The Celebration of Festival of Lights!

With the end of Dashain, Nepal paces into the world of another festival that brightens up their days and nights for a week. The alleys of Ason, the shops of Indrachowk, streets of New Road, Mangal Bazaar and numerous city areas all attract a monumental rise in customers and visitors from around the world, some skimming and bargaining prices for their sought out product while others eager to get a glimpse of the excitement of one of the most awaited festival of the year. Each day of Tihar is a day dedicated to a different entity, each with its own unique purpose. The first day, known as Kaag Tihar, is a celebration of the bird-Crow. As an informant for the Hindu God of death Yama, Crows reserve a special place in the world of divine. Locals worship crows on the first day of Tihar, showing their devotion to the bird by showering the bird with food and flowers. This puja marks the first day of the 5-day celebration of Tihar. Following Kaag Tihar is the celebration of an animal that many consider a man’s best friend. Along with being a good companion, dogs play an important part in Hindu religion. According to legend, in one of the most ancient Hindu text known as Rigveda, Samara was the mother of dogs who helped the God Indra to retrieve stolen cattle. In Hindu tradition, dogs are known to guard the gates of afterlife and considered the guardian and messenger of Yama-The God of Death. Vermillion and garlands are offered to dogs on Kukur Tihar and given food and treats. The furry pooches are worshipped, celebrated and honored not just for their place in the world of the Gods but also for their bravery, life-long companionship and loyalty. The third day of Tihar is a day devoted to the Hindu Goddess Laxmi. This day is the main festive day of the 5-day festival. Legend has it that on this day, Goddess Laxmi visits her devotees and bestows her blessings to all the members of the family. This day is also a celebration of Cows, traditionally symbolizing the Goddess Laxmi herself. People worship Cow by putting vermillion on her forehead in the morning. Garlands are offered as a sign of respect and celebration to the animal and the Goddess. The afternoon of this day focuses on activities to invite Goddess Laxmi to one’s home. This is done by creating a pathway with a mixture of cow dung, red mud and water. The pathway starts from the front gate of the house to all the way inside the house where the pooja rooms stands. It is believed that this pathway will bring Goddess Laxmi into the house. Some add embellishments by drawing footsteps on the path and making Rangoli at the entrance. In the evening, people put candles, lights, and diyo on the doors, windows, entrance, roofs etc. of their houses. The houses are made as bright as possible in a belief to attract the Goddess. The evenings are also filled with the sound and music of people playing “deusi and bhaili”. Celebrations spread throughout the country illuminated with lights as people immerse in joy and happiness in devotion to the Goddess. The fourth day of Tihar signifies different pujas for people depending on their cultural background. Those who follow Vaishnavism offer their prayers to Cow dung. The day for them is known as Govardhan Puja. For the Newar community, this day is a celebration of self. Known as Mha puja, this day is dedicated to worshipping our own body and soul. It also marks the beginning of new Nepal Sambat calendar year. The final day of Tihar is reserved for brothers. Known as Bhai Tika, this day witnesses the most interesting elements, each with its specific meaning. The whole festivity is an amalgamation of symbolic elements that make the final day of Tihar an even bigger celebration. Sisters sew garlands out of makhamalli flower. The flower is only used for this purpose, therefore making it the most essential item for Bhai Tika. Garlands made specifically from this flower is believed to ensure long life and prosperity for the brothers. Likewise, along with vermillion, seven Tikas known as Saptarangi Tikas are put on brother’s forehead. Those who do not have a brother visit the temple in Rani Pokhari and offer their puja to themselves as soul siblings. The temple stays open only on this day. The five-day celebration is more than just the festival of lights. Along with honoring the God of Death-Yama and worshipping the Goddess of wealth-Laxmi, Tihar festival is also about showing respect, love, and devotion to objects, birds, animals, and humans, each that play a significant role in our daily lives.