Being a diverse country in terms of caste, culture and traditions Nepal is a home for many festivals. In august- September, fall Gai Jatra, Janai Purnima and Rakhshya Bandan which are few of many festivals celebrated in Nepal. Major festival of Hindus, Gai Jatra is dominated iby newar people while Janai Purnima is more of a focus for Brahmin and Chhetri. All the festivals hold a greater significance in Nepalese as they symbolize the beliefs carried down from generations to generations. Gai Jatra is celebrated next day to Janai Purnima while Rakhshya Bandan and Janai Purnima lie in the same day.
Gai Jatra was started during Malla reign by King Pratap Malla who wanted all his five sons to rule the kingdom. During the reign of his second, his beloved son was trampled by an elephant and died which made his queen vulnerable and spent her days in grief. King Pratap Malla couldn’t see his queen suffering and introduced Gai Jatra where all the family who had lost their beloved ones would come out and roam around the city. On this day family who lost family member who send cow or someone dressed as cow to roam around the streets of city laughing and making jokes. The reason behind this was king Pratap Malla wanted his queen to realize that death cannot be avoided and they are not the only one suffering through such a tragedy. Seeing people parading in funny clothes and painted faces making jokes outside the royal gate queen finally realized that she is not the only one to face such grief, that there are hundreds of other people who go through such grief yet they had their life going on with laughter. The cow or a kid dressed as cow is worshipped before leaving the house. The same family also gives away many offering to cows and kids dressed as cow who are roaming around the city.
Nepal celebrates another significant hindu festival Janai Purnima just a day before gai jatra. Dominated by Brahmin and Chhetri, during this day only the male who has janai (Holy Thread) around his body changes it. Janai is a cotton thread worn by male who has does bartabanda . The significance of bartabanda is that a boy now has grown enough to take his responsibility and can entre manhood. The significance hold by janai, a cotton thread is that it has three cords. These three cords symbolize body, mind and spirit and any man who wears three tied janai is known to have control over body, mind and spirit. Many pilgrims trek to holy three lakes ‘Gosaikunda’ which is believed to be created by lord Shiva himself to ease his burning throat after sallowing the poison. The holy water of gosaikunda is believed to wash away sins, pain and grief of the one who has bathe there. On the same day, people who don’t wear janai tie colorful sacred thread or cotton thread on the wrist from pandit (Hindu Priest). It is beleievd that it is worn for safety and security. The same thread worn around the wrist is later tied to cow’s tail during tihar with the belief of creating a safe passage to heaven.
On the same day of janai purnima newar celebrate ‘kwati purnima’ also known as ‘gunhi punhi’ . On this day newar people cook nine different soaked sprouted beans and consume it as a feast with rest of the family members. Variety of nine beans are soaked for three to four days until they sprout. The beans are cooked with many spices to make a thick soup. In different places of Nepal people offer kwati and roti to frog in belief that frog bring rain so that farmer can plant their field. It is eaten for health benefits and ritual significance.
On the same day as Janai Purnima and Gunhi Punhi, people celebrate Rakhshya Bandhan. Rakhshya Bandan is mostly celebrated by hindu and jain specially in terai region however now is popular all over Nepal. Rakhshya Bandan refers to the ‘bond of protection’ this festival holds a major significance of brother and sister. On this day sisters tie a colorful bracelet called rakhi around the wrist of her brother and put red tika on his forehead and performs aarti for his prosperous life, health and safety. The brother promises the sister for beautiful gifts, money as a token of love and feed each other sweets and delicious foods. It is one of the important festivals to strength the bond between brother and sister.