Gai Jatra marked with gaiety

Bhaktapur, August 20:

Bizarre as it may seem, but youngsters of Bhaktapur were playing with bamboo sticks for a purpose. They were playing with the sticks to inform the Yamaraj, the god of death, that the souls of their relatives were waiting in his gate. The Newars of Bhaktapur believe that unless the Gai Jatra is celebrated, the souls of the people, who died this year, will not be adjudicated in the court of Yamaraj. Thousands of people from the Valley had poured into Bhaktapur to see the Gai Jatra, a festival full of humour and satire. Funny dances, fanciful attires, and whimsical characters are some of the major attractions of the festival. In Bhaktapur, the Gai Jatra is celebrated for eight consecutive days. The first day of the festival holds a special significance. The family members of the dead take a parade of cows, which could be a real one or one made of bamboos. Sometimes, people dress up as cows to do the job. After clothing the cows properly, a procession is taken around the streets.

The festival thrills the locals and the foreigners alike. “The festival begins early in the morning and ends when an image of lord Bhairav, which is made of hay, is taken out,” said Hari Ram Munankarmi, a local. “People dance and play different kinds of music throughout the procession,” he added. Humourous dramas are also enacted in city theatres on the occasion. Newspapers and magazines are filled with cartoons and funny photos. It is a festival in which social injustice is brought to light in a funny way. History has it that King Pratap Malla ordered the people to take out a procession to make his grief-stricken queen come over the loss of their son. Dressing up as clowns, people made everyone laugh and, at the same time, made the queen realise that everyone has to die one day. Since then, the Gai Jatra has become a part of Nepali culture. The king also started a tradition of cracking jokes and satires during the festival. The festival ends on the Bhadra Krishna Astami.