Nepal celebrates many festivals in a single year and there are other festivals too which are celebrated between every 2 to 12 years. Among them the second most popular festival is Tihar after Dashain. Tihar is a combined word for 5 days festival which soon comes after 15 days long Dashain Festival. All 5 days have different names and celebrated worshiping different characters respectively. Tihar is celebrated from Trayodashi or Kartik Shukla Dwitiya (ancient Hindu calendar) which occurs in October/November every year.
Tihar is a typical Nepali festival, which is widely remembered as Dipawali or Diwali around the world. Tihar also called as Yamapanchak, also known as Festival of Animals including Dog, Cow and Crow as well as Festival of Lights and Festival of Brothers & Sisters. Apart from that, people celebrate worshipping Laxmi Mata, the Goddess of Prosperity and Yama, the God of Death.
During The festival Nepalese people try to returns their home back if they are living in other cities or abroad. All the people, especially children and young people enjoy shopping new cloths other luxurious items for them. Houses in Villages and cities are decorated with lights. Traditional lamps (Diyo or Diya), candles, and modern electric lights are lit inside and outside of the houses. During the night time entire city as well as village looks like a shiny diamond. People gather to chant and dance which brings back smile on everyone’s face.
Tihar exactly looks the same like Western Christmas with the different colorful lights, tinsel decorations, colorful Rangoli, varieties of traditional sweets, big shopping, play swings & card games, and off course singing Deusi and Bhailo (traditional festive songs) and dancing. Tourists can witness happy festive moods everywhere and they also can participate with locals. Tihar ends with Bhai Tika (the fifth day of festival) where sisters put Tika on her brother's forehead, exchange gifts and feast on the variety of meals prepared by the family.
All 5 Days of Tihar Festival
Day 1. Kaag Tihar
The first day of Tihar Festival is called Kaag Tihar. Kaag means crow in Nepali language. In this day crows are worshipped offering fruits, sweets, rice, water and many others dishes at roadside on the roof or at balcony of home. Traditionally crows are believed as a messenger of negative news, especially death. Crawling of ravens and crows are understood as a symbol of sorrow and difficulties in Nepal. So they are worshipped to make them happy and avoid negative news.
Day 2. Kukur Tihar
second day of Tihar is Kukur Tihar. Kukur means dog in Nepali language. Newar community worships this day as a Kicha Puja in their language. This day people worship to the dogs believing they are the protector and guide of the good souls. In Hindu myth Mahabharat, dog it presented as the friend and guide to reach to the heaven. They are also regarded as another messenger of lord Yamraj, the decider of the death. People offer them tika, mala (garland) and delicious dishes. We can see almost all street dogs are also being worshipped throughout the day. day reflects them very important relation between human and dogs. Few people called the day as Narke Chaturdashi. Narke /Narka means hell in Nepali language.
Day 3. Gai Tihar and Laxmi Puja
The third day of Tihar festival is Gai Tihar and Laxmi Puja. Morning of the day is Gai Tihar and the evening is Laxmi Puja. Gai means cow in Nepali language. In Hinduism, cow is believed as goddess Laxmi. Laxmi is the Goddess of wealth. The cow also represents for the purity and prosperity. In this day all the houses looks very clean and are decorated by garlands made from Sayapatri (Marigolds), Makhamali (Chrysanthemums) and other different flowers. People offer them Tika, garlands, sweets and other delicious dishes while worshipping.
In the evening people worship Goddess Laxmi for the wealth and prosperity. All houses are cleaned and people make the way from outside to enter the goddess by colorful Rangoli. From the evening they start lighting the lamps, candles and traditional Diyas/Diyo to welcome Goddess Laxmi.
After completing the Laxmi Puja Tihar is celebrated with traditional Deusi – Bhailo, fireworks, songs and dances. Deusi is the group song and dance performed by boys and Bhailo is the group song and dance performed by girls. People gather and visit houses to play Deusi and Bhailo in groups. While singing they give blessings to the house owners. Groups are offered sweets, fruits and money in return by the home owners. People also worship goddess Laxmi at their shops, offices and workshops. Many companies offer gifts to their employees in this day.
Day 4. Govardhan Puja and Mha Puja
Gobhardan Puja, Goru Puja, and Mha Puja are celebrated on the fourth day of Tihar. Goru means Ox in Nepali language. Ox has been very important animal for mankind since the civilization at farming. So please worship them offering sweets, garlands and other dishes as well. People who follow Vaishnavism worship Gobhardan Puja worshiping Gobhardan mountain. The symbolic mountain is made by cow dung and worshipped with milk and tika prashad.
In addition, Mha Puja is celebrated by the Newari community. This is the celebration of worshipping self. They worship their own body and pray for their prosperity. This is also the new year of Nepal Sambat Calendar. Family members sit together and they create Mandap decorated by sweets, garlands, flowers and lights for each of them and worship themselves. They are offered traditional Newari dishes and wines.
Day 5. Bhai Tika
The last and the final day of the Tihar Festival is Bhai Tika. As written above, Yama Panchak is another name of the Tihar Festival. Which means Lord Yama, the god of death also goes to his sister’s (Yamuna) home annually in this day, and so Nepalese brothers reach to their sister’s home to celebrate the festival.
During the festival, brothers and sisters sit together and sisters offer brothers saptarangi tika (7 colored) on forehead, garlands, gifts, delicious dishes including traditional sweets and bless them for their healthy and prosperous life. Sisters are offered gifts and Dakshina (money) in return. Finally they sing Deusi and Bhailo song together and dance until mid-night.
Here are two videos of Bhai Tika for you all.