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Gai Jatra: Celebration of Sorrow

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Among the various jatras celebrated in Nepal, Gai Jatra is one of them. It is the day when families commemorate the demise of their loved ones. It usually falls on the month of July or August. On 2019, it’s on August 16. As per the Nepali date, it’s on Shrawan 21, 2076. This festival is celebrated by the local Newar communities of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Lalitpur. In Nepal we have public holiday in these there valleys.

Gai Jatra was first performed during the reign of King Pratap Malla. When the prince Chakrabartendra Malla, his second eldest son passed away, queen went into depression and her days went wallowing in her misery. This made the king feel bad for her situation and had to come up with something to get her situation better. When all his attempts failed to bring her to normal, he asked to organize a parade where every family who suffered a loss of their loved ones in a year had to participate. They were ordered to wear funny colorful customs, which is usually inappropriate in common days. They were said to laugh, make funny jokes and enjoy their life. Many families participated and king showed that scenario to his wife and said that there were other many people who lost their loved ones but still are celebrating. This then made her realize that she wasn’t alone and her situation turned out to be better. She finally smiled that day. King being overwhelmed with happiness then announced Jai Jatra to be celebrated once every year.

Then that year onward on this day, families who lose their family member, show up on the street dressing in crazy flashy costumes. We can even observe men dressing in woman, people dressing in the dragon custom and performing crazy dance. This is celebrated in this way to share the sorrow, to ease the pain and get over the grief of losing their beloved ones. It is also the the tribute to the departed soul. Especially the participation of children is seen more. In Bhaktapur, the festival is celebrated for eight days long.

It is called Gai Jatra since they drag cow along with them and never the less they even dress their cow in a colorful manner. Cow being the holy animal, it is believed that the death one will hold the tail of cow which will help them to make their way to heaven.

Gai Jatra is the only day when you actually have fun with songs, dances and laughter remembering your loved ones that you lost in a year. Moreover, this festivals illustrates that death is a natural phenomenon and is a part of life. hence, we can say this to be a celebration of sorrow.