Gai Jatra: The Procession of Sacred Cow

Gai Jatra, very much like a carnival, begins on the day after full moon day of August September. Paratap Malla, a king of Malla Dynasty, is said to have started the conversion of celebrating the festival in the eighteenth century to console his bereaved queen by showing her that every householder is compelled to depart with his/her kinsfolk.

Then eight day festival beings when the householders whose family members have died within the year, send a small procession consisting of people impersonating cows, a priest and and band of traditional musicians. Along the traditionally prescribed path march gorgeously costumed boys representing cows closely followed by the family priest and a band of traditional musicians. The cows procession is sent thus to arrest the departed souls to get to the heavenly abode as it is believed that it has to cross a river called Vaitarani, the river of fire, blood and pun. It is believed that, one should, cross the river with the help of the cows.

Almost all the house holders of the way offer home-brewed beer, breads and coins to participants of the processions when it passes by presenting pantomimes of various activities like planting rice, sowing seeds, tilling land etc. amidst the defining choir of traditional musical feasting in the houses of the bereaved.

The festival takes a different turn after the feast. IT takes the form of a carnival. Laughter and mirth dominate the whole atmospheres. Many bands of musicians and actors perform various acts in chowks (Yards) and ancient place squares. Mostly they burlesque established institutions authorities, the government, political parties, leaders and other prominent Person. Such a full fledged freedom reminds one of the ‘speakers corner’ of London. Anyone is free to criticize of satirize anybody or any institution. Newspapers also publish special issues making full use of the freedom granted during the festival.


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