Tihar – The Festival of Lights

Tihar – The festival of lights, is a five-day-long Hindu festival celebrated in Nepal which comes soon after Dashain i.e. on the month of October or early November. Tihar also known as Dipawali in India, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh is celebrated with a regional variation.

Tihar – The festival of lights bring happiness and prosperity in the house, by worshipping of the goddess of wealth, Laxmi. Along with the worshipping of dog, crow, and cow, we celebrate Tihar. On the last of Tihar, Bhaitika, brothers are greeted by their sisters.

Nearly 95% of the people in Nepal are Hindus and they celebrate Tihar by worshipping the Hindu Goddess Laxmi, and other avatars of Gods for five days. Tihar – The festival of lights is celebrated from Trayodashi of Kartik Krishna to Kartik Shukla Dwitiya every year. Tihar, in general, signifies the festival of lights, where diyas are lit both inside and outside the houses to make it brighten at night. Tihar is also known as the festival of flowers and sweets.

The five-day festival is considered to be of great importance as it shows reverence to not just the humans and the gods, but also the animals like crows, cows, and dogs who maintain an intense relationship with humans.

Kaag Tihar – Worshipping of Crows

Kaag Tihar, worshipping of crows. Image Source: Bhakal.com

Kaag Tihar, worshipping of crows. Image Source: Bhakal.com

The first day of the festival is Kaag Tihar. Crows and ravens are worshipped by offering sweets, dishes which are placed on the roofs of houses. The cawing of crows and ravens symbolizes sadness and grief in Hinduism, so followers offer crows and ravens food to evade grief and death in their homes.

Kukur Tihar – Worshipping of Dogs

Kukur Tihar, worshipping of dogs. Image Source: Huffingtonpost.com

Kukur Tihar, worshipping of dogs. Image Source: Huffingtonpost.com

The second day is called Kukur Tihar. It is also called the Khicha Puja by the Newars. Dogs, which are believed to be messengers of Lord Yamaraj, the God of Death, are worshiped each year on this day. People offer garlands, tika, and delicious food to dogs and acknowledge the cherished relationship between humans and dogs. This day is also observed as Narka Chaturdashi.

Laxmi Puja – Worshipping of cows/ Goddess Laxmi

Laxmi Puja, worshipping of cows/ Goddess Laxmi. Image Source: Setopati

Laxmi Puja, worshipping of cows/ Goddess Laxmi. Image Source: Setopati

The third day is the most important of all and is called Laxmi Puja. On this day, people worship cows. In Hinduism, a cow signifies prosperity and wealth. In ancient times, people benefited a lot from cows. Thus, on this day people show their appreciation to cows by garlanding and feeding their cows with the best grass.

In the evening, Goddess Laxmi, the goddess of wealth is thanked for all the benefits that were conferred on the families by lighting diyas and candles on the doorways and windows to welcome prosperity and well-being. At night, the girls enjoy dancing and visiting all the houses in the neighborhood with musical instruments singing and dancing known as Bhailo all night long collecting money as a tip from houses and share the reward amongst themselves.

Govardhan Puja – Worshipping of Oxen

Mha Puja.

Mha Puja.

On Govardhan puja –Goru Tihar, three different kinds of puja are performed. People who follow Vaishnavism perform Govardhan Puja, which is worshipping towards Goverdhan Mountain. Cow dung is taken as symbolic of the mountain and is worshipped. Majority of the Newar community on the night also perform “Mha puja” (worship of self).

Tihar is celebrated with Deusi. Deusi is mostly sung by the boys while the Bhailo is sung by the girls. Deusi is balladic in nature and tells the story of the festival, with one person in the group narrating and the rest as the chorus. In return, the house owners give them money, fruits, and selroti.

Bhaitika – Worshipping Brothers and Sisters

Bhaitika. Image Source: Ekantipur

Bhaitika. Image Source: Ekantipur

Bhai Tika is the day people look forward to during Tihar. In some communities, sisters and brothers accept tika from each other. Bhai means brother in Nepali. Brothers and sisters honor each other and the sisters pray to Yama, the God of Death, for their brothers’ progress, prosperity, and longevity.

It is believed that a girl called Yamuna whose brother was ill prayed for his long and healthy life. When Yama, the God of Death came to take her brother with him, she pleaded for some time to worship her brother. Yama granted this wish to her. Then the girl performed a long ceremony for her brother and Yama. Yama was very pleased with her and promised her not to take her brother’s soul until the offerings of turfgrass and the flowers remained fresh. As the turfgrass and the flowers remained fresh till the next Bhai Tika, Yama granted the boy a long life. From then on, the sisters began to worship their brothers for their long and healthy life.

Sisters apply tika to the foreheads of their brothers to ensure long life and thanking them for the protection they provide. Sisters make a special garland for their brothers from a flower that wilts only after a couple of months, symbolizing the sister’s prayer for her brother’s long life. Then the puja is done which follows a traditional ritual in which sisters circle brothers, dripping oil on the floor from a copper pitcher and applying oil to their brother’s hair, following with putting seven-colored tika on their brother’s forehead.

Along with the seven-colored tika, sisters provide brothers with Sagun, sweets, Makhamali garland, and a sacred cotton thread of Tantric importance, similar to Janai thread meant to protect their bodies. Next, brothers give tikas to their sisters in the same fashion along with an exchange of gifts. This ritual is practiced regardless of whether the brother is younger or older than the sister.

Those without a sister or brother join relatives or friends for tika. This festival strengthens the close relationship between brothers and sisters.

Firing of crackers. Image Source: Naturally Nepal

Firing of crackers. Image Source: Naturally Nepal

Tihar – The festival of lights is a very fun and happy time when we Nepalis gather together as one, celebrate our family relationships and exchange happiness.

The NepalBuzz team wishes all our readers and well-wishers a very Happy Dipawali. May this Tihar lights up for you. The hopes of happy times and dreams for a year full of smiles. Enjoy your time and have a great and safe Tihar!