Travels :: Festivals
The festival of "Gai Jatra", the procession of cows, is generally
celebrated in the Nepalese month of Bhadra (August-September). The festival
of cows is one of the most popular festivals of Nepal. The whole complex
of Gai Jatra festival has its roots in the ancient age when people feared
and worshipped Yamaraj,"the god of death". However, the ironical
sessions synonymous with the Gai Jatra festival came into tradition in the
medieval period of Nepal during the reign of Malla Kings. Hence, the present
form of Gai Jatra is a happy blending of antiquity and medievalism.
According to the traditions since times immemorial, every family who
has lost one relative during the past year must participate in a procession
through the streets of Kathmandu leading a cow. If a cow is unavailable
then a young boy dressed as a cow is considered a fair substitute. In
Hinduism, a cow is regarded as the most venerated among all the domestic
animals. It is believed that the cow, revered as a holy animal by Hindus,
will help the deceased relative's journey to heaven.
In terms of historical evidences, once when King Pratap Malla lost his
son, his wife, the queen remained dumbstruck. The king was very sad to
see the condition of his beloved queen. The king, in spite of his several
efforts, could not lessen the grief of his wife. By all means he wanted
to see little smile on the lips of his sweetheart. He announced that someone
who ever made the queen laugh would be rewarded adequately.
During the festival of Gai Jatra, the cow procession was brought before
the griefstricken queen. Then the participants began ridiculing and befooling
the important people of the society. Finally when the social injustice
and other evils were highlighted and attacked mercilessly, the queen could
not stop smiling. The queen laughed, and Pratap Malla, the king ensued
a tradition of including jokes, satires,mockery and lampoon in the Gai
After the procession is over, in the afternoon, nearly everyone takes
part in another age-old tradition in which the participants dress up and
wear masks. The occassion is filled with songs,jokes, mockery and humour
of every kind become the order of the day until late evening. Hence, Gai
Jatra is a healthy festival which enables the people to accept the reality
of death and to prepare oneself for the life after death. According to
Hinduism,"whatever a man does in his life is a preparation to lead
a good life, after death".
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