Gai Jatra Festival in Nepal
Gai Jatra is a famous festival celebrated to commemorate the death of their family members. People also pass funny comments on the Government's funny moves.
Gai Jatra falls on the first day of Gunla dark four nights as per Nepalese lunar Calendar ( in July or August ). The Newari community of Kathmandu valley celebrate it to commemorate the death of their loved ones.
People popularly believe that the doors of heaven are open on this day and people can easily enter heaven hiding behind the cow. Since, Hindu people revered cows as the goddess of wealth and believe it as an incarnation of goddess Laxmi. Gai Jatra is also famous as the cow festival.
After people celebrate the Cow festival, they find comfort in knowing that their loved ones are safe in heaven.
Every family who has experienced a death of their family member in the previous year participates in this festival/ritual. One of the children from the family dress as cows and parade through the streets in a predefined path. That is how the tradition of leading a cow with children dressed in amusing costumes began.
History Of Gai Jatra
The origins of this festival can be traced back to the reign of the Malla rulers. King Pratap Malla and his beloved wife were grieving over their young son’s untimely death. Though the king recovered from the grief, his queen couldn’t let go of her beloved prince’s memories. Even after millions of attempts, the king was unable to make the queen smile.
So, King Pratap Malla declared that anyone who makes the queen laugh would be adequately rewarded. People then organized the Cow Festival and performed various comedic acts.
After seeing so many families who lost their loved ones marching outside the palace wearing various attires, the queen realized that she wasn’t the only one who lost her family member. She also realized that death was inevitable.
Gai Jatra in Kathmandu
Handed over by King Pratap of the Malla dynasty, Kathmandu still celebrated the Cow Festival with great joy. It's one of the most vibrant festivals in Kathmandu. Small children dressed as a cow along with people wearing masks and face paints joke around and complete the holy-walk in the memory of their ancestors.
Gai Jatra in Lalitpur
Gai Jatra is not famous in Lalitpur. It has lesser involvement compared to the rest of the cities in the valley.
Gai Jatra in Bhaktapur
The Newari community of Bhaktapur celebrates this festival with music and traditional dance. A chariot made out of bamboo, wrapped with cloth is navigated through a predefined street. They carry a photo of the deceased pasted in the center of the chariot. These chariots locally known as 'Taha-Machas' are brought out from various areas in Bhaktapur. In Particular, Taha-Machas of Lakolachhen is led by a leading bamboo chariot covered in straws.
Ghintang Ghisi is a cultural dance they perform alongside Taha-Machas. In this festival, men wear women's clothes named Haku Patasi. They walk around with face paint and masks, dressed in an amusing manner. Children dress up as Gods and march in the parade as well.
So, Gai Jatra in Bhaktapur is more colorful than the rest of the cities in the valley. It is one of the most beautiful cultural experiences for people new to the Newari community.
Gai jatra In Kirtipur
The people of Kirtipur also celebrate Gai Jatra in their own unique way. According to Kirtipur residents, the gates of heaven opens on this day. If they celebrate Gai Jatra, the souls of their deceased family members find a holy cow who will lead them through the doors of heaven.
In Gai Jatra, Newari people of Kirtipur parade dressed as gods and goddesses rather than cows. Here, people celebrate this festival not only in memory of their deceased relatives but also to promote peace and harmony among family members..
National Level celebration
Gai Jatra also has been a day to satirically criticize the political system and governance in Nepal. Gai Jatra albums, comics, and books still remain one of the nation’s most common best selling collections. On this day, comedians and various famous figures jokingly pass comments on the government and its smaller mistakes to make people laugh.
Even in Rana and King’s regime, this day was allocated as a day of public feedback. Though there were rules that forbade people from criticizing the government. On this day, Nepal’s tradition allows them to pass comments even to these powerful dictators. Back then, people enjoyed the freedom of speech for a day on Gai Jatra.
So, anyone visiting the Kathmandu valley shouldn’t miss out on the graceful festival of Gai Jatra. This festival can give you a glimpse of the old Newari culture. It also shows the importance of Cow in the Hindu religion.