Tihar is the second biggest festival after Dashain for the Hindus of Nepal. The animal worshipping along with the worshipping of Gods is the unique feature about this festival. Tihar; also known as ‘Yama Panchak’ is celebrated as a festival of life and prosperity. This festival falls during October starting 21 days after the day of Vijaya Dasami of Dashain. According to Nepali Lunar calendar the festival is celebrated from Trayodashi of Kartik Krishna to Kartik Shukla Dwitiya every year. The festival also known as ‘Deepawali’ is celebrated for five long days.
During the festivals, every Hindu house in Nepal that is almost 90% is adorned with lights. Groups of young lads and lasses visit the houses in their neighborhood with cultural songs that are lyrically and musically composed for this particular festival. Kids enjoy with fireworks and the colorful flowers are stringed to a garland that has huge essence during Tihar.
Photo credits: ekantipur.com
Day 1- Kaag Tihar
This day Kaag-the crow is worshipped. Myths say crow was a messenger in the ancient times. Hence, to please the crow so that it crows with the good news, this beautiful black bird is fed with delicious food. In every house people offer food for the crows in a leaf of any kind of tree available in the neighborhood.
Day 2- Kukur Tihar
This day is dedicated to the messenger of Lord Yamaraj, Kukur-the dog. People worship dog by putting a red Tika on the forehead and garland around the neck. They offer delicious food and ‘selroti-a kind of bread made by rice flour and sugar’ to the dog expecting the protection of their house and wealth. Even the street dogs are treated respectfully on this day.
Day 3- Laxmi puja
This important day of Tihar is celebrated by worshipping the cow and Laxmi- the goddess of wealth. In the morning, the cow is worshipped. The cow is a holy animal for the Hindus and also the national animal of Nepal. Every religious rituals of Hindus are incomplete without the urine, dung and milk of the cow. The worshipping process includes putting tika on the forehead and garland around the neck of the cow. The door of every house is decorated in the morning. Houses are cleaned during the day as a preparation for Laxmi Puja. It is believed that Laxmi likes cleanliness. A path is created with the cow’s dung from the yard to the worshipping spot inside the house. The art of footprint is made with the hand on the path. The entire house is decorated by lighting oil lamps and candles. Different firecrackers are blown. This puja is conducted at the midnight for thanking the goddess for all the benefits she’s given. Onwards the evening, the groups of girls and women visit the houses singing Bhailo, which is only sung on this day. The song includes words that bless the person living in the houses with prosperity and health. They are cordially welcomed by the house owner and pleased by offering them money and delicious food.
Photo credits: imnepal.com
Day 4- Gobardhan Puja
The fourth day of Tihar is celebrated by worshipping the oxen and Gobardhan. Gobardhan is a mountain. Gobardhan Puja is done worshipping Gobardhan, which is made by the dung of the cow on a shape of mountain at the yard of the house. This day the groups of boys and men visit the houses in their neighborhood where they perform Deusi songs and dances. They too bless the host family with prosperity and health. They are given money, grains and delicious foods in return. This day is also celebrated as ‘Mha Puja’- (self worshipping) by the Newars, which marks the beginning of their new year Nepal Sambat.
Day 5-Bhai Tika
The fifth and last day of Tihar is the most important day of this festival which is celebrated by sisters worshipping their brothers. There are several myths behind Bhai Tika. One of the popular myths is related with the lord of death- Yamaraj and his sister Yamuna.
Yamaraj once visited his sister Yamuna after a long time. In his welcome, Yamuna tried to do her best. She put tika in her brother’s head, garland around his neck and fed him with delicious food. They sat together, had a lot of conversation, and together they had sweets and other food. While departing, Yamaraj gave his sister a beautiful gift. Yamraj announced that any brother putting tika from their sister’s hand will not be dragged to death on that day. Since then, Bhai Tika is celebrated by sister’s thanking brother for the protecting her along with her prayer that extends the life of her brothers.
The worshipping process starts with sister applying oil to brother’s head and body. Thereafter the sister’s circumnavigates their brothers with oil and water from a special vessel “Karuwa” and Dubo-a kind of grass. On the entrance door of the house a ‘Bimiro-a kind of fruit’ is put, in the belief as an obstacle for the lord of death-Yamaraj. The sisters put five colors tika in brother’s forehead and garland of ‘Makhmali-a kind of flower that doesn’t wilt soon’ flower symbolizing the long life of her brother like the flowers. Sisters offer brothers with delicious foods. Brothers also put tika to their sisters and give gifts or money in return.
Those who do not have brothers or sisters visit Ranipokhari Temple this day, which is only opened on that day for the local people so that they could celebrate mass Bhai Tika.
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