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The 3/03 BLOG by Michèle Béguin
GAI JATRA


In Kathmandu Valley homage to the departed souls of the year.

Gai Jatra or the festival of cows is celebrated in the Kathmandu Vallée is an antique event, celebrating the God of Death Yamaraj and also commemorating the death of people all along the year. This falls in the beginning of the dark half of Gunla, the month of charity in august september


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Most celebrated in Nepal, it helps to wipe off sorrow and sadness of the society and took place in 17th cent. AD under the reign of the Malla kings. It was anyway customary to make a procession which could indicate the number of deaths by counting the number of mourning groups. According to the legend, the road to paradise is difficult and dangerous and with the help of a cow which tail you grap, the road is much easier to find. From there, the primordial importance of a black cow same than Yamaraj's!


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In Kathmandu those boys take the place of the cow leading the soul to Yamraj's paradise.

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Taleju temple with a tour made in bamboo and cloth for a deseased family member

Gai Jatra as it is nowadays is mix of the antic festival and the one more modern launch by the king Pratap Malla in 1640. As written in History, the king and queen's son had died and the queen was unable to overcome her sorrow. As a good companion, the king did his best to make her queen smile but without success. He finally proposed to reward the one who would make the queen forget her sorrow for a moment and smile...It was the time of Gai Jatra and the procession was going on, the participants imitating the riches, it was so funny than the queen smiled hearing the defects of the society told in an amusing way. She even laughed! Immediately the king, too happy to see her ordered that Gai Jatra should be a day of humour and laughter. So it became!


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Small or big all the boys of a family are dressed as a cow to lead the soul to paradise.
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The different place of the Kathmandu Valley have different way to celebrate Gai Jatra. In Kathmandu, where the festival took birth with Pratap Malla, it is a real procession of many cow-boys wearing a very interesting costume. Patan has the same festival but people are less involved, there is a festival special to Patan called Mataya. But it is maybe in Badgaon-Bhaktapur that the festival is the most impressive! A big crowd is gathering on the Thaumadi square facing the Taleju temple. It is the beginning of the festival here in Badgaon. One has a magnificent show to watch: from the center of the city, long queues of people arrive on the main square, they are well organized as one can see! Groups arrive with different costumes, jumping from one foot to the other, shaking in rythm bamboo sticks. Seen from the first floor of Natyapola café, it is a real show. No sadness, all the faces are smiling even those who are crying a departed soul. A kind of monument in bamboo wrapped into cloth with a photo of the dead fixed in the middle is carried in the street...symbol of the deceased.


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There is a long line of floats, all symbols of deceased persons, coming from different sides of Badgaon with a certain protocol; some tall, with thatched roof are coming forward close to them are musicians, transvestites and dancers with music. Everything is allowed on that day, face make up, wearing masks, children with unusual costumes everybody is involved into the procession up to late in the evening and finally it will carry on in the night.


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Most of the group will come on Thaumadi square in homage to their departed soul.
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The temple de Taleju is filled with the big days’ crowd.


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A Propos de Michèle Béguin

CNIL:1050096 2004 © Michèle Béguin