How do you make a dying tradition relevant? By mimicking the past or by making the past relevant to the present? Kathmandu’s recently held Sa Paru or Gai Jatra festivities proved to be a trial ground for tradition. For the Newar communities that remain and still practice their traditions in the inner city of Kathmandu, the day is very personal. It is a homage to death. The processions, for all their pomp, are in memory of a dead family member. But talk to anyone from the valley, especially stubborn Newars from Kathmandu, and they will tell you the tradition is fading. It remains strong in Patan and Bhaktapur, they will say, but in Kathmandu, the Newar community and its traditions are facing a slow death. In the meantime, Kathmandu’s Gai Jatra has received a boost through the annual LGBT Pride parade. The parade follows part of the traditional route and challenges more traditional theatrics with a blast of absurdity and contemporary relevance drawn from present-day Kathmandu, allowing the festival to retain its importance to a city whose demographics have changed dramatically over the past decade.
The Pride Parade
The openness with which the festival is approached allows for the LGBT community to come out in all its extravagance. On this day, the inner city is ready for the unexpected. Traditionally a day synonymous with free expression, satire and mockery, whether holding the parade trivializes the LGBT movement or is a soft entry into the mainstream is up for discussion. A more traditionalist standpoint would find it to be a gross misrepresentation of culture, but it is also a reminder that the parade acknowledges death, and Yamaraj hardly discriminates when pulling the plug. The Pride Jatra has also injected some life into an otherwise uninteresting day. As this blogger was chasing the rainbow, it became clear that the mainstream was curious, at the very least. Overheard: “How do you explain it to this one… they are male and female. They are both. Third gender.” “Huh?” “Ah, they are just like us, human beings.” “Ah! Some of them are very pretty.”