Tihar Festival in Nepal

Tihar is one of the major festivals celebrated in Nepal with much anticipation and happiness all around. Tihar is a five-day-long festival celebrated in Nepal that comes soon after Dashain. Deepawali or Diwali is the most common word that is used for Tihar. Indians also celebrate this occasion with great affection. Tihar is celebrated from Trayodashi or Kartik Shukla Dwitiya every year. Tihar in general signifies the festival of lights, where diyas are lit inside and outside the houses to make it illuminate at night.

The five-day-festival is considered to be of great importance as it shows reverence to not just the human and the Gods, but also to the animals like crows, cows and dogs who maintain an intense relationship with humans. People make patterns on the floor of living rooms or courtyards using materials such as colored rice, dry flour, colored sand or flower petals outside of their house, called Rangoli which is meant to be a sacred welcoming area for the Gods and Goddesses of Hinduism.

Day 1: Kaag (Crow) Tihar

Kaag (Crow) Tihar
Kaag (Crow) Tihar

The first day of the festival is called Kaag Tihar. Crows and ravens are worshipped by offerings of sweets and dishes placed on the roofs of houses. The cawing of crows and ravens symbolizes sadness and grief in Hinduism, so devotees offer crows and ravens food to avert grief and death in their homes. Tihar among Gorkhas represents the divine attachment between humans and other animals.

Day 2: Kukur (Dog) Tihar

Kukur (Dog) Tihar
Kukur (Dog) Tihar

The second day is called Kukur Tihar (worship of the dogs). People offer garlands, tika and delicious food to dogs and acknowledge the cherished relationship between humans and dogs. As for these days, most people have got dog for their company as well as safety; this day makes more value for those dog loving persons as well as every other people.

Day 3: Gai (Cow) Tihar and Laxmi Puja

Gai (Cow) Tihar and Laxmi Puja
Gai (Cow) Tihar and Laxmi Puja

The morning of third day is Gai Tihar (worship of the cow). In Hinduism, cow is regarded as the avatar of Laxmi, the Goddess of wealth. Thus, cow signifies prosperity and wealth. In ancient times, people got a lot of benefit from the cow. Its milk, dung, even urine was used for purposes like purification. Thus, on this day people show their gratefulness to the cow by garlanding and feeding them with the best grass. Houses are cleaned and the doorways and windows are decorated with garlands made of sayapatri (marigolds) and makhamali (chrysanthemums) flowers.

In the evening Laxmi, the Goddess of wealth is thanked for all the benefits  that were bestowed on the families by lighting oil lamps (Diyo) or candles on doorways and windows to welcome prosperity and well being. At night the girls enjoy dancing and visiting all the houses of the neighborhood with musical instruments singing and dancing known as Bhailo all night long collecting money as tip from houses and share the bounty amongst themselves.  The third day onward Tihar is celebrated with Deusi and Bhailo with lights and fireworks. Deusi is mostly sung by the boys while the Bhailo is sung by the girls. Usually one person sings the song and the rest as the chorus. In return the home owners give them money, fruit and different other edible things.

Day 4: Gobardhan Puja and Mha Puja

Gobardhan Puja and Mha Puja
Gobardhan Puja and Mha Puja

On the fourth day of Tihar, there are three different known pujas, depending on the people’s cultural background as it is well known to the world that Nepal is a multi-cultural country with people from different religion and culture are living here with peace and happiness all around. Gobardhan Puja is observed as Goru Tihar (worship of the oxen). People who follow Vaishnavism perform Gobardhan puja, which is to worship towards Gobardhan Mountain. Cow dung is taken as representative of the mountain and is worshiped. Newar community on the night performs Mha puja (worship of self). This day is seen as the beginning of the new Nepal Sambat calendar year.

Day 5: Bhai Tika

Bhai Tika
Bhai Tika

The fifth and the last day of Tihar is called Bhai Tika or kija puja. It is observed by sisters applying tika to the foreheads of their brothers to ensure long life and thank them for the protection they provide. It is believed that Yamraj, The God of Death, visited his sister, Goddess Yamuna, on this day during which she applied the auspicious tika on his forehead, garlanded him and fed him special dishes. Together, they ate sweets, talked and enjoyed themselves to their hearts content. Upon parting, Yamraj gave Yamuna a special gift as a token of his affection and in return Yamuna gave him a lovely gift which she had made her with her own hands. That day Yamraj announced that anyone who receives tilak from his sister will never die on that day. This Hindu mythology is one of the reasons of celebrating Bhai tika.

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. Brothers sit on the floor while sisters perform their puja. The puja follows a traditional ritual in which sister circle brothers, dripping oil on the floor from a copper pitcher and applying oil to their brother’s hair, following which a seven-color tika is applied on the brother’s forehead. Next, brothers give tikas to their sisters in the same fashion with exchange of gifts. The sister’s pray for the brothers’ long lives and have a talk with them and enjoy the meal together. The ritual is practiced regardless of whether the brother is younger or older than sister. Those without a sister or brother join relatives or friends for tika. This festival strengthens the close relationship between brothers and sisters. The temple inside Rani Pokhari of Kathmandu is open this day for those who don’t have brothers or sisters to gather here and apply tika considering themselves as soul siblings. The Bhai tika is an important day for the Hindu, to strengthen the bond and relationship between brothers and sisters.

This is how Tihar, one of the main festival of culturally rich country, Nepal is celebrated with lots of fun and happiness.