Tihar – Nepal’s Festival of Lights

This is a short write- up on what Tihar means to a one of the 45 young women who have been a recipient of  higher education scholarships by the impressive Bo M. Karlsson Foundation .  This post is reproduced here with their kind permission.

Tihar is one of the most dazzling of all Hindu festivals. Also known as festival of lights, it is considered to be of great importance among Nepalese people. Tihar is celebrated for five days, with different traditional rituals performed each day. A beautiful aspect about this festival is that it not only marks a celebration of humans and gods, but also represents the attachment between human and animals.

The first day of Tihar is known as “Kag (Crow) Tihar”. On this day, people worship the crows by offering different food items in a plate made of saal leaves. The second day observed is “Kukur (Dog) Tihar” where dogs are worshipped to thank them for guarding our homes and for their loyalty. People offer a variety of delicious food to dogs. Even the street dogs are given respect on this particular day.

“Laxmi Puja” is the third day of Tihar. On this day people worship the cow and the goddess Laxmi. Goddess Laxmi, the symbolic deity of wealth and prosperity, is worshiped and entreated to provide a prosperous life. In the evening, all houses are decorated with colorful garlands, rangoli art, lights and diyas. Because this day is marked on the new moon, lights have particular significance. It is believed amidst the bleak darkness of the new moon, goddess Laxmi will visit the house which is decorated beautifully and brightly with lights. With all the shimmering and dazzling lights, the city looks very beautiful during Laxmi puja.

During this evening of Tihar, girls gather together and visit different houses wearing their cultural dresses. They play different musical instruments and perform dances to collect blessings and money from the home owners. This practice is called “Vailo”. The fourth day is “Gobardhan Puja” where people worship the ox. On this evening, it is the boys’ turn to perform dancing, singing, and collect blessings and money. This practice is called “Deusi”.

The fifth and last day of Tihar is “Bhaitika”. On this day, all the sisters honor their brothers and pray for their longevity and good health. They put seven different colors of tika on their brother’s forehead. They adrorn him with garlands and offer different delicious foods like apple, okhar, and chocolates. In return, they get different gifts from their brothers.

Tihar is my personal favorite festival among all because all of our family members get reunited on this occasion. We play Deusi Vailo every year together with our friends and I love the beautiful atmosphere of the city lights in the evening. My sister and I decorate our home, create rangoli art, experiment with new dishes in the kitchen and it is full of fun. I love this festival of lights!

Binita Devkota, BMKF Law Student

About Kate Coffey

After 30 or so years in the investment management industry, 2013 saw me turn my life up-side-down, making my way first to Nepal, then Bangladesh during that first ‘year away’. The year took me on a journey I did not expect, had me fall in love with Nepal and its people, and become inspired at the work of Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Centre (SIRC) located in Bhainsepati - 2 hours east of Kathmandu in the Saanga foothills. Since 2014, I have returned to SIRC numerous times, working closely with the folks there in the aftermath of the 2015 earthquakes. In Bangladesh I marvelled at the strength and resilience of marginalized women who have the courage and audacity to break the rules and make a better life for themselves and their children through microfinance programs with BRAC. 2016-2017 saw me embark on a totally new experience in Sri Lanka, a place I never would have chosen to end up in. It’s the 40C+ heat, big humidity and tropical snakes & animals that scared me! But I ended up love love loving! my time there, working with predominantly Tamil small business owners in remote villages in north and east of the country, trying their best to recover their businesses and the lives of their employees, after decades of a civil war. My time in Sri Lanka made me realize my hard-earned business skills and experience can really be put to good use! The work the BIZ+ team and I did there ended up earning me International Volunteer of the Year Award in December 2017, presented on Capitol Hill, Washington DC no less. I am currently home on Bowen Island, in the west coast of Canada, shoring up my finances before I head off to who knows where, for my next expert volunteer assignment. This blog initially started out as a travelogue of sorts to keep friends and family worldwide updated while I was off on my travels in 2013-2014. Since then it has morphed into a life story of the many places I have lived and worked and of the wonderful people I have met along the way. I hope you enjoy.
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