Gai Jatra 2015: The festival of death and rebirth

Nepal celebrated its first big festival after the earthquake of 25 April 2015. On Sunday, 30 August, thousands of people across the country flung to the streets to celebrate the festival of Gai Jatra.

The story dates back to the mid-17th century, when Pratap Malla, the then King of Kathmandu thought of a way to console his grief stricken wife who was inconsolable at the death of her young son. To show the queen that she was not the only person to have lost a loved one, King Pratap Malla ordered everyone in his kingdom who had lost a loved one that year to bring out a procession for the queen. He also ordered them to dress in funny attire to make the queen laugh. Thus, started Gai Jatra, the unique festival of satire, death and rebirth.

This festival celebrated annually carried special significance this year since the earthquake killed over eight thousand people. Even though the festival commemorates death, it is filled with laugher, music and feasting as people participate in the procession dressed as gods and goddesses, animals etc. People carry the picture of their loved one in hand held chariots and dance and sing songs as they follow a route that leads them to different shrines and temples. People participating in this procession believe that by doing so, the dead will safely enter the gates of heaven.

Gai Jatra is a healing process and it gives people the strength to deal with death in the family and move on. It is a proof of perseverance and strength of the Nepalese. The original spirit of Gai Jatra allows us to deal with natural calamities. Joyously celebrating this festival is a way of showing that Nepal is getting back to normal.