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Tihar or Deepawali

Tihar is among the  largest and most dazzling festivals of Nepali Hindus. The festival falls during the month of October-November. The festival is celebrated for five days, beginning from the 13th days of the waning moon in October-November.

Tihar is among the  largest and most dazzling festivals of Nepali Hindus. The festival falls during the month of October-November. The festival is celebrated for five days, beginning from the 13th days of the waning moon in October-November.

During Tihar festival, people decorate their house with marigold flowers and illuminate colorful lights. Traditional breads and sweets are cooked in every home, group of children, or young men and women, singing traditional songs and dancing, visit door to door in the neighborhood and collect money and foods for fun or sometime for a purpose. People enjoy swing and play cards for entertainment during the festival period. In this festival, Nepali Hindus worship crows, dogs, cows and oxen and on the last day of the festival, sisters perform rituals to appease Yama Raj-the Lord of Death and pray for the long life and prosperity of their brothers. The festival also marks the New Year of the Newari ethnics of Kathmandu Valley.

There are various stories related to the festival. One of the stories tells how a sister convinced Yama Raja-the Lord of Death not to take her brother away. The first day of the festival is called Kaag Tihar-the festival for Crows. Crows are believed to be the messengers of Yama Raj. One day, the legendary sister saw a crow sitting on the roof of her house and she knew that it was there for her brother. She worshipped the crow with flower, color powders and incense and chanted prayers and made offering of fruits and breads. The crow returned without harming her brother. The next day, the Lord of Death sent his dog-the gate keeper of the underworld to take the life of the young man. His sister again worshiped the dog with garland, colorful pastes and incense, chanted appeasing prayers and offered fruits and foods and the dog was returned without the young man's soul.
On the fourth day, the Lord Yama Raj himself came to take the life of the young man. Again, his sister performs rituals and chant prayers and begs for her brother's life.

"Look young lady, I understand your love for your brother and that you want a long life for him, but his time has come and he must go. I cannot return without him today, everything is destined and we cannot change it." The Yam Raj said, "I am happy with your rituals and prayers and so I would be glad to fulfill your any other wishes but can not save your brother's life".

The smart sister quickly said, " I don't have any other wishes but if you say that you have to take my brother today, surely you can but I have some conditions that you need to agree"

"OK! what are the conditions?"

"I am going to perform some rituals that involves drawing a line of oil around my brother. You need to wait until the oil dries and that the walnut I am using here in the ritual should fully soak!"

The Lord of Death accepted the conditions and waited and waited for the oil to dry and walnut to soak but that never happened and he gave up! Thus the legendary sister managed to save his brother's life. So, till today, we have the tradition of revering the crows and dogs and performing rituals by sisters for the long life and prosperity of the brothers.

On the third day morning, Nepali Hindus worship cows as a mother goddess and Goddess Laxmi. In the evening, we clean and decorate our houses and business with flowers and ornaments and illuminate lights. Goddess Laxmi's images or photos are enshrined and worshipped with sweets, flowers and incense and prayers are chanted. Young girls and women begin visiting door to door, singing and dancing traditional festival song and collecting money and food. People also involve in gambling which is not illegal for the festival period!

Now it's the turn of male cow to be worshipped on the fourth day morning! Nepali lifestyle is very much dependent on livestock herding. Oxen are heavily used on farming and transporting goods. Oxen is also the vehicle of Lord Shiva. So, it makes sense to revere the oxen in this festival. In the evening, Newar  ethnics perform "Mha Puja" which literally means worshipping your own body. This is the body where the soul dwells and so it's important! This day also marks the beginning of Newari New Year, known as "Nepal Sambat". Currently, we are in Nepal Sambat 1131 and the next Newari New Year or Nepal Sambat 1132 will be on Oct 28, 2011.

The last day of the festival is called 'Bhai tika' which is celebrated by brothers and sisters. Brothers and sisters travel far away to reunite with each other.  As mentioned above, Nepali sisters perform rituals and pray for good health, long life and prosperity for  their brothers. They apply "tika" of seven color paste on the forehead of the brothers and garland them with marigold or globe amaranth flowers. Brothers bring cloths or jewelry or cash in present for their sisters while the later feed the brothers delicious food and sweets!  Brothers who don't have blood relation sisters also receive "tika" from their cousin or soul sisters!

Festival Dates:

2014: 21-25 Oct

2015: 09-13 Nov

2016: 28 Oct-01 Nov

2017: 17-21 Oct

More in this category: « Teej-the Festival of Nepali Women