Gai Jatra

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  • Gai Jatra
  • गाइ जात्रा
Gaijatra 01.jpg
Decorations of Gaijatra
Also calledSa Paru
Observed byHindus
TypeReligious, Nepal
ObservancesRalley of Cow
DateFirst day (Pratipada) of the month of Bhadra month of the Lunar calendar
2018 date27 August 2018

Gai Jatra, (gāi means cow and jātrā means festival in Nepali: गाई जात्रा, and Nepal Bhasa: सा पारु) is a festival celebrated in Nepal, mainly in Kathmandu valley by the Newar community.[1] The festival commemorates the death of people during the year and is generally celebrated in the month of [Bhadra (Hindu calendar)|Bhadra] )August–September). The date is set according to the lunar Nepal Era calendar: it falls on the first day of the dark fortnight of the month of [Gunla].

The Festival of Cows is one of the most popular festivals of Nepal. It is celebrated to diminish the sadness from the death of family members. During the festival, cows are marched in the streets. People also distribute food to others.

  • The whole complex of Gai Jatra festival has its roots in the ancient ages when people feared and worshiped Yamaraj, the god of death. However, the ironic sessions synonymous with the Gai Jatra festival entered the tradition in the medieval period of Nepal during the reign of the Malla Kings. Hence, the present form of Gaijatra is a happy blending of antiquity and the medieval era.
  • According to the traditions since time immemorial, every family who has lost one relative during the past year must participate in a procession through the streets of Kathmandu leading a cow. If a cow is unavailable then a young boy dressed as a cow is considered a fair substitute.
  • In Hinduism, a cow is regarded the most venerated among all the domestic animals. It is believed that the cow, revered as a holy animal by Hindus, will help the deceased relative's journey to heaven.
  • According to the historical evidence, when King Pratap Malla lost his son, his wife, the queen, remained grief-stricken. The king was very sad to see the condition of his beloved queen. The king, in spite of several efforts, could not lessen the grief of his wife. To show his wife that death is a natural part of life, he called on people for a carnival if someone has died in their family. Many people came which showed the queen that it is not only her son had died somebody has died in every family in this festival.

Gai Jatra in different cities[edit]


Kathmandu is considered to be the main source of this festival as the king who started this festival was from this city. After the show presented to the queen was a success, it became an annual program to present the queen with this festival. As time passed on and as the kings and the queens passed on the festival has been passed on from generation to generation. In main Kathmandu, people celebrate it with much happiness and many programs than those on Patan. The procession goes around the city to different parts of the suburbs and the inner urban areas to present the devotion to their loved ones. The people involved in this profession get small packets with fruits, sweets, oats and other food items to help them on their tour around the city, by many people watching the festival and by their loved ones.


Patan has a similar kind of following for this festival like that with Kathmandu but has less involvement of people than that on Kathmandu. People in Lalitpur have another festival similar to Gaijatra called Matayaa which is followed by Hindu with much more devotion and much more involvement by the people. The involvements of people in this Matayaa can be in thousands. Thus for people in Lalitpur, the procession of Gaijatra is less entertained.


Gaijatra is celebrated widely in Kirtipur, particularly in Kirtipur's ancient historical towns Kipu dey:, Panga:, Naga:, Bhajanga: and Yarwocha: (Itagol) and other towns. The people in Kirtipur celebrating have many reasons to celebrate this festival and have a unique way of celebrating this festival. Among the people of Kirtipur it is said that the gates of heaven for the dead are opened in this day, and the procession of Gaijatra will help their beloved to reach the gates of heaven if they march around the city for them. They march around the city of Kirtipur with not dressing up like cows but rather dressed up in different forms of gods and goddesses. People celebrate this festival not only for their dead relatives but also for peace and harmony among the family members and the city itself.

People dressed as different deities dancing in procession of Gai Jatra.

During this month the farmers of the city finish up their work in the fields and return home to celebrate the ending of the hard and tedious work in the fields. They gather the family members and have a feast of their success. This culture is replicated in this festival in Kirtipur. Men dress up like women and travel around the city. They go from house to house calling up the owners of the house and asking them to come down and join in the feast with them. This helps to create harmony among the neighbors and the city members. Kirtipur performs many dances with different imitating artists that provide much of an awe and a happiness among the people. Kirtipur is enriched with many beliefs and many stories relating Gaijatra than any other cities of the valley and has a more diverse celebration of this festival.


Bhaktapur is said to have the most enjoyable and exciting Gai Jatra, as it has its own peculiarities in the ways the festival is celebrated as compared to Lalitpur and Kathmandu. A chariot (known as Taha-Macha) made of bamboo wrapped in cloth, with a photo of the dead person hung at the center, is navigated through a predefined street by the family along with localities. So a long parade of chariots is seen.

The Taha-Macha symbolize dead people and is decorated with their possessions and photograph. The chariot has a framework of bamboo which is wrapped with cotton cloth usually Hakupatasi (a black traditional sari type female cloth) for women and simple sari type cloth for men. The Taha-Machas are brought out from different toles of Bhaktapur, but peculiarly, the Taha-Machas of Lakolachhen are guided by one large one that has the bamboo framework but is covered in straws. This is known as Bhailya Dya: (Bhairab) and is succeeded by Ajima (Bhadrakali) made at Khala (Ajima Dyo:Chhen)

Many local musicians, and a cultural dance calledGhinta Ghisi follow in the wake of a chariot. Men are also seen wearing women's dress: Hakupatasi. People dress up funnily. There is face painting and masks are common. Children even dress up as Gods and join the parade.

The Ghinta Ghisi dance is celebrated for almost a week, starting from the day of Gaijatra to Krishna Janmashtami. The dance is done in a long queen with two persons in a row hitting each other's sticks. Many cultural shows are performed, and the festival is even participated in by many nearby villages. All peoples are faint to this day.


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