Tihar – The festival of lights & flowers

\\Tihar is biggest festival of lights or flowers or joys. This festival falls after 15 days of end of Dashain. It generally falls during the month of October. This festival is celebrated by people using different names such as Dipawali, Bhai Tika,  Laxmi Puja etc. This festival is also known as festival of lights or festival of flowers or festival of sisterhood or brotherhood. It is celebrated in five-days and these days are called Panchak or Yama Panchak. During this festival, different animals such as crow, dog, and cow are worshipped. People worship the Hindu Goddess of Fortune or Wealth (Goddess Laxmi) and enjoy cooking delicious meals (as roti) at home, fly kites, decorate homes and streets with lights and garlands (Mala in Nepali) and brothers and sisters shop and exchange their gifts (Saugat or Sagun) along with blessing (Ashish). Main importantly, brothers and sisters exchange a special temporary mark of color on forehead (Tika in Nepali) at the ending day of festival. This day of Tihar festival is popularly known as Bhai Tika day. This day has cultural importance as sisters wish a long life to their brothers (Bhai). Culturally, if anyone do not have own sister or brother, can accept from close relatives. If they have no choice, they can find from their friends or neighbors. This relation is considered as of relation of child born by same parents.
Tihar is celebrated in 5 days. Each day is special as there is worshipping of different animals or Goddess. First day is called as day of Kag (crow). This day is also called as Kag Tihar. In this day, all members of the family separate a portion of their meal and offer for Kag. Sisters offer worship for Kag before taking meal. Kags are considered as the messenger of the Lord of Death (Yam). Hence, people worship Kag and offer meal to keep them happy.
Second day is the day of Kukur (Dog). This day is named as Kukur Tihar. In this day sisters worship Kukur offering delicious meal, put red tika on their forehead and flower garland around their necks. Kukur guards home of people, hence, people honor Kukur by worshipping. (Please, do not use the word KUKUR for any Nepalese, this word is reserved for Dog only. Using this word may invite critical situation for you.) Kukur is also culturally worshipped because it is believed that, when Yudhisthir went to heaven with his brothers and family after the great war of Mahabharat, Kukur was only one which reached alive to heaven along with him even his brave brothers were died on the way.
The third day is the day of Gai (Cow). This day is also called as Gai Tihar. Culturally, gai is regarded as mother and called Gaumata (Mother Cow). It is regarded as sacred animal and worshiped as mother. In Hinduism, Gauhatya (killing of Cow) is considered as sin. During this day, Gai is worshipped by putting tika on her forehead, flower garland around her neck and offering good meals. People honor cow as she provides milk to people which is regarded as Amrit (Nutritious and holly liquid). People spray drops of Gaumutra (cow’s urine) to purify their body and home. Gaumutra is also considered as the medicine of various diseases.
During night, people worship Goddess Laxmi (Goddess of wealth) and it is called Laxmi Puja. During this day the entire nation illuminates with lights. During Laxmi Puja, Pictures and icons of Laxmi Devi (Goddess) are placed and worshiped. It is performed using flowers, incense, oil lamps, color-powders, bell and money (both notes and coins). The symbolic foot-print on the floor is made from the entrance of the home to the Puja Kotha (worshipping room) and Dhansar (room where people store their assets). It is believed that, if you worship Goddess Laxmi with devotion, then your life will be prosperous and happy with the Kripa (blessing) of Goddess Laxmi. After Laxmi Puja, group of female sing Bhailo or Bhailini door to door of community. Bhailini song offer joy, prosperity and blessing to the household where it is played. The song may be different from place to place depending on geography. But it must start with Bhailini or end with Bhailiram.
The fourth day is the day of Goru (oxen). This day is also called as Goru Tihar and people do Gobardhan puja (a symbolic mountain made of cow dung). This day Goru is worshipped as they are used to till lands for agriculture and pull the carts. Newari community (local ethnic group of Kathmandu Valley and other part of the country) perform Mahapuja. Mahapuja is the worshipping of self. This day is also celebrated as New Year as Nepal Sambat (Local time scale) starts from this day. They celebrate it offering Vintuna (regard and respect, compare Namaste) to each other. During day time, group of male sing Deusi song. Deusi song always ends with Deusi or Deosire or Deosuray depending geography.
It is the fifth or final day and also known as Bhai Tika Day. During this day, sisters give tika (a colored powder placed on once’s forehead), and mala (a necklace of flowers) to brothers along with wishes for long life and prosperity. During Bhai Puja (worship of brothers) brothers sit on a floor while sisters perform their puja following a traditional ritual of circling brothers three times dripping oil on the floor from a copper pitcher, putting oil in brother’s ears and hairs, breaking of walnuts by sisters and giving Tika to brothers. During Tika, sister use rice paste and put it on forehead of brother using her thumb. Then sister dabs seven colors on top of the rice paste base using her fingers. After tika, flower garland is put around brother’s neck. Then brothers fallow the same fashion to give Tika to sisters. Now brothers and sisters exchange their gifts. Sisters give a special gift known as Sagun, which is made of dried fruits and nuts, candies, and roti, while brothers give gifts such as clothes or money to sisters. During Tika, sisters pray for their brother’s long life to the Hindu God of Death, Yam. It is believed that breaking Okhar (walnut) and circling oil drips around brothers by sisters, keeps yam away from brothers and they have long life.
(Pictures taken from different internet sources are the properties of respective owners)

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