Gai Jatra off to a vibrant start

Kathmandu, August 29:

Masked processions full of amusing acts and satires were taken out from different parts of the Kathmandu Valley to mark the Hindu festival of Gai Jatra today. Different organisations and clubs organised programmes satirising the current social system and politics.

Tradition has it that every family which has lost a member in the past one year should take part in the Gai Jatra procession led by a cow or a young boy disguised as a cow. Thousands of people took part in the procession at Hanumandhoka Durbar Square, Bhaktapur Durbar Square and Patan Durbar Square, paying tributes to their deceased family members.

After the procession, people gathered at different parts of the city and mocked the social injustice and made fun of the people. This is the only festival which comprises both the happy and sad aspects — commemorate the death and make merry at the same time.

Cultural expert Satya Mohan Joshi said that the festival has a religious, historical and social significance. “The Jatra has its roots in our Hindu religion, where Yama is considered as the God of death and the procession is held to praise him. Cows lead the procession; the cows being sacred animals are believed to aid the deceased during the journey to heaven,” said Joshi.

It is also said that the Gai Jatra festival started from the Malla period when a Malla king ordered people losing their family members within a year to organise Gai Jatra. The king intended to console his grief-stricken wife after their son’s death by doing so.

Despite the religious and historical significance, Gai Jatra is a festival to unmask the social follies and ridicule them, said Joshi.

A week, starting from today is celebrated as Gai Jatra festival, where people are free to comment on others’ follies, “Even during the Rana regime, people were free to ridicule the leaders for a week during Gai Jatra,” he said.