Gaijatra is one of the most popular among numerous festivals celebrated in Nepal. This festival is mainly celebrated by Newar community within the valley which includes Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur. However, it has begun to be celebrated as a places outside the valley but not as grand as in the valley.
The term ‘Gaijatra’ also called ‘Sa Paru’ is made with the combination of two different terms: Gai meaning cow and Jatra meaning street festival or Carnival. More than the festival of cows, Gaijatra has wide deep sense. But, of course it has jatra with laughter, joy, mirth, singing and dancing.
When is it celebrated?
The festival has no certain fixed date. However, it falls in the month of Bhadra (according to Nepali calendar) or in August-September (according to International calendar). The date is fixed based on the lunar Nepal calendar, the national lunar calendar of Nepal. In the month of Gunla (Nepal Bhasa: The 10th month in the Nepal Sambat), the first day of the 4 dark nights is celebrated as Gaijatra.
Why is it celebrated?
Gaijatra is celebrated to commemorate the demise of the dear ones of family. It is celebrated to share the common sorrow of every family which they had been facing by losing the loved ones from their lives. The gathering of large number of people in jatra help each other relief by knowing everyone has lost their dear ones and it is everyone’s common sorrow. In the gathering, they don’t keep grieving, rather they come in different funny costumes and getups and do the things that would help let go their sorrow or misery and ease the pain.
Since when is it celebrated?
The celebration of the festival began in the 17th century during the Malla Era. While one of the most eminent of the Malla kings, King Pratap Malla was ruling over the state, one of his sons which used to be the favourite of the queen died at a very young age. The queen was devastated and could not come out of grief even after many months of demise. The king could not see her depressed. So, to take her out of the grief and make her smile again, he planned to organize a parade. He set a rule where at least one member of a family which had lost a member in the family in the preceding year had to participate and requested them to participate wearing different funny costumes and make-ups. They could either bring cows decorating them or bring young kids dressed-up as cows instead. The jatra went so good so far and the queen smiled again. Since that day Gaijatra is celebrated every year in the valley to put aside the grief of loss of their loved ones and smile again.
How is it celebrated?
Previously it was celebrated by making huge people participation in funny dress-ups and make-ups, wearing mask like cow’s face, putting on tails and roaming around the city singing and dancing. Slowly people developed doing humorous acts including jokes and satires, mockery and lampoon on politics, government as well as rulers.
Reaching to the present days, new flavours are added in the traditional values. During the kingship or autocracy in the country, people were not allowed to speak about or against the politics, the system or the rulers. But, on the day of Gaijatra, artists were given the liberty to satire or point on the system, rulers, or the government. Also, in present day’s Gaijatra people react upon bad deeds, Satire the system and suggest for the correction.
-Article written by: Anu Wasti for Land Nepal