Gai Jatra Festival of Cow: Traditional Festival of Newars
Gai Jatra means a festival of the cow is a most important festival of Nepal, a Majorly Newar community in Kathmandu valley, as well as some places in out of the valley, celebrates this festival to commemorate the dead in the last year. It is a traditional festival for Newars and prevails in the three ancient cities in Nepal, namely, Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhaktapur. The details of the celebration may be different, but the core of the festival of cows is exactly the same. This Festival often falls in Nepali Month Bhadra (Aug.-Sep. in Solar Calendar) for 8 days. In this festival, you’ll have the chance to experience Nepali traditional singing, stick dancing, unique comedy, etc.
Historical Scenario of Nepali Gai Jatra
In the 17th century, Nepal Malla King Pratap Malla lost his young son. The queen was engrossed in the great misery and cried all day long. In order to make happy the queen up, the king begins the cow festival. The folks dressed in the colorful costumes and the decorated cows symbolized the dead this year. The king just wanted the queen to understand that she is not the only one who lost relatives and so many people have also lost their loved ones. Death is a natural phenomenon and no one can change it. The cow procession, drum music, masked dances became the highlights in this carnival. The queen eventually smiled and accepted the loss of her son.
Religious Connect of Gai Jatra
According to Hinduism, Yama, the God of Death, would send the black crows to guard the entrance to heaven on this day. Just outside the gate, most of the souls are waiting to accept Yama’s judge and their reincarnation is totally determined by the merits they have earned. In mythology, the road to heaven is extremely difficult to follow and the deceased still needs to go across the burning river. Most Nepalese believe that if their relatives could catch the cow’s tail, the journey to heaven would become much easier. And the gate of heaven is only open to the dead for only one day in the year. Therefore, every family who has lost loved ones during the last year must participate in this grand cow procession in Kathmandu.
What to do in Gai Jatra
Newars keep wash and clean their cow, especially cleaning their tails. Then the cows are decorated with red Tika and beautiful garlands. After those rituals, the cow processions begin to parade around the whole Kathmandu valley. If the cow is not available, young boys will dress up as cows to pray for the dead. And they have to move on parades with traditional music.
In the next aspect, artists are making a comedy, hummer, and satire
Photo Rights #Anumapa_Wagle