Gai Jatra is a uniquely celebrated festival for the commemoration of the loved ones who passed away in the last year. Gai Jatra – Gai means cow and Jatra means festival. This Gai Jatra day falls on the first dark fortnight of Gunla in Bhadra month of Nepal Era Calendar. On this day, the people are seen marching with cows ahead and dressed in colorful costumes especially read and gold; put make-up or paints or wear masks to mourn and remember the happiness shared with the loved ones. The procession starts with the belief that the cow, the holy animal will assist the relatives of deceased ones to reach heaven. People worship the God of Death - Yamaraj on this day. The musicians play flutes, drums and trumpets creating a noisy environment. The street vendors also line up to vend the sweet and spicy snacks to the crowds.
Gai Jatra was actually initiated in the medieval period by Late King Pratap Malla lost his son and his queen was grief-stricken for a long time. He tried to convince her and decrease her grief in different ways but at last, he thought of doing a procession led by a cow in honor of the deceased ones by all the bereaved families. If a cow cannot be brought, the son of the family should dress like a cow as a fair substitute. Nowadays the photograph of the expired member is carried during the procession. According to the order of the king, the procession was done throughout the streets of Kathmandu passing just before the queen. At that time, she realized that she is not the only one who is facing the grief of losing loved ones. The participants started telling jokes and mocking the important persons of the society and ridiculing them. The queen finally smiled and this became a tradition since then.
The bereaved families try to stop lamenting and accept the crude reality of death. This is why Gai Jatra festival is filled with music, humor, satire and mockery to alleviate their pain of losing their family member. Gai Jatra is always considered a healthy festival that helps the people to forget their sorrows and start a new life beginning with smiles and joy. Celebrated especially in Katmandu, Bhaktapur and Lalitpur areas of Nepal, the Gai Jatra festival is nowadays a peculiar festive to enjoy organizing dramas, mockery related laughter programs, dances and concerts. Gai Jatra is not only a festival but also a day that converts grieves and sorrows to laughter and fun to enjoy the amazing colors of life.
Author: Step On Himalaya
Date: 27th August, 2018