What is Tihar Festival of Nepal and how it is celebrated?

Tihar is a Hindu festival celebrated by Nepalese people. It is also celebrated by Hindu people all over the world. The last day of Tihar festival is known as Diwali. The other names of Tihar are Tyohar, Dipawooli, Dipabali, Deepavali and other similar sounding word. It is also known as the festival of lights, and crackers. It is the biggest festival of Nepal after Dashain. The festival is celebrated from the first day of Kaag Tihar (Crow Tihar) which falls on the Tryodashi of Kartik Krishna paksha to the fifth day of Bhai Tika which falls on Kartik Suklapakshya . Hindus from all over the world celebrate is Dipaavali (Diwali) by lighting houses and enjoy crackers.

Tihar Festival, Diwali Celebrations in NepalHow was Tihar festival celebrated in Ancient Nepal?

The five days of this festival has its own story according to the Hindu myths. According to the Hindu, textbook found in Nepal, Yamaraj (son of Surya) accepted his sister Yamuna‘s invitation to join a party and he enjoyed there five days. So the five days are collectively named as Yamapanchak (Panchak means five/fifth). During his stay in Yamuna’s home, impressed by the welcome and behaviour of his sister, he asked her to make a wish. Yamuna requested every year at this time, he has to visit her as well as she wished for a strong bonding of love between brothers-sisters. She also wished for long life and prosperity of brothers to be glorified for ages. Yamaraj granted her wish to be fulfilled. So in this way, Yamraj performed Bhatripuja (sibling rituals) with full devotion by ‘the heart’, ‘the promise’, ‘the act’ and ‘the pure thoughts’ (Nepali/Sanskriti words mentioned :- मनसा, वाचा, कर्मणा र शुद्धचित्त). So, it is believed this ritual performed during Tihar festival strengthens the bonding among siblings and increase the prosperity of their brothers through ages. In this way, since ancient Nepal, this festival is being celebrated. Tihar represents the love between brother and sisters and also affections between animals and humans.

Social Importance

Tihar has its own cultural aspect besides that of religious. Nepal and India both are agricultural counties. A man becomes very happy when time comes to reap his crops (food) like wealth which he has sown gold like seeds. In this occasion of being happy, he worships to thank God. The avatars of the goddess Durga are remembered and worshipped in the Dashain festival as well as the Tihar festival which comes 15 days after Vijaya Dashami. Laxmi is regarded as the goddess of wealth. So, it is worshipped for good weather in South-Asian countries like Nepal, India, Bhutan and Burma.

The Puja Room During Tihar Festival in Nepal.

The Puja Room During Tihar Festival in Nepal.

 

How is Tihar Festival celebrated in Nepal?

The festival is calculated scientifically according to Panchanga so the date always varies. If you calculate or convert Nepali miti to English/Gregorian date (BS to AD Converter), mostly the festival falls on either October or November.

Crow Tihar/ Kaag Puja – 1st day

A crow was feed during Kaag Tihar in Nepal.

A crow was feed during Kaag Tihar in Nepal.

Kaag puja is performed on the Kartik tryodashi, the first day. Crow is considered as a clever bird that knows how to eat, how to survive in every situation. There are many reasons behind worshipping Kaag. It represents the equality of viewing to everyone and it had helped farmers decreasing the bugs or worms especially grasshoppers destroying crops. Also, it is also regarded as the messenger sent by Yamraj. It is considered as a faithful devotee of him. There are other similar words used by Nepalese society such as Kakabeshana (काकगवेषणा), Kakabali(काकबलि), etc.

Dog Tihar/Kukur Puja- 2nd day

A Cute Dog on Kukur Tihar Festival Nepal

A Cute Dog on Kukur Tihar Festival Nepal / Copyright © Puja Rai (raine1090)

There both the religious and social importance of this day. This day is regarded as Narak Chaturdashi. The dog is also known as the messenger of Yamraj. The dog is also regarded as a faithful devotee of him. The dog is not only considered as loyal or protector but also helps in finding out criminals and used in various study and investigations too.It protects your house especially from thieves and helps humans in many troubles. It has helped in pre-detection of natural disasters. It is also considered as Bhairavs means of transportation (बाहन). So especially today dogs are worshipped, feed delicious foods and thanked them for being a man’s best friend.

Cow Tihar/Gai Tihar and Laxmi Puja – 3rd day

A cow being fed by a woman in Nepal during the Gai Puja day of Tihar Festival.

A cow being fed by a woman in Nepal during the Gai Puja day of Tihar Festival.

In the Hindu way of lifestyle, Cow plays a significant role. Almost in every religious and social work like early morning home sanitation (घर-आँगन लिपपोत), spreading cow urine (गहुँत सबैतिर छर्केर). It’s not directly using cow dung or urine directly. It has certain procedures on how to use. Cow urine is being used as pesticides since ancient Nepal and India. The cow is taken as animal-wealth too. So, Hindus consider it as the form of goddess Laxmi and also mother cow in the sense we all become child consuming her milk.

Kathmandu During Tihar, festival of Lights - Diwali

Kathmandu During Tihar, festival of Lights – Diwali / Copyright © Pratik Tiwari

Laxmi is known as the goddess of wealth and goodwill. Kartik Krishna Aaushi is considered as the darkest night. So, every home is lightened with diyas to welcome Laxmi home. The theme of this act is to eliminate any kind of darkness that resided inside your heart by using your inner human sense. The cow is worshipped as a resemblance of goddess Laxmi. On this day the people of Ayodhya performed Dipaawali and rejoice the moments after Lord Rama destroyed the demons by piercing with the arrow like words for the world welfare he sat on the throne of Ayodhya. It is believed that any man dying today goes directly to the heaven as per the Yamuna’s wish granted by Yamaraj. Yamaraj is the lord of death or Kaal. The swastika symbol is considered as goodwill according to the Hindu beliefs. For many of the reasons, the main reason is being happy. “तमसोमा ज्योतिर्गमय” is the piece mantra (शान्ति मंत्र) for Dipawali which means “just like from darkness to lightness one should provide soulful joy to him/herself. So, females usually enjoy playing/singing Deusi Bhailo songs. The message of this day is enjoying your life to the fullest level, never let the sorrow enter inside you. There is no any exact English translation of the night of Laxmi Puja but literally, it is a Happy Night (सुखरात्रि ) out of the four important nights of the year. The females especially the unmarried girls plays Deusi Bhailo by going homes to homes.

Goddess Saraswati (right), goddess Laxmi (middle) and Ganesha (left). Laxmi is Hindu goddess of wealth,

An image showing Goddess Saraswati (right), goddess Laxmi (middle) and Ganesha (left). Laxmi is Hindu goddess of wealth,

Some interesting facts of this day

  1. One this day the Nepali calendar was born (not the Bikram Sambat).
  2. Bahadur Jafar Shah, the last king of Mughal dynasty used to celebrate Dipawalli and used to attend Hindu-Muslim programs conducted. The border of Nepal is in Aliabad according to this.
  3. In the time of Shah Aalam III, his royal palace used to be decorated with lights during Tihar festival and both Hindu and Muslims used to attend the programme conducted at Lal Killa.
  4. During the era of Mughal emperor Akbar (कबर), the founder of Din-E-Elahi, Aakashdeep (आकाशदीप) used to be lit on the 40 feet high bamboo in front of royal treasury store(exchequer) on this day,
  5. Also, the King Jahangir used to celebrate Tihar festival.

Deusi and Bhaili start from the 3rd day.

The citizens of Ayodhya lit the diyo using ghee during the arrival of their dearest King Rama. That darkest night of Kartik was buried over the light lit by the people in their homes and people rallying saying Shri Ram (which means our Ram is God). To this day this word took the form Deusir Ram (देउसिरी राम), Deusire (देउसिरे) and Deusi (देउसी). Today also preserving the culture Nepalese love to play Deusi. The team is known as Deuse (देउसे), one says/sings (भट्याउने) and rest follows Deusire after him/her. Listen to more Nepali Deusi Bhailo Songs.

There is another story of Baliraja too.

Ox/Oxen Tihar / Goru/ Gobardhan Puja – 4th day

An ox was feed and praised during Goru Puja of Tihar Festival in Nepal.

An ox was feed and praised during Goru Puja of Tihar Festival in Nepal.

Goru Tihar also known as Hal Tihar or Gobadhan Puja is the fourth day of this festival. Gobardhan is the name of the mountain near the Gokul according to the Hindu mythical story. It is believed that Krishna used to stay in Gokul with his Gopals. Gopals used to worship god Indra but didn’t get anything. So, Krishna told them instead of worshipping god Indra, they should worship Govardhan mountain which gives them minerals, grass, firewood, timber, etc. So, from that day Govardhan puja is performed. Indra became angry and create hailstorm and heavy downpour on Gokul. Krishna uplifts the mountain by his hands and provides shelter under that big mountain to all the Gokuls. At last, Indra regrets and ask for forgiveness with Krishna. It is believed Gobardhan Puja is being performed from that day till now.

Brother Tihar / Bhai Tihar / Bhai Tika – 5th day

Seven Colors of Bhai Tika, the Dhaka Topi and flower garlands (sayapatri mala)

Seven Colors of Bhai Tika, the Dhaka Topi and flower garlands (sayapatri mala)

The last day of Tihar festival means the Kartik Suklapakshya Tritiya is celebrated with great importance. This day is praising, loving each other by sisters and brothers wishing for a long life ahead. The ritual is performed and worshipping is done accordingly. Today, sister feeds her brother delicious food, and brother promises to protect her and take care of her thought his life. The story of Yamaraj and Yamuna happens on this day. It is said that during the 5 days of Yamapanchak, Indranidas Dikyaa abandons his kingdom for King Bali.

This tika are applied in brother’s forehead in the upward lining.r