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 25+ years in the investment management industry, I packed in my job and spent 2014 living and working in Nepal and Bangladesh, and visited some other places in between. It took me on a journey I did not expect, had me fall in love with Nepal and it's people, and become inspired at the work of Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Centre (SIRC) located 2 hours east of Kathmandu in the Sanga foothills. Since 2014, I have continued my warm relationship with SIRC and worked closely with my friends there in the aftermath of the 2015 earthquakes to date. 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 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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