Gai Jatra festival in the Kathmandu valley
Gai Jatra, (means ‘cow festival’ in Nepali) is a festival celebrated in the Kathmandu valley by the Newar community.
This Hindu festival commemorates those who have died during the year and is celebrated on the first day of the dark fortnight of the month of Bhadra, which means it usually falls in August or September.
During Gaijatra it is a practice that any family who has lost a relative during the last year participates in a procession through the streets of Kathmandu, leading a cow. If a cow is unavailable, then a young boy dressed as a cow is allowed.
In Hinduism, a cow is regarded as the most venerated of all the domestic animals. It is said that the cow, will assist a deceased relative on their journey to heaven.
One story about the festival is when the 17th century King Pratap Malla lost his son; the queen was grief-stricken. To show his wife that death is a natural part of life, he called on his people to hold a carnival if someone has died in their family. Many people answered this call which helped the queen by showing that she was not alone in her grief and that all those who participated in the festival had also lost a loved one.
In the 18th century, during the Malla dynasty, Gai Jatra began in Kathmandu. The credit goes to King Pratap Malla in the beginning. When King and Queen lost their son untimely, Queen became so sad and spent days and days sitting and weeping just at the memory of her son. King asked people to parade in the street all the families who have lost their family members.
Then, in the Gai Jatra festival, there was a huge parade in the city that King and Queen observed it. The Queen consoled herself that she was not only the mother who lost the children, but many families have lost their nearest and dearest ones. The celebration of Gai Jatra can be seen in Kathmandu Durbar Square, Patan Durbar Square, and Bhaktapur Durbar Square. Newari communities, mostly celebrate this tradition. The Nepal Government announces holiday on the day of Gai Jatra