Tihar is a five-day festival in Nepal. It is the second biggest festival after Dashin, also known as Deepawali and Yama Panchak. Tihar is also celebrated in some parts of India, like Darjeeling and Kalimpong, where a large number of Nepali people live.
The Nepali Tihar festival is similar to the Indian Diwali festival, but there are a few major differences. Diwali is the festival of light and Diyas are all around the home in the same way that Tihar is also a festival of light and Diyas. However, the five days of Tihar are dedicated to the celebration and worship of the four creatures of the Hindu god of Death, Yama; Kaag (crow), Kukur (dog), Gai (cow), and an ox, and the fifth day is known as Bhai Tika, which distinguishes Tihar from the Indian festival of Diwali.
According to the English calendar, this festival begins at the end of October and begins in November. According to the Vikram Samvat calendar, the Tihar festival begins on the Trayodashi of Kartik Krishna Paksha with the first festival of Kaag (crow) Tihar and ends with Bhai Tika on Dwitiya of Kartik Sukla Paksha every year.
Diwali is a time for celebrating and thanking the Goddess Laxmi, who is believed to bring wealth and prosperity to those who worship her. During Tihar, people decorate their homes with lights and paint eyes on their doors to ward off evil spirits. In addition, there are various food traditions that are associated with Tihar, including eating new rice and exchanging delicacies with friends and family.
The five days of the festival include:
Kaag Tihar (Day-1)
The first day of the Tihar festival is known as Kaag Tihar. During this festival, people worship crows and ravens, because it is believed in the Hindu religion that the crow and ravens are the messengers of Yama, the death of god, and they carry messages from Yama, so if crows or ravens caw, that is a signal of sadness or grief.
So, in Kaag Tihar, people offer seeds, grains, and sweets to crows outside the home in the hope of appeasing them and warding off death and grief.
Kukur Tihar (Day-2)
The second day of the Tihar festival is known as Kukur Tihar, and the Newar communities also call it Khicha Puja. In the Hindu religion, the dog has a special place as a loyal companion and as the messenger of the god of the dead, Yama, who is also known as the incarnation of the dog Bhairava.
So Kukur Tihar Day is celebrated for the special relationship between dog and human, and the dog is thanked for its loyalty and service.
On this day, dogs are worshiped, whether they are pets or strays. People place tikas on the dogs’ foreheads and put garlands of marigolds around their necks, and people offer treats to them.
Gai Tihar and Lakshmi Puja (Day-3)
The third day of the festival is known as Gai (cow) Tihar and Lakshmi Puja.
In the Hindu religion, Gai (cow) is considered a sacred animal, so Gai (cow) is a really important animal in Hinduism. Gai (cow) is associated with prosperity because Gai is also known as the Vahana (Vehicle) of the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi.
In Hinduism, people revere the Gai (cow) because cows are known for their decile nature, and they give far more than they take. The cow gives milk, cheese, ghee, dung, and urine, which are useful to humans.
People eat milk, cheese, and ghee, which are healthy, and they burn the dung as fuel as well as use it as fertilizer. In the Hindu religion, people believe urine has health benefits.
So, on the third day of the Tihar festival, people show gratitude towards the cows and worship them, put the garlands of marigolds around their necks, and place the tika on their foreheads and offer the treat.
The third day of the Tihar festival is also known as Lakshmi Puja and is considered the most important day. This day is devoted to the goddess Lakshmi.
People clean their homes, and decorate the windows and doors, put Diyas and lights all around the home, and offer special puja to Goddess Lakshmi, and pray for health, wealth, and prosperity.
On this occasion, young boys and girls perform the traditional culture known as Bhailo for entertainment in the neighborhood, and they are rewarded with a small amount of money and some snacks as a reward for their efforts.
Govardhan Puja and Mha Puja (Day-4)
The fourth day of the Tihar festival is known as Govardhan puja. On this day, the ox is worshiped because the ox is considered an analogue to the cow in the Hindu religion.
People thanked the oxen for their work as manual labour in agriculture.
Bhai Tika (Day-5)
The fifth and last day of Tihar is known as Bhai Tika or Kija Puja in the Nepali language.
This day is especially devoted to brothers and sisters, wherein they worship each other.
It is believed that the brother of the goddess Yamuna was mortally ill, so the god of death, Yama, came to take his soul. Then the goddess Yamuna requested the god of death, Yama, to wait till she finished her final puja for her brother. Then she started a long puja and included the god of death, Yama, as well.
Then goddess Yamuna requested the god of death, Yama, to not take his brother’s soul until the tika had faded from his forehead, the oil had dried that was sprinkled on him, and the garlands of makhmal flowers had wilted that were put on his neck.
So the fifth day of Tihar is celebrated as Bhai Tika, wherein the sister creates a protective barrier for her brother’s long life by putting holy water and oil all around her brother, putting the garland of makhmal flowers on his neck, and placing the tika on his forehead with seven different colors.