Deepavali or Tihar or Diwali
Deepavali or Tihar or Diwali
Deepavali or Diwali is known as Tihar in Nepal, and it ranks second only to Dashain. During the Nepali month of Kartik (October to November on the Solar Calendar), this festival takes place for five days. The Hindus honour crows, dogs, cows, bulls, and Laxmi – the Goddess of luck and wealth. Many candles and lanterns are lit up in Goddess Laxmi’s honour; hence, Tihar is also known as the festival of lights. The festival of lights usually falls from mid-October to mid-November.
Festival Traditions of Tihar
Tihar Festival is the second most significant Hindu festival in Nepal. It is celebrated for five days and is bestowed with the traditional cultural characteristics of Nepal. Moreover, each day celebrates a different animal; for example, the first day is the celebration or worship of crows known as the ‘harbinger of death.’ People offer rice on the ground to feed the crows.
The second day of Tihar honours the dogs, which are believed to be ‘the guardians of the god of death.’ The third day welcomes Laxmi, the Goddess of Wealth. The fourth day honours and thank the cows. The fifth day is an important bonding day between brothers and sisters. The sisters place ‘Tika’ on their brothers’ forehead while praying for their excellent health, prosperity, and long life; the brothers return this favour by showering the sisters with gifts.
On the first day; Kaag Tihar/Crow Day, worship of crows
Hindus worship the crows ‘the messenger of death, by offering them rice. This is one day in the year when they get fed and can take a break from scavenging. The people try to ensure that the crows are well fed; otherwise, they believe that the dissatisfied crows will bring bad luck to the coming year.
The second day, Kukur Tihar/Day of the dogs.
Kukur Tihar is celebrated to honour the Nepalese dogs’ belief that their deceased relatives’ souls are guaranteed entrance into heaven. People put ‘Tika’ on the dog’s forehead and floral 9usually Marigold garlands, followed by a good meal. The Nepalese Hindus believe that the dog’s role is vital as the ‘gatekeeper of death’ and leads the deceased’s souls onto the other side of the river of death in the afterlife. On the day honouring the dogs, even the armed services such as the Police, Armed Police, and Army’s dog unit apply Tika and beautiful garlands to the dogs in their unit as a sign of appreciation of their work.
On the third day, Gai Tihar or Laxmi puja – the cow’s honouring and the Goddess of prosperity.
The Nepalese worship cows and the Goddess of wealth – Laxmi, on the third day of Diwali. Most people consider this day to be the most important day of the festival as everyone likes property. The devotees wake up early to clean each room, nook, and corner thoroughly. They take a bath before applying red Tika on the forehead, floral garland on the neck, and tying holy string given by a Brahmin priest to the tail of a cow.
Come the evening, many candles, oil lamps, and these days electric lights are lit up by the doors, staircases, walls, and on the roof. All Nepalese homes are made as bright as possible, believing that the lights will grab Laxmi’s attention and entice her to visit their house. On Laxmi puja, all businesses remain open to welcome the Goddess of wealth. The children and the youth go around the house to house singing traditional Diwali songs – almost like Caroling, the house owners give them money, sweets, fruits, and rice in return. This is called Deusi Bhailo. Despite being banned in Nepal, kids and adults also light up fireworks during this festival.
The fourth day: Goru Puja or honouring the Ox or bull.
The fourth day is a little bit more diverse on what is honoured, depending on the people’s ethnicity. Ox is considered an indispensable assistant to the farmer, hence the honouring of the Ox (Goru puja). An ox is deemed to be the representative of Govardhan Hill https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Govardhan_Hill, and as a tribute to it, cow dung is used during Govardhan puja.
The Newar community considers this day as their New year. All Newars gather for this festival in the Kathmandu Valley and perform Maa puja to honour themselves.
The oldest patriarch of the family paints two geometric figures, namely;
i) to bless all members of his family
ii) to celebrate the death of Yama ( the god of death) and his messenger.
All family members get together to celebrate and indulge in delicacies, sweetmeats, drinks, and merrymaking.
The fifth day: Bhai Tika/ siblings day.
The fifth day is the last day of the Deepavali/Diwali/Tihar festival. The siblings gather together on this to celebrate each other. The sisters put multi-coloured tika, lovely garland on the brothers followed by special treats known locally as ‘Shagun.’ The brothers perform the same ritual and shower them with gifts. This celebration strengthens the bond between brothers and sisters.
There are no hard and fast rules for this festival’s ceremonies, although some old traditions are carried out in modern-day Nepal. There are some similarities to Christmas and New year, like with the rest of the world.
It is a tradition to purchase gold and silver jewellery on the eve of Laxmi puja with the hope of more prosperity for the coming year. Once the festival of lights begins, all rooms of every house are cleaned thoroughly and painted to welcome the visiting gods and goddesses. The people get dressed in their new clothes hoping prosperity will stay with them for the rest of the year, if not the remainder of their lives. The business communities replace old account books that start with new books for better business. Every household and shops are lit up in bright lights; some even light up fireworks for entertainment.
Tihar is also time for family and friends to rejoice and exchange gifts while indulging in food and drinks.
Tihar is one of the eleven festivals that occur during the autumn months of October to the middle of November. It follows the most important Hindu festival of Dashain. If you happen to be in a major city like Kathmandu or Pokhara, you can witness the whole city lit up luminously like an ocean of lights.