Tihar (Deepawali) – The Festival of Light

“Tihar” Article by Tek Neopany (MSW/M.A.)

November 2, 2021              Time: 9:00 pm – 1:30 am

Nepali speaking people all over the world celebrate Tihar or Deepavali, the one of the greatest festivals of light coincided with Halloween. The five-day festival or Yama Panchak is celebrated with fervor and gaiety worshipping human body and animals. The Tihar festival in 2021 (2078 BS) occurs during November 3rd through Saturday, November 6th. Hindu people decorate their houses embellished with colorful mud smeared around walls with belief that God enters into the clean houses. The worshipping to crow, dog, cow, ox and sibling is the symbol of adherent knowledge about the deep connections between all living things through gift-offering, story-telling and recognition of the coherent and cohesive relationships.

Kaag (Crow) Tihar – The First Day

Hindu followers worship crow as an informant of Yamaraj – the god of death with expectation of getting fortune in their houses instead of misfortune. People offer festive foods or grains to the crows. Accidentally or really, sometimes it has been proved that people’s belief either fortune or misfortune have occurred with the coincidence of crow’s crowing. Crow is also regarded as one of the most clever and intelligent birds.

Kukur (Dog) Tihar – The Second Day

Hindu people regard dog differently; some consider dog as an agent of Yama and most of the people regard dog as the honest guard of the house, detector of evil spirits and enemies. Dogs are highly honored in modern time because dogs are loyal, faithful, service-oriented, companionship and trained with high skills to use in the detection of crimes and even perpetrators. Dog is one of the most intelligent among animals. Dog has occupied a special place in the Hindu society. During the Rigvedic era, according to the ancient texts of Hinduism, Samara (the mother of dogs) helped Indra (the ruler of heaven) in retrieving stolen cattle. The dog is revealed to represent the concept of dharma, the path of righteousness. A garland of flowers is draped around the neck of every dog.

Gaai (Cow) Tihar – The Third Day of Deepawali (दीपावली)

During the day, Hindu people worship Cow as the incarnation of Laxmi (Mother Goddess of Wealth) with marigold garlands, flowers, and food and arrays of fairy lights, bright rangoli (colorful, intricate designs often drawn with rice flour or colors – light up entrances to homes and offices), earthen lamps and decorated with flowers. Devotees remain fasting whole day feeding on fruits, purify their houses by smearing with cow-dung (disinfecting houses from evil spirits-impurities) so that Mother Laxmi pleases to enter houses to bless her devotees. After the sunset, rows of lamps are placed along windows, doors, verandah and mark a path of footprints leading into the house marking as a welcome to Goddess Laxmi with a strong hope that Laxmi will enter with wealth and blessings. Around the sacred place of the house, all family members gather round worshipping place with scented sticks, displace all available assets (money, jewels and ornaments) in front of the image of Goddess Laxmi. They offer prayer and seek Goddess’s blessings to earn more wealth – setting a goal for the whole year to work hard and earn more wealth. After worshipping Goddess Laxmi, several groups of people come to houses playing Bhaileni (Tihar related singing and dancing) and offer blessings to the house once they are offered alms. Fireworks also fill the skies despite a government ban on fire-crackers. 

Hindu & Buddhist people believe that killing of cow is sin and after one’s death, people can’t reborn as human being and have to suffer after death in the forms of other beings such as insects, inferior animals and birds.

Goru (Ox) Tihar – The Fourth Day

Hindu people worship ox as the draught animal in the morning time. Ox offers a great and invaluable contributions to the farmers who use Oxen to plough their lands and fields. With Oxen’s laborious job, famers grow foods and fruits that serve entire mankind and animals on the earth. In the under developing country’s rural areas where there is no means of modern technology, oxen are inevitable farming partners of agriculturist. The Deuse – Bhailo cultural performance continues.

Bhai Tikka (Brothers’ Day) – The Fifth (final) Day of Tihar

During the Rigvedic period, brother was half eaten by demon when sister rescued him. Since then, this Bhai Tikka began to take place. Sisters remain fasting without taking anything until they offer tikka to their biological and adopted brothers. At the right stipulated time as indicated by Hindu Priest or Hindu Committee, sisters put seven colored Tikka on their brothers’ foreheads, offer gifts and blessings for their brothers’ success, prosperity and longevity and in return, brothers also offer tikka on their sisters’ foreheads and gifts and blessings. The brothers bring gifts to their sisters and the festival ends with feasting. It is also traditional to go from house to house singing Tihar songs and bestowing blessings, Sisters offer delicious foods, and fruits to their brothers. Sisters smash the walnut to pieces as a symbol of destroying devils (Yama or demon). Sisters without biological brothers adopt others as brothers and vice versa.

“Deepavali is a day dedicated to inner purity and noble character. This is a day of peace and cheer, reassuring man that he is essentially divine. Deepavali is a happy day dedicated to opening-up our hearts. Let all misgivings be forgotten and all grievances forgiven. Homes illuminated by lights indicates a society wherein each member is a little lamp of piety, goodness, love and mutual understanding and in such a society alone, does true goodwill and enduring prosperity come to stay – victoriously.” A quote from Swami Chinmayananda

Author’s message: “Let’s not commercialize this sacred festival for the sake of earning unreasonable money and expensive gifts by depriving own and innocent people weakening and jeopardizing sacred relationships. Let’s not consume alcohol and sugar content food and binge eating/drinking that invite diabetes and deteriorate health. Remember! Health is wealth.”

The information in this article is based on the author’s own experiences, observations, interactions with seniors, research from Online Khabar, The Kathmandu Post, and Kantipur News.

Leave a Reply