Tihar Festival - The Festival of Lights
Tihar festival is celebrated in honor of Yama, the god of death. People worship four animals on the first four days, and Bhai Tika on the last day.
Tihar is the most vibrant five days long Hindu festival in Nepal which falls in October or November. The first four days of Tihar involve worship of the four creatures connected with the Hindu deity of death Yama. On the last day people commemorate the bond between brothers and sisters. Every year, the celebration begins with Kaag Tihar on Trayodashi of Kartik Krishna Paksha (the 13th day of the waning moon). Then, it concludes with Bhai Tika on Dwitiya of Kartik Sukla Paksha, according to the Bikram Sambat calendar. This festival is also known as Deepawali, Yama Panchak and Swanti in Newari. The festival’s grandeur starts after the end of Dashain Festival. People buy color, red mud and even gold and silver as a symbol of Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of Wealth.
During Tihar Festival, Nepalese Communities clean their houses with cow dung and red mud known as (Kamere Mato). In Terai region, people draw beautiful reliefs of Mithila and Tharu paintings on the freshly painted walls. Whereas hilly regions start preparing sweet dishes for four animals; Crow, Dogs, Cows and Bulls along with the present for their brothers.
People in Nepal celebrate Tihar Festival by burning diyas both inside and outside the home. They keep various colorful LED lights outside their homes. At night people lit up their houses with those colorful lights. So, this festival is popularly known as "The Festival of Lights". Tihar brings a wave of happiness to children as well. They celebrate this festival by playing Deushi-bhailo. Sound of cracking firecrackers is common in different alleys of the country during this festival.
Tihar Festival is similar to the Indian celebration Diwali. They celebrate Diwali by exchanging gifts and sweets with relatives. They decorate their houses with lights and lit oil lamps. People in India celebrate Diwali with great joy.
Main Events of Tihar Festival
- Kaag (Crow) Tihar
- Kukur (Dog) Tihar
- Gai (Cow) Tihar and Lakshmi Puja (Diwali)
- Govardhan Puja and Mha Puja
- Bhai Tika
Kaag Tihar marks the beginning of Tihar Festival. It falls on Kartik Krishna Trayodashi. People consider the crows as the messengers god Yama. So, on this day, people offer grains, seeds, and sweets to the crows and expect them to not bring any bad messages anymore. People believe crows cawing are associated with sadness and loss. So, after feeding them they will not bring sad news anymore for a year.
People celebrate Kukur Tihar on the second day of Tihar (Kartik Krishna Chaturdashi). They worship dogs as the second messenger of Yama, as the keeper of Hell’s gate. On this day Nepalese people offer tika and marigold garlands around the neck of the dogs. Newari people refer to this day as Khicha Puja.
Gai tihar and Lakshmi puja
Cow is one of the holy animals in Hinduism and people consider cows as an incarnation of goddess Lakshmi. Hindus believe cow urine purifies everything. Also people use cow dung as a fuel as well as a fertilizer. So, in the morning of the third day of Tihar, Nepali Hindus express their appreciation to the cow by giving it delicacies and honor it with tika and garlands.
Then, in the evening, as India celebrates Diwali, Nepalese celebrate Lakshmi puja. People make a rangoli at the entrance of their home. They also make the symbol of goddess Lakshmi’s footprints leading towards the puja ghar. They lit oil lamps (diyo) around the household, particularly at doors and windows. Then, they perform a special puja to worship the goddess of riches, 'Lakshmi' and welcome her into their households.
Young children sing and dance throughout the neighborhood playing bhailo. People provide them modest sums of money and food such as sel roti, sweets and laddus.
Govardhan Puja and Mha Puja
People worship hard working 'Ox' on the fourth day of Tihar Festival. In Hinduism, the ox is viewed as an equivalent to the cow since it offers physical labor, which is especially essential in an agricultural nation like Nepal.
Likewise, on this day people also celebrate Govardhan Puja. 'Gobar' means 'dung' and 'Dhan' means 'riches'. People worship a mound of cow dung as the mountain's representation. This also relates to 'Krishna carrying the mountain of cow dung in Gokula to protect the villagers from the wrath of god Indra'.
This day usually corresponds to the first day of the 'Nepal Sambat' calendar. People from the Newari community perform “Mha Puja”. IIt is a unique custom of worshiping the self and the soul inside the body.
Bhai Tika or Kija Puja is celebrated on the last day of five days long Tihar festival. On this day, brothers and sisters commemorate their particular relationship by worshiping each other. It's also a day when sisters bless their brother for a long life and pray to the gods for his success. People believe after performing this tika, Yama can’t take the brother away from the sister.
Tihar Festival is also an auspicious occasion for many reasons. In Tihar, people worship crows and dogs, which symbolises the importance of ecology. They also worship cows, bulls and their dung which represents Nepal as an agricultural nation as well. The festival also strengthens the bond between Brothers and Sisters. Likewise the festival also helps revive our folk music and dance as people (especially children) go house to house playing deushi - bhailo (a trend of wishing well and sharing blessings in Nepal) from the day of Lakshmi puja till Bhaitika.