Nepal Travel Options

Know about Gai Jatra(Festival of Death) in the way most people don't know
Know about G...

Know about Gai Jatra(Festival of Death) in the way most people don't know

Death is probably the most difficult thing for humans to deal with, but in Nepal they have found a way to laugh at it. They have a festival, Gai Jatra, where you can have the best time laughing at politicians and society's issues. This festival really does have something for tourists.

As the story goes, many years ago, before the three kingdoms united as one, the queen lost a child to death. This magical, Newari festival is held each year around August and is really worth experiencing, particularly if you’ve recently had a loss. This year I thought about a good friend who had passed away just last month. I have to tell you this festival helped me to process my own loss.

My friend, Paul Gaudiness, was a lot like the Nepali who has little materially and don’t even expect so much in life. He was a hard working man who found the love of his life quite late and buried her only a couple years after they met. Then he got cancer and passed about two years later. Although I didn’t have a chariot for Paul, I felt like I had shared my loss with those in the processions. This is one human experience we all share, rich or poor, Westerner or Nepali. That is the point of this special day.

Although Christians expect a loved one already on the other side, St. Peter, Jesus or an angel to be there, it is a Hindu belief that a gai or cow will meet them when they die. They can take hold of her tail to be transported onto the heavenly realms. The festival incorporates this belief into a cow dance with many young men dressed in the costume complete with cow horns. Just like the Nepali belief, it felt good to remember someone was there for my friend to take him to his reward. With much of the sadness gone, it’s easier to remember how blessed I am to have known Paul.

Throughout the entire day Bhaktapur is filled with processions of umbrella-ed chariots that are paraded through town. These are pulled by family members along with musicians and young people dressed in costumes and painted faces. Beyond that you will notice sticks that many of the young people have and they do a dance while they click the sticks together. Many of the young men dress up as women while others use face paint or Halloween-type masks.

The crowd was incredible. My suggestion for many of these festivals is to find a guest house with a rooftop restaurant on the path of the processions. It’s much easier to enjoy it with lunch or a cup of tea. Then as a precession passes you can look down at the street below to see it. The noise is quite loud and there can be people working the crowd as pick-pockets.  Always leave your valuables in your guest house safe. They offer the service at no charge and they say it is a fairly safe system. This is a major concern at festival times. One time I had money stolen out of my fanny pack I was wearing on my waist in front!

Many guest houses have the kind of door that needs a padlock. You can buy a nice padlock with 3-4 keys for about $1.25-$1.50 literally anywhere and you can take it home with you. You will see many street vendors and merchants who sell them. Please understand that the people who work at guest houses make less than $50 per month so it is common for things to be missing from your room if staff has access to the key. If you complain they will act as if it has never happened before.

I was happy Anu called to invite me to come with her, Surita and Benjamin. We went to Sunny Guest House’s rooftop restaurant, but it seemed they had a special festival menu because many vegetarian items were 400 NRs. We still all managed to eat veg chowmein and mo mos for 660 NRs. including drinks and tip. Later my friend, Rajani and her little niece, caught up with us and we went walking through the crowd to find a perch with her family in Durbar Square.