Gai Jatra has a historical and social significance in Nepal. Mostly celebrated in Kathmandu valley by the Newar community, today, Gai Jatra is held nationwide and is marked as a public holiday.
~Origin & History~
Gai Jatra (Nepali: गाईजात्रा, & Newari: सापारु) is the festival of cows celebrated mainly in Kathmandu valley by the Newar and Tharu community. The word Gai stands for a Cow and Jatra for a festival. Held on the 5th month of Hindu calender, Bhadra (August-September), the festival is observed with joy, along with relishing the monsoon rain. This year it falls on 11 of August.
It is said. people in ancient time started worshiping Yamaraj, “The God of Death,” of Hindu mythology, on this day.
The modern form of celebration of Gai Jatra came into existence during the time of Malla Kingdom. The present form of Gai Jatra which is performed with humorous acts, parody and comedy was started by the then King Pratap Malla of Kathmandu.
The legend goes as;
Pratap Malla’s son died at the tender age. His consort was in great misery. The king, disappointed to see her faltering condition, tried many things to cheer her up but failed miserably. He then announced that anyone who could make the queen laugh would be rewarded adequately. Therefore, he asked to bring the cow procession before the sad queen. People of the city tried donning different costumes and doing humorous acts. The theatrics finally made her smile.
Though, it is suggested that the smile was only for some time, the procession did gave queen a big relief.
Today, people from every household in Kathmandu don costumes and process throughout the street. Feasting is held widely and Comedians are well known for performing on this day for others’ amusement.
Foreigners visiting Nepal during the months of August and September are suggested not to miss this grand event.