present.
Decades ago, the festival attracted only the residents of Kathmandu, but now it has turned into a big tradition and everyone in Nepal and many people from other countries come to visit this interesting event involving horses.
However, the use of horses isn’t a coincidence. This festival is held in order to celebrate the victory over a demon called Tundi. This was a powerful beast that everyone was scared of, so when he died, people began to dance over his body on horses. It is believed that the sound of the horse’s hooves keeps the spirit of the demon at the bay.
It is also believed that the faster that the horses run, the quicker the spirit of Tundi will disperse, which helps to turn this event into a huge competition.
Be aware, however, that horse race betting is illegal in Nepal. Every year police apprehend a lot of illegal betting rackets and it is punishable by law.
According to the Nepalese Gambling Act of 2020: “He/ She shall be liable to a fine not exceeding Two Hundred Rupees for committing the offense for the first time, an imprisonment from one month to three months for the second time and an imprisonment of One year from third time.”. So, if you are a foreigner visiting Nepal, you should stay away from waging money on these events.
Professional Horse Racing Events
Even though Nepal has a rich culture with horses, it is still not present at a professional level like we’ve seen in other countries like China, France, or United States. The people that live in Nepal have been around horses all of their lives and created a special bond with these animals.
However, when it comes to taking horse racing more seriously and turning it into a competition, Nepal isn’t a country with a rich professional horse racing tradition.
There are no official race tracks, and even though there is a school for horse riding and equestrian skills, people that go there usually learn how to ride horses and not race them professionally in events.
With that said, as a horse racing enthusiast you can still find plenty of horse attractions since these animals are well embedded into their tradition. However, they are celebrated in a different way and the only chance to browse some horse racing in Nepal is if you attend some of the many festivals during the year when they gather with horses and do many fun-to-watch activities.
In other words, visiting Nepal won’t disappoint you in any way, especially if you are a horse racing enthusiast and manage to travel to Nepal during some of their highly celebrated festivals.