The festival of lights
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The Hindu festival Tihar, also known as Dipawali, is a celebration of colors and lights marked by dancing, singing, and playing with Patakas and fireworks. However, due to past incidents, the number of people participating in fireworks has decreased compared to previous years. Tihar is predominantly celebrated by Hindus from Nepal and India, but it is open to people of all ethnicities and is even observed by foreigners in Nepal. It usually occurs in the months of Kartik or Mangshir in the Nepal calendar.
Story and Myths
In Hindu mythology, the god of death, Yamaraj, came to earth to collect the soul of a brother who was going to participate in the Bhai Tika ceremony. The brother’s sister invited Yamaraj to the ceremony and asked him to wait until she completed the “Brother worship” ritual. She also performed the brother worship for Yamaraj. In return, he offered her a gift of her choice. The clever sister asked for a long life for her brother, thereby saving his life.
How is Tihar celebrated?
Tihar is the second-largest festival in Nepal, surpassed only by Dashain. During the festival, the city is adorned with colorful decorations and lights, and various ethnic groups celebrate in their own unique ways, but with a shared goal of honoring and paying respects. The festival lasts for five days.
On the first day, known as Kaag Tihar, people offer food and worship to crows early in the morning. It is believed that crows are the bringers of bad news, so people seek to make them happy and bring good fortune by worshipping them.
On the second day, known as Kukur Tihar, people honor dogs as loyal friends and bringers of good luck. They place flower wreaths and red tika on the foreheads of dogs and offer them food as a sign of respect.
The third day of Tihar is marked by Gai Tihar and Laxmi Puja. In the morning, cows are worshipped with flower garlands and red tika. Cows are considered the national animal of Nepal and are revered as symbols of wealth, prosperity, and holiness in Hinduism. Later, cows are given offerings of Sel roti, wheat, and fruit. In the evening, Laxmi Puja takes place, during which people clean their homes and worship the Hindu goddess Laxmi. Homes and goddess Laxmi are decorated with lights, colors, and oil lamps, and singing and dancing performances called Deusi Bhailo are held in exchange for money and food. Many people also organize Deusi Bhailo charity events for the benefit of the community.
The fourth day of the festival is known as Goru Tihar and Mha Puja. Goru Tihar, also called Govardhan Parbat Puja, involves the creation of a mountain-like structure made of cow dung in some village areas. Cow dung has long been used in Hindu rituals and puja, and has various other practical uses. In the evening, Mha Puja, a traditional ritual of self-worship practiced by the Newari community, takes place. It is meant to purify the soul and body and bring inner peace. Mandalas are drawn on the floor for each member of the family, and each person sits in front of their own mandala. A female member of the family then goes down the row, placing tika on foreheads and giving holy thread and Sagun, a basket filled with food such as meat, fruit, and eggs. This day also marks the beginning of the Newar clan’s new year.
On the fifth and final day of Tihar, known as Bhai Tika, sisters apply seven different colored tikas to their brothers’ foreheads for good health, wealth, and prosperity. They also offer food baskets to their brothers and receive gifts and money in exchange for bowing down to their feet. Later, the siblings enjoy a grand feast together.
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