KATHMANDU, Aug 8: The traditional festival Gaijatra also known as the ‘cow festival’ is being observed today in three cities of Kathmandu Valley and some other parts of the country amidst fun, gaiety, humor, satire and entertainment. The festival is mainly celebrated by the Newar and Tharu community.
During this time-honored tradition, people of all ages in the guise of cows and lunatics go around the city, wearing odd costumes to commemorate those who died during the past year. The bereaved families offer fruits, bread, beaten rice, curd and money to those participating in the procession including the cows.
As the saying goes, the festival derives its name from the religious belief that the deceased, during their journey to heaven, crosses a legendary river by grabbing the tail of a cow.
The whole complex of Gai Jatra festival has its roots in the ancient ages when people feared and worshiped Yamaraj, the god of death. However, the ironic sessions synonymous with the GaiJatra festival entered the tradition in the medieval period of Nepal during the reign of the Malla Kings. It is believed that King Pratap Malla, who, in a bid to console his queen, much grieved at the death of her son in a smallpox epidemic, ordered his people to organize humor and satire programs in various comic postures.
The tradition has continued in the form of the Gaijatra festival during which people also give vent to pent-up feelings towards social and political anomalies, human follies and other contemporary affairs through comic skits, cartoons and the like.
Newspapers and magazines also bring out special humor and satire supplements to mark the occasion.
The day is a public holiday in Kathmandu Valley. Apart from Kathmandu Valley, the festival is also observed in Banepa, Dhulikhel, Trishuli, Dolakha, Khotang, Bhojpur, Chainpur, Ilam, Dharan, Biratnagar, Birgunj, Hetauda and Pokhara. RSS
Photos: Mukunda Kalikote