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Tihar, also known as Deepawali, is a five-day-long Hindu festival celebrated in Nepal. It is called the festival of lights because diyas(lamps) and decoration lights are lit inside and outside the houses to make it illuminate at night making a spectacular view. Also, numerous candles and festive lanterns will be lit up for the Laxmi, the Goddess of wealth, fortune, and prosperity. It usually takes place in Nepali Kartik month (October to November in Solar Calendar) and continues for five days.
Tihar is the second biggest Nepalese festival after Dashain. It is considered to be of great importance as it shows reverence to not just the humans and the gods, but also to the animals like crows, cows, and dogs that maintain an intimate relationship with humans. People make patterns on the floor of living rooms or courtyards using materials such as colored rice, dry flour, colored sand, or flower petals outside their house, called Rangoli, which is meant to be a sacred welcoming area for the Gods and Goddesses of Hinduism mainly Goddess Laxmi.
And each Tihar holiday has its own saying. The first day of Tihar is to worship crows, “the messenger of death”. People often sprinkle rice on the ground for crows’ pecking. The second day of Tihar is to honor dogs, “the guardian of the god of death”. The third day is to welcome the Goddess of Laxmi. The fourth day is to thank cows. The fifth day is to place Tihar quotes (Tihar Tika) to brothers and present Tihar gifts for sisters. Tihar represents the divine attachment between humans and other animals.
Today is the starting day of the festival. On this day, you can observe people offering food to the crows, “the messenger of death” so that they will inform the bad news in the coming year. Also, you can roam around the town and marketplaces and observe the street light being set up.
Overnight in Hotel at Kathmandu.
The second day of the Tihar Festival is called Kukur Tihar. On this day, you can watch many Nepalese families honoring dogs for they believe that the dog can guarantee the souls of the dead to get to heaven. In Nepal, the dog plays an important role as “the gatekeeper of death”, which is said to lead the deceased across the river of death in the underworld. On Kukur Tihar, Nepalese will present beautiful garlands to the dogs and paint their foreheads in red cinnabar to thank them for their contributions. Later you can visit the streets and enjoy the festive atmosphere.
Overnight in a hotel in Kathmandu.
On the third day of the Tihar Festival, Nepalese often worship cows and Laxmi, the goddess of wealth. This day is also the most important holiday in the festival. People would get up early and clean the room thoroughly. Hence, they start to thank cows. After a cozy bath, those cows will wear red Tika and beautiful wreaths, with holy strings from the priest tied to their tails. When the night falls, dazzling candles, oil lamps, and bright lights are lit up at the doors, steps, and even on the roof. All the Nepalis will make their home as luminous as possible to attract Laxmi’s attention. If the day happens to be Saturday, shops and stores won’t follow the traditional practices and keep open to welcome the goddess of wealth. At this moment, Nepalis kids won’t be idle. They come to visit neighbors in small groups and sing Tihar songs like Bhailo and Deusi for blessings. In return, the house owner gives them money, fruit, and sweets.
Under different cultural backgrounds, people will honor different things on the fourth day of Tihar. As an ox is an indispensable helper for the farmer, people will perform Goru Puja for an ox. Considered the representative of Govardhan Mountain, cow dung is worshipped in Govardhan Puja. In addition, this day is also seen as the beginning of the new year for the Newar community in Kathmandu Valley. All the Newars will reunite for this festival and perform Mha Puja to worship themselves. On this day, the elder father would draw two geometric figures. One is painted for blessing the whole family and the other is dedicated to the death of Yama and his messenger. Then all the members will have a special family feast and enjoy some lucky food, like boiled eggs, fried fish, tasty desserts, etc. After the grand banquet, they’ll take turns to worship the death of Yama Panchak and exchange Tihar gifts with each other to pray for good luck in the next year.
The last day of Tihar is known as Bhai Tika. On this day, brothers and sisters will gather together and accept Tihar Tikas on their foreheads. After placing the multi-colored Tika and splendid garlands to the brothers, the sisters would bless the brothers for their well-being and success and offer some Shaguns (a kind of candy) as a Tihar gift. And then the brothers would follow the same ritual to put Tika on their sisters and give them some presents in return for the blessing. This celebration has enhanced the close relationship between brothers and sisters. This marks the end of the festival.