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Gaijatra, also known as the "cow festival," is a traditional festival celebrated in Kathmandu, Nepal. The word "Gaijatra" is a combination of two Nepali words: "Gai" meaning cow and "Jatra" meaning procession or festival. It is one of the most important and popular festivals observed by the Newar community, who are the indigenous people of the Kathmandu Valley.
Gaijatra is usually celebrated in the month of Bhadra (August/September) and lasts for a week. The festival has a deep cultural and religious significance, but it is also a time of joy, humor, and satire. The main purpose of Gaijatra is to commemorate the departed loved ones and help them attain a peaceful afterlife.
During the festival, people who have lost a family member in the past year participate in a procession through the streets of Kathmandu. They dress up in funny and quirky costumes and paint their faces, often with a white powder called "chhaubandi chhitapati." The procession involves singing, dancing, and music, creating a lively and festive atmosphere.
Furthermore, cows are considered sacred in Hinduism and are believed to help deceased souls reach heaven. Therefore, families who have lost a loved one during the year often lead a cow through the streets as a symbolic gesture. However, if a cow is unavailable, a young boy dressed as a cow is chosen to represent it.
Additionally, Gaijatra is also known for its satirical aspects. Participants often perform humorous skits, dramas, and street plays that mock social, political, and cultural issues. It is a time when people can express their grievances and concerns through satire and humor.
The festival also includes other cultural activities such as traditional dances, singing, and storytelling. The streets of Kathmandu are decorated with colorful flags, and various food stalls are set up, offering delicious Newari cuisine.
Overall, Gaijatra is a unique and vibrant festival in Kathmandu that blends religious rituals, commemoration of the departed, satire, and joyful celebrations. It brings people together, strengthens community bonds, and provides an opportunity for both reflection and merriment.