Ghanta Karna (also called Ghanta Karna Chaturdasi, GhantaKarna and Gathe Mangal) is a Newari festival celebrating the defeat of the mythical demon Ghanta-karna (“bell-ears”) or “Gatha-Mungal” in local Newari language. According to the legend, a demon named Ghantakarna terrorized the villagers by stealing the children and women of the village. He used to demand money and other gifts from the villagers. His body was painted in red, blue and black and he wore a pair of bells on his ears. He looked very scary and every time he moved, the bells jingled. He got his name from the bells on his ears, i.e. Ghanta meaning ‘bell’ and Karna meaning ‘ears’.
The farmers were scared of him and seldom went out. Even during the season of plantation, they did not dare to go out. They were helpless and disappointed. However, one day, a large number of frogs came to the village and began to croak near Ghantakarna’s place. He became furious but the frogs did not stop. They croaked even louder and when he tried to catch them, they jumped into the water. He, too, jumped into the water without realizing that it was a swamp and soon started to drown. The frogs swarmed around his head and he drowned to death. In this way, the frogs saved the village and the villagers from the demon.
Dummies of the demons are erected at street crossroads. People place pots of cooked rice at such intersections for him.. The children in each neighborhood collect money from the passerby to make an effigy of the demon god. This effigy is erected in the center of a rough tent-like structure and one man disguises himself as Ghantakarna by smearing himself with white paint and roaming around the area collecting blessings from the people. The effigy is then taken to the river and burnt representing the victory of locals over the demon god.
People celebrate the festival by playing traditional musical instruments and they return home only after burning the demon, When the devil is about to be taken away from the community, females clean all the houses and burn incense for purification.
On this day, people also wear metal rings called gathemangal ko aunthi. This Ring is believed to have the power to safeguard people from all ills and evil spirits. . Before nightfall, the locals hammer three legged nails onto the door lintels to scare away the ghosts. There are various legends and myths attached to the Ghanta Karna devil that is revered as well as feared. Children make dummies of ghantakarna is made of bamboo, branches of plants and dry maze plant. When somebody passes by the side of the effigy the children collect money from them in the name of Ghanta Karna. Anybody hesitates to give the money the children being to shout calling him the grandson of the demon -“see the grandson of Gathe Mangal coming!” This day marks the beginning of the one-month long Lakhe Naach.