Kathmandu-'Tihar' the Festival of light, starts from Kartik Krishna Paksha which is celebrated as a bright festival of five days . This festival which teaches respect to all creatures by worshiping crows, dogs, cows, bulls and brothers with sacred spirit. It is also known as Shubh-Diwali, Deepmala, Deepmalika, Jyotiparva, because the lights of light is lit from the darkness (Krishnapaksha) and led towards the light (Shuklapaksha) by flickering the lamp of knowledge, wisdom and conscience.
According to Mahabharata, oil of 'Tapa' should be poured into the lamp based on 'Truth' and the lamp of 'Mercy' should be lit to destroy the darkness by the flame of 'Forgiveness' and 'Deepak' should be kept burning.
In Hindu's culture, easy death is considered a blessing and the Lord of Death is worshipped. In the Gita, the soul is considered to be immortal as death is replaced by a cloak. It is Yamraj, the god of death, who gives death sentence to all of them. Gods have entrusted Yamaraj with the task of making every creature in the world enjoy the fruits according to their karma.
Yamraj goes to his sister Yamuna on the five dates of Tihar or for five days entrusting his responsibility to Chitragupta. Therefore, these five days are called Yamapanchak, as it is a festival celebrated by worshiping animals and birds related to him in his honor and memory. In this way, there is a classical narrative that by worshiping him, one does not have to suffer the uncomfortable, unimaginable or untimely death of Yamaraj.
How is Tihar Celebrated in Nepal?
The celebration of Tihar goes on for five days. Nepalese clean their house, buy new ornaments and utensils and decorate their house beautifully. You can witness every house bustling, packed with new clothes, gifts, sweets, and flowers for Tihar. All the houses are lit at night with traditional deeyas and small clay lamps. These lamps are lit to welcome Goddess Laxmi inside their humble house and to get her blessings. Small groups of young girls and boys play Deusi and Bhailo, which are sweet Nepali songs that simply bless the house and family and give them blessing.
Day 1 - Kaag Tihar: The first day of Tihar is Kaag Tihar. Kaag means crow and is believed as a “ bad messenger” in Nepal. On this day, the crows are offered grains, rice, and water and worshipped. This is done to make them happy and avoid bad news in the future.
Day 2- Kukur Tihar: The second day is Kukur Tihar. Kukur means dogs and is believed to be the “ protector and guide of the souls”. In Nepalese society, dogs are considered to guide souls to heaven and also protect the house against dangers and death. The dogs are given good food, and the owners hang garlands on their necks and tika on their foreheads.
Day 3- Gai Puja/ Laxmi Puja: Day 3 consist of Gai Puja and also Laxmi Puja. Gai Puja means worship of the cows. Like the dogs, cows are worshipped, fed grass and garlands are hung around their necks, with tikas on their foreheads. The cows signify wealth and prosperity, and to welcome good prosperity; they are worshipped.
Later, everyone prepares for the Laxmi puja. Houses are cleaned, deeyas are lit, lights are hung over the house, and everyone gathers around for the evening puja. Goddess Laxmi is worshipped, and in front of her statue or frame, sweets, fruits, Sel roti( sweet rice bread) are offered. After the puja, young girls and boys go to play deusi bhailo and enjoy their time.
Day 4- Govardhan Puja/ Mha Puja: Ox is the next animal worshipped on Tihar. They are regarded to be important domestic animals, especially for the farmers. The oxen are worshipped and given fresh grasses to eat.
In addition to this day, Mha Puja is also celebrated by the Newari community of Nepal. It is a Newari New Year for this community which they celebrate happily. They wear new clothes, gather with their friends& families and welcome the New Year.
Day 5- Bhai Tika: The last day of Tihar is Bhai Tika. This day is filled with love between brothers and sisters. Sisters prepare on this day by wearing clean clothes, cooking, and getting the tikas and garlands ready. Meanwhile, the brothers also change into their best wear and buy gifts for their sisters. At an auspicious time fixed by the priest, the ceremony starts. The sister first puts a tika white base, followed by 7 different colors on the forehead. Next, fresh garlands are hung on their necks; they feed them Sel roti, milk, and sweets.
This day has a great meaning behind it. The tika and garlands are a form of protection given to the brothers by their sisters. To appreciate this gesture, the brother will gift their sister with presents.
These are the way how Nepalese celebrate Tihar. The festival is loved by everyone, and you can enjoy this festival in Nepal. One can enjoy the view of kites flying in a blue sky, the lovely cooking smell of sel roti, and the melodious voices of youths.