August 11th 2014: GAI JATRA FESTIVAL, NEPAL

Gai Jatra, known as the festival of cows is one of the most popular in Nepal, (gai means cow and jatra means festival in Nepali) and is celebrated mainly in the Kathmandu Valley by the Newar community. The festival commemorates the death of people during the year. During the festival, cows are marched in the streets and generally celebrated in the Nepalese month of Bhadra (this year on August 11th 2014). It falls on the 1st day of the dark fortnight according to the lunar Nepal Era calendar.

According to the traditions, every family who has lost one relative during the past year must participate in a procession through the streets in the main cities or even the remotest villages of the Valley leading a cow. If a cow is unavailable then a young boy dressed as a cow is considered a fair substitute.

After the procession is over, in the afternoon, nearly everyone takes part in another age-old tradition in which the participants dress up and wear masks. The occasion is filled with songs and jokes. Mockery and humor of every kind become the order of the day until late evening.  Gai Jatra enables people to accept the reality of death and to prepare themselves for life after death. According to Hinduism: “whatever a man does in his life is a preparation leading to a good life after death”.