Posted By: FarwestNepal
The festival of lights is one of the most dazzling Hindu festivals. The Goddess of Wealth, Laxmi is worshipped on this day. Every house is decorated with oil lamps. At night entire villages and cities look like they are sparkling.
Tihar is a five-day celebration during Yama Panchak. After Dashain it is the most celebrated festival in Nepal. It is a five-day festival that is celebrated in late autumn and it has a unique celebration. The Five Days of Tihar are:
- Kaag Tihar – Crow Puja
- Kukur Tihar – Dog Puja
- Gai Tihar or Laxmi Puja – Cow Puja or Goddess of Wealth Puja
- Goru Tihar, Govardhan Puja, (Aatma Puja) – Ox Puja
- Bahi Tika, Bhai Dooj – Brother and Sister Puja
(Note: puja is a prayer ritual to worship deities)
The story behind Tihar:
There are various stories behind the celebration of Tihar. One of the most famous stories behind the celebration of Tihar is related to Yama, the God of death and his sister Yamuna. Yama had been away from his sister for a long time. His sister wanted to see him again. She sent him a crow, a dog and a cow. In the end, she also went to see her brother herself. She worshipped him with tika and flowers by applying five-colored tikas onto his forehead. Yamuna made a circle with mustard oil, dubo (grass) and added makhmali mala (globe amaranth – a type of flower) and asked her brother not to leave until the oil, the dubo grass and the flowers dry.
Therefore, sibings worship eachother. Tika is applied onto the brother’s forehead. Next, brothers apply tika onto their sisters’ foreheads in the same fashion and they exchange gifts.
First Day of Tihar
– Kaag Tihar (Crow Puja)
On the first day of Tihar, crows are worshipped and fed early in the morning. People give the crows different foods. The crow is considered the messenger of death. People believe the crow delivers this message in the morning. Yet, in general, a crow brings good luck.
Second Day of Tihar
– Kukur Tihar (Dog Puja)
The second day of Tihar is dedicated to the most loyal friend of mankind. Kukur, the dog. The puja is done by putting a red tika on the dog’s forehead and a flower garland around its neck, then offering him food and sel roti. It is said that a dog can sense dangers and imminent death. They are also worshipped because they are the most loyal animals and love their masters the most.
Third Day of Tihar
– Gai (Cow Puja) and Laxmi (Goddess of Wealth) Puja
On the third day, cows are worshiped in the morning with sesame oil, lights, a garland of flowers and red color. Wheat flour, sel roti, rice and daal are feed to the cows. The cow is regarded as the mother in the Hindu religion, because we grow up drinking her milk. Some people regard cows as Goddess Laxmi, the Goddess of wealth and prosperity. In the afternoon, the houseses are cleaned and the ground is painted with red mud (Rato Mato) and cow dung (gobar). A small circle is drwan in front of the main gate. It is decorated with colorful designs. From the main entrance to the puja kotha, small footsteps are painted onto the ground. These footsteps are believed to be the footsteps of Goddess Laxmi. Candles are lit all over the house, making it bright beautiful. There is a long tradition of going around in the evening, singing songs and asking for money and food. Generally, girls and boys go to neighbors and sing traditional songs called Bhailo.
People believe that Laxmi will visit homes that are clean and bright. In the evening, Goddess Laxmi is worshiped by lighting numerous pujas that will welcome her into their homes. It is believed that by worshipping and pleasing Laxmi, she will give the people wealth in return. During the night, people also play cards to welcome Goddess Laxmi.
Fourth day of Tihar
– Govardhan Pujaihar
On this day, three different kinds of pujas are performed. The Goru Puja is performed by worshipping Oxen. Govardhan Puja is done by making a hill of cow dung. Cow dung is very important in Hindu culture. Before, it was used for everything from light at night to polishing muddy floors of traditional houses. Even today in the Nepalese Hindu culture, no Puja is complete without cow dung.
During the night, the Newar community perform Mha Puja – self-worship. It is done to purify the body. A mandap (pillared outdoor hall with a gateway leading to the temple) is decorated with saipatri (marigold flowers, sweets, fruits and a special prayer beads called mala). Each member of the family offers the person sitting in the mandap a shagun (a token of good luck). A shagun usually consists of fried eggs, fruit, sweets, meat, fish, lentils and pastries. Eggs and fish are held in the left hand, Rakshi (homemade alcohol) in the right. This day is also the beginning of Nepal Sambat, Newari New year.
In the evening, many Nepali children and young men go from house to house and sing the Deusi song:
aahai bhana mera bhai ho deusi re bhana na bhana deusere
Deusi is very similar to the Bhailo song. Bhailo is primarily for females and Deusi for males. However, nowadays there is no distinction. Men and women celebrate Bhailo and Deusi together.
Fifth Day of Tihar
– Bhai Tika or Bhai Duj
The fifth and last day of Tihar is Bhai Tika. On this day, sisters apply a five-colored tika (yellow, green, red, blue and white) onto the foreheads of their brothers and pray to Yamaraj for their brothers’ long life and prosperity. Next, brothers give their sisters tikas, bow to them and promise to protect always protect them. Sisters offer their brothers shaguns of dry fruits, especially, walnuts, hazelnuts (Katus), fruits and sweets and in return, the brothers give their sisters gifts and money.
On this day, Rani Pokhari Temple (located at center in Kathmandu) is opened for those, who do not have any brother or sisters. This is the only time in the year the temple is open to general public.
Nepalese call the five days of Tihar ‘Yama Panchak’, which means the five days of Yamaraj/Yama. During these five days, people do everything they can to make Yamaraj happy, because it is believed that after death Yamaraj will judge people’s vices and virtues and treat their souls accordingly.