Tihar Festival in Nepal: A Five-Day Celebration of Lights, Culture, and Family

Tihar Festival 2023

The Tihar Festival, also known as ‘Deepawali,’ is a radiant five-day celebration deeply rooted in Hindu mythology and religious beliefs. This festival pays tribute to two essential deities: Yama, the god of death, and Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and dominion. At its core, Tihar commemorates the triumph of good over evil and underscores the significance of fostering harmonious relationships among humans, animals, and nature. This festival of lights revolves around the illuminating facets of lights, the exchange of heartfelt gifts, and sumptuous feasts.

The Essence of Tihar

Tihar is primarily synonymous with adorning homes with radiant lights and maintaining cleanliness to appease Goddess Lakshmi. Legend has it that this devotion will lead to her benevolent bestowal of riches and wealth upon her devotees. Yet, Tihar is not just about deity veneration; it extends its reverence to animals such as cows, dogs, and crows during this five-day extravaganza. Beyond this, Tihar is a heartfelt occasion for reinforcing familial bonds, especially between brothers and sisters, as sisters wish their brothers a long and prosperous life. This extraordinary festival, widely celebrated in Nepal, is drenched in excitement, embellishments, and a sense of divine love.

The Days of Tihar: A Journey through Devotion

Day 1:

 Kaag Tihar 

Tihar marks the beginning with worshiping kaag (crow), in the morning every family member, before taking their meal, makes an offering to the crow to bring good blessing in their houses. Crow is regarded as the messenger of Yamraj, god of death, so to prevent any harm from happening crows are worshiped and kept happy

Day 2: 

Kukur tihar

Second day of Tihar is dedicated to dogs for their loyalty, protection and honesty. Dogs are adorned with flowers, tika and offered their foods. This day is the day of dog. You can find almost all dogs with tika and flower garland. Hindus believed that Dog guards the underworld empire just as they guard our homes.

Day 3:

Laxmi Puja

Most important day of the festival is Laxmi Puja where Goddess of wealth (Goddess Laxmi) is worshiped with specific Puja/ rituals, decoration, candles lights and oil lamps. Laxmi Devi idols and pictures are placed and worshiped using set of puja items, flowers, incense, and other puja samagri. Usually, Laxmi Puja is performed at dusk where houses are cleaned with red mud, making a symbolic foot-print on the floor entering the home and making a trail leading to the Puja room. All the Nepalese will make their home as shining as possible to attract god Laximi’s devotion. Same as shops and stores won’t follow the traditional practices and keep open to welcome the goddess of wealth.

Fun fact: on the eve of Laxmi Puja a special song known as Bhailo is played on this day. Group of girls get together and sing bhailo door to door, giving blessings to the family in return for money or homemade treats.

Day 4:

Govardhan &

Mha Puja

Fourth day is dedicated to Ox (Goru) as being an energetic helper for the farmer, people perform Goru Puja where a special pile of dung is worshiped, symbolizing the Govardhan mountain.

On the same day, People of the Newa community mark this on the fourth night of Tihar, Kartik Shukla Pratipada, by worshiping self with a hope that light of knowledge shall spread after the destruction of ignorance.

Mha Puja literally means self-worship. This day is also seen as the beginning of the New Year for the Newar community. All the Newarians will join up for this festival and perform Mha Puja to worship themselves. 

Day 5:

Bhai tika

On the final day also known as Bhai Tika Day, sisters put sapta rangi tika (seven colored powder), and mala to brothers along with wishes for long life and prosperity. On this day after auspicious tika, garlanded him and fed him special dishes. Brothers also follow the same ritual to put Tika on their sisters and give them some money in return. This celebration makes a close relationship between brothers and sisters. Tika is of seven colors Yellow, Orange, Blue, White, Green, Red and Black. A tika of seven colors is called Sapta Rangi Tika in Nepali, where Sapta means seven, Rangi means colors. 

Fun fact: Rani Pokhara is located at the center of Kathmandu. This famous pond has a small holy temple located at the center. The compound’s door is locked all year around except on the day of BhaiTika. Those who do not have sisters enter the temple to receive tika from priest.

During Tihar, friends and relatives will gather and exchange Tihar gifts and greetings with each other. Every night, each family and stores will lit varieties of colorful lights, and the sky is filled with mighty fireworks. The highlight of Tihar in Nepal is bathing in the holy river to purify the body. In addition to pray to the gods for the health of the whole family, Nepali pay special respect to Laxmi, the goddess of wealth and blessings 

Enriching Traditions and Connections

Tihar fosters gatherings among friends and relatives who exchange Tihar gifts and heartfelt greetings. Each evening, families and stores adorn their surroundings with vibrant lights, illuminating the night sky with spectacular fireworks. A significant tradition during Tihar is the purification of the body through a holy river bath, accompanied by prayers for the family’s well-being and special reverence for Goddess Laxmi, the bestower of wealth and blessings.

Tihar and Shopping: The Art of Gift-Giving

Shopping plays an integral role in Tihar, as individuals acquire puja samagri for Laxmi Puja, clothes, sweets, and ingredients for the Tihar feast. A notable item is ‘Sagun,’ a blend of dried fruits and sweets, packed in plastic bags, and exchanged among siblings. Sisters offer Sagun to their brothers on Tika Day, and in return, brothers gift them with new clothes and money.

Tihar Feast: A Sweet Culinary Journey

Tihar is a time for delectable feasts, where predominantly female family members prepare unique Nepali dishes at home. Among these culinary delights, the famous Nepali Roti known as Sel or Sel Roti takes center stage. Made by deep-frying a mixture of fine rice flour, sugar, and water, Sel Roti is renowned for its crispy and crunchy texture. Sisters lovingly craft these delectable treats, which travel from village to village as brothers share them with their loved ones.

In conclusion, the Tihar Festival is a mesmerizing celebration that transcends the boundaries of religion, fostering unity and a deep sense of reverence for the interconnectedness of humans, animals, and nature. It is a festival that not only illuminates the physical world with lights but also kindles the spiritual light within each of us.

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