Travel to Nepal
Gai Jatra - The Procession of Sacred Cows
Travel to Nepal
country_image Everyone knows of Yama Raj, the God of Death who decides at what levels the souls of the deceased shall be reincarnated again on earth. He maintains a great ledger in patal, the Underworld, wherein is recorded every mortal's birth, his good and bad deeds, and the predetermined date of his death. When one's time is upYama sends a henchman, perhaps a black crow, to see that the released soul sets out for the judgment gates of patal, which are opened only once each year , the day of Gai Jatra.

The route to Yama's gate may be exceedingly difficult, leading possibly through rivers of fire, and most bereaved families pray that a sacred cow may guide and protect the spirit of their dead along this dangerous journey by allowing it to cling to her tail . Most families also aim to ensure, by the performance of good deeds on Gai Jatra day, that sacred cow will be in readiness at Yama's gate, where thousands upon thousands of souls  are waiting , to push open the portals with her horns and assist the soul to enter for judgment.

This is why on Gai Jatra, the day immediately following the sacred thread festival of the August full moon, every recently bereaved family must honor the soul of their dead by sending a religious procession through the streets along a route prescribed ages before. The Gai Jatra, or cow procession, consists for each family of a live, decorated cow  or  a young boy gorgeously costumed to represent one, together with the family priest, a troupe of musicians and a small boy in the guise of a yogi or holy man. After early-morning rituals for the dead at the home, each parade starts on its way to join hundreds of similar groups in an endless procession past temples, idols and holy places along the narrow, winding streets, Householders give food and coins to members of each procession, including  the cow, rel or impersonated. All must pass by the ancient royal palaces-Hanuman Dhoka in Kathmandu-and it is believed the old Malla kings kept census of the annual death toll by counting each group. When the cow processions return to the bereaved households, religious ceremonies are again performed and the cloth 'tails' of the cow -costumed boys, which drag along the ground during the pilgrimage, are cut into strips and tied and about the neck of family members to protect them from misfortune.

Gai Jatra ceremonies vary with financial status, religious inclination and locality. In patan town the processions do not parade as separate units as in Kathmandu. Instead, the costumed boys meet at a central point and proceed around the shrines and rocky streets, accompanied by as much noise as the blaring musicians, beating drums, clanging domestic utensils ( tied to the cloth 'tails' of the cows ) and huge stone-filled metal rillers, which are dragged over the cobble-stone lanes, can produce . It is thought that this commotion may appease some irae deity and perhaps frighten away evil spirots or the wrathful souls of the dead who, through neglect, return to haunt the homes of their kinsmen .
Bhagagaon inhabtants stage spectaculr processions, in which breaved families engage persons to parade for their dad with heads encased in huge, cloth-covered baskets to which horns of straw and a painted cow's face are affixed. Families of means make enormous cow- heads by wrapping long bamboo structures with cloth and having them carried through the stress to a din of local music.
In general, however, judging from the vast numbers of dazzling processions leading live cows or lavishly costumed youths to represent them, the clowning of hordes of afternoon merrymakes , and the size and enthusiam of the watching crowds, he majority of Nepalese follow Gai Jatra traditions as handed down by their forefather, thereby fulfilling time-honoured obligations to the souls of the recently dead.
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