Nepal Tihar Festival: November 13
Tihar Festival is a religious Hindu holiday in Nepal.
This Nepali festival is also known as Dipawali or Bhai Tika or Laxmi Puja or as the Festival of Lights. It is a Hindu festival where the faithful worship Goddess Laxmi, the Goddess of wealth, and Yama Raj, the Underworld Lord. Besides the gods cited, Nepalese also worship animals as crows, dogs and cows, during the festival. It is celebrated in five days starting from the thirteenth day of the waning moon in October.
Tihar is a festival of brothers and sisters. Even if you are an only son, or daughter, you can choose someone in your family, a friend or a neighbor to be your bhai (bhai in Nepali means brother). Whoever you choose remains so for the rest of your life.
History of Tihar Festival
This is the story behind the festival celebrations. According to Hindu mythology, once there was a king who was in his last days of life. His astrologer told him that a serpent would come and take his life away. To escape, the king was advised to sleep with lit oil lamps around his bed and all around the palace on Laxmi Puja day, so that the goddess would defend him from the serpent.
On the day the serpent arrived, Laxmi Puja convinced the serpent not to harm the king. Instead, the serpent took the king to Yama Raj, Lord of the Underworld. Yama Raj saw that the king’s days on earth were numbered zero. The clever serpent wrote swiftly a seven before the zero, thus the king lived seventy more years. From then on, Tihar is widely celebrated worshipping Laxmi Puja and Yama Raj, in other words the festival is a celebration of life and prosperity.
Tihar Festival Traditions, Customs and Activities
Each of the five days have their own rituals and celebratory events:
Day 1 – Kag (crow) Puja, worshiping of crows. Considered to be the carriers of sadness and bad news, crows on this day are fed and kept happy to bring good luck and keep away grief and death.
Day 2 – Kukur (dog) Puja, worshipping of dogs. Believed to be the messenger of Lord Yama Raj, on this day they are decorated with a red mark on the head and a flower necklace.
Day 3 – Gai (cow) Puja and Laxmi Puja, worshiping of cows and Goddess of wealth. On the morning, cows considered as the mothers of humanity while on Earth, are offered food and flower necklaces. Later, in the evening, Laxmi Puja is worshipped and she is believed to enter the brightest house and give her blessings, making the family healthy and prosperous.
Day 4 – Gobhardan (cow dung) Puja and Maha (self) Puja. Cowdung is seen as very useful in Nepal, as in the olden days it was used for everything from light at night, due to the methane gas from the cow dung, or to polish the mud floors of traditional houses. The third and fourth day of Tihar is especially famous for Deusi and Bhailo, these are the songs which have only been sung on those Tihar
days. The Deusi is mostly sung by the boys while the Bhailo is sung by the girls. Singing groups visit local homes by singing those songs, and in return the homeowners give them money, fruit, rice and Selroti (a special type of bread made by rice flour and sugar).
Day 5 – Bhai (brother) Tika. During the day sisters put Tika on forehead of brothers, to ensure long life, and thank them for the
protection they give. When the sisters give the Tika, the brothers give gifts or money as a return. A special flower necklace is made for the brothers out of a flower that wilts after a couple of months, symbolizing the sister’s prayer of her brother’s long life.