Gai Jatra in Bhaktapur

Taha- Macha photo by Junu Shrestha

Today ( 04 August 2020 ), Gai Jatra is celebrated at Bhaktapur. Gai Jatra also known as “Sha paru” in native Newari language, where “Sha” means “cow” and “Paru” means celebration. The whole festival is celebrated for 7 days till Krishna Janmashtami on the main street of Bhaktapur.

Gai Jatra is one of the biggest festivals among the indigenous Newari communities living in the valley and is also celebrated by all the Newars living in different parts of the country in a different way.

Gai-Jatra here in Bhaktapur is celebrated in an exciting way. The festival is celebrated to commemorate the demise of the loved ones during the year. A chariot, known as Taha-macha made of bamboo decorated with flowers and colorful threads and dressed up in cloth with the picture of a dead person at the centre is carried around the old main street of Bhaktapur.

Boy with a mask Photo by: Junu Shrestha

Taha-Macha is decorated according to the gender of dead ones. The bamboo is wrapped with Hakupatasi (Newari traditional black sari with red border at the end) for women likewise, a simple cloth for men. This Taha-Macha is brought from every particular house, those who lost their family members in that particular year.

All the Taha-Macha from different societies is guided by the main leader known as Taha macha of Bhairab (incarnation of Lord Shiva, god of destruction) which is covered with straws and succeeded by Ajima Badrakali (Hindu goddess). It is believed that the gate of heaven remains closed throughout the year and after the celebration of Gai- Jatra the gate is open for our dead ancestor and they get moksha(liberation) from this life.

Boy dressed as Lord Shiva Photo by: Junu Shrestha

Lots of Newari traditional music, Bhajan, cultural dance, Maka pyakhan (monkey dance), Ghintang ghisi (cultural stick dance) is performed following Taha-Macha on this day. Gai Jatra in Bhaktapur is also about having fun and making others laugh. On this day people dress up in funny ways. They are allowed to dress up the way they want. For example, a boy getting dressed a girl costume and pretending being a woman. They also paint their faces and wear different masks on their face. The streets are usually crowded with visitors, locals, hawker selling colorful balloons, face masks, ice cream, sweets and other food items.

Article by: Junu Shrestha

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