From Gai Jatra to Gay Jatra: A Case of Cultural Conflicts in Kathmandu

LGBT Performance in Gai Jatra

Gai Jatra is one of the most spectacular festivities celebrated in Kathmandu and other parts of Nepal. This festival includes two elements in a cherished fusion: tribute to people who’ve died in past year and miraculous carnival. The main aspect of the tradition is that everything in the carnival should be either humorous or satirical. On this day, the participants can express things that are difficult and not allowed to express in ordinary civic life.Since 2002, the Gai Jatra has undergone a new cultural transformation. The Blue Diamond Society, an organization working for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights has also begun to participate in Gai Jatra with a parade of LGBT people. They join the rally waving placards and raising their voices for their rights. Gai Jatra has become a medium for LGBT people to appear in the public without any hesitation. They are hyping this festival as the Gay Pride Festival. The international media coverage of the parade as if the LGBT people organize the whole Gai Jatra carnival has also become a serious issue: the destroying of centuries-long cultural pride. In this paper I discuss some of the socio-cultural issues raised by the LGBT people changing the festival Gai Jatra to the Gay Jatra.

(Abstract of a paper presented at SACPAN conference, University of Washington. March 6th, 2009). Photo credit: alliance/ap.