Volunteer in Nepal with Friends for Asia
Volunteer in: Thailand - Vietnam - Nepal - Bali

The Revered Gai Jatra Festival

Nepal is famous for its colourful and deeply religious festivals, none more so than “Gai Jatra”, which literally translated means “Festival of Cows”. As you may already know, the cow is a sacred animal for the followers of the Hindu religion and Gai Jatra is celebrated according to the Nepalese Lunar Calendar, which falls in either late August or early September. The festival celebrates life and is designed to lighten the burden of death on the local community and it involves a representative of each family that lost a member during the previous year, who would lead a cow in the procession. The cow is very much revered by Hindus and in this procession, the cows are believed to help the deceased along their journey to the spirit world.

Ancient Origins

Of course, we can never be absolutely sure of the origins of any ancient ritual, and the Festival of Cows is said to have stemmed from a monarch of many centuries ago, King Pratap Malla, who suddenly lost a son. The queen was so distraught with grief and nothing seemed to help, so the king decided to have a procession made up of local people who had recently had a death in the family. This helped the queen understand that she wasn’t alone in her grief and consequently, she became more light hearted about her recent loss. The ritual procession was continued and runs annually until this day. Another belief is that the king specifically asked all of his subjects to enjoy a carnival when a family member dies, as their passing should be seen as a positive step in the stage of attaining spiritual progress.

Colorful and Lively

If you are lucky enough to be in Kathmandu during the Gai Jatra Festival, you will experience a real carnival-like atmosphere and it is customary for the spectators to furnish the participants with refreshments – which are on sale everywhere – as the procession meanders through different parts of the city. This festival is one that our volunteers really look forward to, along with exploring the many eateries that serve up delicious local dishes. Our friendly project coordinators are always on hand to inform you about festivals and other celebrations, of which there are many in this colorful and lively city called Kathmandu.

Teej Festival

Around the same time as Gai Jatra, the Teej Festival celebrates the arrival of the monsoon season and is mainly performed by girls and young women. The festival celebrates the lush greenness of nature and the arrival of the rain clouds, which for farmers is a real blessing, and the many songs and dances are dedicated to the Goddess Parvati and the Lord Shiva for bringing the much needed water to promote a good crop. Singing and dancing performed by players that have colored hands and feet and are brightly clothed in reds, greens and yellows, while there are get togethers at people’s homes where they share stories and eat some of their delicious local cuisine. Teej is a happy celebration and if you are lucky enough to be in Kathmandu at this time, it will be etched in your memory forever.

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Working as a Volunteer in Kathmandu

There really is no better way to experience the Nepalese people and their wonderful culture than as a Friends For Asia volunteer. Our various community projects put you on the front line, where your help is most needed, and we have projects to suit all, from school building management to teaching English. If you would like to work with children or single parent families, Friends For Asia has extensive connections with local initiatives and our resources are utilized where most needed.

Pass on your Language Skills

We tend to take our fluency in the English language very much for granted and the young Nepalese people are very keen to learn. A good command of English opens many doors when looking for employment and for a poor Nepalese person, English is the key to a better life. Teaching English in Kathmandu schools is a very rewarding experience and it doesn’t matter if you have no teaching experience. Our volunteers engage their students in fun-based, speaking and listening games and activities that are easy to present. You will gain a valuable insight into the way the Nepalese live, as you will be immersed in their culture and with all the support you need always available from our project coordinators, you can add some rich experiences and a few skill sets to your repertoire by helping the Nepalese people.

Caring for the Environment

If you are an eco-friendly person who would like to do something tangible to help our planet, we have the perfect volunteer placement in Chitwan National Park, which is south west of Kathmandu. With new projects starting every two weeks, you can be helping like-minded people working on valuable nature projects, and all of this is set in a stunning backdrop of natural beauty. If you are into wildlife, you might get the chance to see a sloth, bison, leopard, or even the very elusive tiger. The most popular placement is the Elephant Care Centre, which is home to some mother and baby elephants and our volunteers help with bathing and other daily activities. Spending time with these majestic creatures really does leave a lasting impression. Perhaps the main reason why the volunteer experience is so popular is that you get to see the real culture while living and working with the locals and you actually give back something tangible to the local people, in the form of your volunteer work. Enroll now and you could be a few days from immersing yourself in the colourful culture of Nepal.

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