By : Alina Giri
Tihar, the Nepali festival of lights, celebrating the goddess of wealth and luck, is the second-most significant festival celebrated amongst the Hindus, after Dashain. Tihar is a dazzling festival celebrated for five days with five different traditional rituals of Nepal. It is also known as the festival of lights. Various candles and Diyas are lit inside and outside the house to make the night bright. The festival falls during the month of October-November. Nepalese and Indians honor the festival with massive rituals and traditions.
TRADITION OF CELEBRATING TIHAR
It is also celebrated by making rangolis in the front of the courtyard using colors, flowers, and sand to welcome “Laxmi,” the god of wealth. Likewise, the festival is not complete without firecrackers and “Deusi Bhailo” (traditional songs and dances during Tihar). The females cook delicious traditional Rotis (bread) and sell them in this festival. Throughout the festival, people honor crows, dogs, cows, the goddess Laxmi, and the relationship between the brothers and sisters. The five days of the celebration have their significance. The first day begins with “kaag, (crow) the messenger of death” Tihar; followed by the second day of “kukur, (dog) guardian of the god of the death” Tihar; then the third day of “Laxmi Puja” which welcomes the goddess; followed by the fourth day to thank and celebrate the existence of cows; and in the final day, “Bhai tika,” is focused on the welfare of brothers and gifts to sisters. Each day has its own mythical stories, and the five days of Tihar are celebrated according to the theme of each day.
FIRST DAY KAAG TIHAR
On the first day, Kaag Tihar, people offer food to the crows, “the messenger of death.” It is understood that crows are busy all year and only have this day to rest. It is important on this day to ensure that the crows are happy; otherwise, they will be informed of bad news and bad things would happen in the coming year. Crows were also perceived as a communication tool in the past.
SECOND DAY KUKUR TIHAR
On the second day, kukur Tihar, Nepalese honor dogs because they believe that dogs can ensure that the souls of the dead get to heaven. People usually dress up dogs with Tihar Tika and garlands and then treat them to a fancy dinner.
THIRD DAY GAI AND LAXMI PUJA
On the third day of the Tihar festival, Nepalese often worship cows and Laxmi, the goddess of wealth. This is the most celebrated day of Tihar. It starts with worshipers showing gratitude to cows for all the things they provide to mankind. The cows are showered, and later they wear the red tika and garlands on them. Holy strings are also tied to their tails.
When the nighttime arrives, dazzling candles, oil lamps, and bright lights are lit up at the doors, steps, even on the roof. All the shops are open on Saturday, and people decorate their houses with lights and rangolis to attract Laxmi. Simultaneously, the kids go to the neighbor’s house to sing Tihar songs like “Bhailo” and “Deusi” for blessings. In return, the housekeeper gives them money, fruits, sweets, and the traditional Rotis. This day is the most enjoyable and famous day of Tihar. The streets sparkle with lights at night, making the night bright.
FOURTH DAY GOVERDHAN PUJA / MHA PUJA
Supporting diverse cultural backgrounds, people have different impressions on the fourth day of Tihar. Because oxen are essential helpers for farmers, people perform “Goru Puja” for the oxen. Recognized as the representative of Govardhan Mountain, cow dung is worshiped in “Govardhan Puja.”
This day is also celebrated as the beginning of the new year for the Newar community in Kathmandu valley. All the Newari join this festival and complete “Mha Puja” to worship themselves.
FIFTH DAY BHAI TIKA
The last day of Tihar is known as “Bhai Tika.” On this day, brothers and sisters meet and receive Tihar quotes on their foreheads. After placing the seven different multi-colored Tika on the forehead of the brothers and splendid garlands on them, the sisters would also offer their brothers some “Shaguns” (candy or fruits in a basket) as Tihar gifts. Then, the brothers would repeat the same ritual of putting Tika on their sister’s forehead and give them some money in return. This celebration has improved the tight connection between brothers and sisters.
This day also has a profound historical connection with king Yamraj and his sister. This day is celebrated because sisters pray for their brothers’ healthy, and flourishing life as they perform the Tika ceremony while the brothers also vow to protect their sisters from bad luck.
The Tihar Festival is similar to the Christmas and New Year Festival celebrated in other parts of the world. On the eve of Tihar, the husbands usually buy gold and silver jewelry for their wives. At the beginning of the festival of lights, houses and rooms are cleaned and painted to show respect for the gods and goddesses. Nepali put on their new clothes and commit to starting a new life. At night, each family’s property is lit with a variety of colorful lights, and the sky is filled with spectacular fireworks. Throughout this festival, friends, and relatives gather and exchange Tihar gifts and greetings with each other.