Gai Jatra, also known as Festival of Cow is one of the festivals in Nepal which celebrated across the nation and Nepalese community all over the world. ‘Gai’ refers to cow and ‘Jatra’ roughly translate to carnival. Cows also represent Laxmi- the goddess of wealth in Hinduism. It is believed that she guides the departed souls to the gates of heaven. This day is also the day for practical jokes, pranks, and colorful processions. People who have lost their family members dress in comical attire and roam the city and take solace in the that that the cow has safely transported the souls to their afterlife journey.
Gai Jatra in Patan, Lalitpur
Gai Jatra often falls in Shraban/Bhadra month of Nepali Calendar (August to September in Solar Calendar) on the first day of the waxing moon and lasts for a week. The festival is celebrated mainly by Newar communities across the world and other local communities of Kathmandu valley also celebrate the festival similarly as Newars. During the festival, people from child to old age wear odd customs, looking funny to honor those family members who died. If one family member died, he/she will be honored and remembered in Gaijatra for three years. Artists also celebrate the festival making fun of people and contemporary society, especially political leaders & politics by stage programs, caricatures, articles, cartons, and songs with satire in a comic style.
The tradition started from Kathmandu, when King Pratap Malla (1624–74 A.D.) of Kantipur (Now Kathmandu) lost his child, and his wife, the Queen went on tragic misery. He wanted to make her understood that every family goes through this tragedy each year. So, he urged everyone to come out and march with cow in the street with odd customs and painting on faces to mark the remembrance of departed souls to show the reality to his wife. But some people believed that, when King Pratap Mall was ruling the Kathmandu, when people get aged then they used to be inactive in daily life due to the fear of the death so he started the festival to make them understood about the reality and live fearless with fun till the end of the life.
Lakhe Nach in Biratnagar, eastern Nepal
Lakhe Nach or Lakhe Dance also starts from Gaijatra till Krishna Janmaastami. Lakhe Dance is a typical cultural dance, wearing lakhe customs and masks, dancing in the street.
LGBT community during Gaijatra Festival in Kathmandu Nepal PC: Pinky Gurung
In recent years, LGBT communities also march like a carnival festival marking Gaijatra in their style in Kathmandu demanding equal rights.