Gaijatra – a festival of cow and humor
‘Gaijatra’, a popular festival in Nepal, is celebrated in the month of August with great excitement and enthusiasm especially in Kathmandu valley. It is celebrated for clearing the route to heaven for the deceased family member. On this day, a cow or a child dressed up as a cow is taken in procession in the name of the dead and it is believed that the cow will help them in the journey of freedom into heaven. People also have fun on this day as they dress up in comic way and the political and social problems are mocked publicly.
Although Gaijatra is celebrated in all three districts of Kathmandu valley, viz Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur, it is enjoyed whole day in Bhaktapur in high spirits. Besides sending a child around the city, different other things are done in Bhaktapur. There is a special stick dance called “Ghintang Ghising” that is performed on this day.
It is like a street festival where everyone is performing and the festive atmosphere is everywhere. It is also celebrated as a social festival where the problems of the society are ridiculed and political satire is the most common medium of entertainment in this festival. Varieties of shows are staged for the whole week and people are thoroughly entertained in the process.
It is believed that Gaijatra started from the period of King Pratap Malla who had lost a son. This loss caused great sorrow to the queen and she stopped laughing. So the king ordered his people to take out a procession from each house who had lost their family member that year. He also ordered them to have as much fun as possible so that the queen would laugh. When the people took out the procession, the queen realized that lot of people had lost their dear ones just like she lost her son.
This helped to console the queen and the satires against the problems were so funny she burst into laughter. Since then the festival has been celebrated every year.