GAIJATRA | A CELEBRATION OF LIFE, DEATH, AND RENEWAL
GAIJATRA is a joyous festival of the Kathmandu Valley that celebrates cows and the impending abundance of the harvest season. Jatra in the Nepali language means “street festival” making the celebration of Gai Jatra a public and community affair. Gai Jatra festival, the procession of cows, generally falls in the month of Bhadra, which correspond to English calendar months of August/September.
However, the modern form of celebration of Gai Jatra came into existence in the medieval period of Nepal during the reign of Malla Kings. The present form of Gai Jatra with humorous acts, parody, comedy and was started by then King of Kathmandu Pratap Malla. He made Rani Pokhari (Pond) in the heart of Kathmandu and build a temple in the middle of the same pond.
Traditionally every family who had death in the family during the preceding year must participate in a procession through the streets of Kathmandu leading a cow. If a cow is unavailable then a young kid dressed as cow is considered a fair substitute. However, there started tradition of leading a cow with kids in funny costumes.
Pratap Malla, lost his very young son. His wife, the queen was in great misery. The king was very disappointed to see the condition of his queen. King after millions try could not make queen smile. Pratap announced that anyone who could make the queen laugh would be rewarded adequately.
Pratap Malla asked to bring the cow procession before the sad queen. Then people tried their best with different costumes and humorous acts. The dance and procession finally gave queen smile on her face. The smile at the moment was temporary but the procession gave queen a big relief. She knew that there are several death in the city during the period and she is not alone. Death is the natural phenomenon and no one has control on it.
Hence, from the day King Pratap Malla started the tradition of cow procession with boys with different funny make ups in funny costumes. The boys even put tails and make up like monkeys and Hunuman walk though the city road to show people that the death is the truth in the life and every one has to face it one day. The Gai Jatra tradition slowly developed into doing humorous acts including jokes, satires, mockery and lampoon in the Gai Jatra days.
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