GAI JATRA, COW FESTIVAL, NEPAL Vincent Van Berg photos. MAUJA VILLAGE, KASKI DISTRICT, NEPAL Tod Ragsdale photo.
INDIAN AND HIMALAYAN FOLK AND TRIBAL ARTS
MAUJA VILLAGE KASKI DISTRICT
Nepal circa 1973-74
(Photo courtesy Tod Ragsdale http://taragsdalephotos.com/)
-Mauja is a Gurung village of Kaski District in the Gandaki Zone of northern-central Nepal, the photo was took by the photographer Tod Ragsdale in the early 70's.
A basament of 'brut' stones, a sort of archetipic style for this primitive altar, in which we can see a group of protective/commemorative (?) poles carved in a very minimal style. The presence of some metal trisul and of wide bells confirme that we are in front of an holy place.
According Mr. Christian Lequindre opinion, the Masta culte, linked to those kind of sort of AXIS MUNDI POLES , is sporadically spread till the western central region despite most of the scholar of the matter limite than to the Karnali area. That's an evident example in Gurung village context, the pic was took in 1973/74. As demonstrated by mr Christhian in his recent catalogue there are also wooden poles in the eastern area of Nepal, but refering here to ancestors and funerary cult.
-GAI JATRA, COW FESTIVAL, NEPAL, Photos courtesy Vincent Van den Berg http://web.mac.com/vincentvandenberg/shi/Index.html .
Gai Jatra is a festival celebrated by the Newar community of Kathmandu valley every year since the malla period at the beginning day of Bhadra, a Nepali month according to the lunar calendar, Gai means Cow and Jatra means in Nepali language.. It is one of the most popular festivals of Nepal. In Kathmandu the festival is held around Basantapur, in Bhaktpaur around the old Bhaktapur city and in Lalitpur ,around the Patan Durbar Square. The festival lasts for a week.
On the first day of the festival, either actual cows or human beings with oval shaped baskets with painted pictures of a cow and Ganesh on either side of the basket with straw horns to represent cows are sent round the town.
The festival comes just a day after the Janai Purnima (celebrated during the full moon day). The Gai Jatra commemorates the death of people during the year, is a healthy festival which enables the people to accept the reality of death and to prepare oneself for the life after death. The festival of cows is one of the most popular festivals of Nepal. It is believed that Cow is indispensable to help the dead souls to cross a holy river before to arrive in heaven, in this way the dead souls catches the tail of cow as help to cross this river.
According one belief the celebration of the Gai Jatra begun when the King Pratap Malla lost his son, and his wife fall in a very deep sorrow, so was decided that a person from each family that have lost one people during the year should come to the queen to show that many others were actually in the same pain. Since this event begun the tradition of celebrating Gai Jatra festival.
According another one belief the festival begun when some people were called to make laugh the sadden queen, wife of Pratap Malla, some of these started to make different jokes and particulary phantomime and satires direct to hit the higly ranked people of the society, so the queen started to laugh. In the recent past, the Gai Jatra, before the declaration of the republic, was the only place in wich was possible to satire the Kings of Nepal.
In the past people who have lost a member of the family in the previuos year were part of the street procession led by a real cow. In the present days the processione is led by a cow structure in bamboo in which the photo of the lost people are hanged with the name.
In the festival the children are dressed in godly customs, to bless the celebrating dead souls. In the stik dance, the dancers with their sticks clear the path chasing ghosts and are focused to destroy their nails which are hindrances for the dead souls to reach the Haven.
The Gai Jatra festival in Bhaktapur:
Gai Jatra 2007