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Traditions of Tihar

Tihar, also known as Deepawali, is the most celebrated festival after Dashain in Nepal. It is a five-day festival celebrated in late autumn and has very unique traditions. While various communities celebrate Tihar in different ways, there are also many commonalities.

First day - Kag Tihar (Crow Puja) On the first day of Tihar, crows are worshiped and fed early in the morning. People leave food items outside for crows to eat. Crows are considered to be the messenger of death. People worship them to bring good luck.

Second day - Kukur Tihar (Dog Puja) The second day of tihar is dedicated to the most loyal friend of mankind, dogs. Dogs are worshipped by putting a red tika on their forehead and flower garland around their neck, offering them food and sel roti.

Third day – Gai (cow) Puja and Laxmi Puja On the third day of tihar Cows are worshipped in the morning with sesame oil lights, garlands of flowers and red color (abir). Cows are also fed with wheat flour, sel roti, rice and dal. Disciples try to pass in-between four legs of the cow. The cow is regarded as a mother in Hindu religion, as we grow up drinking her milk. Cow is also regarded as Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity.

In the afternoon we clean our houses and paint floors with Red Mud (Rato Mato) and cow dung (gobar). Rangoli is made in front of the main gate and decorated with colorful designs. Small designs of footsteps are painted from the main entrance to the puja kotha. These footsteps are believed to be the footsteps of goddess Lakshmi. Candles or pala are lit all over the house making it bright and beautiful. There is a long tradition of girls and kids going out to neighbors to sing traditional songs, called Bhailo songs, in the evening. Fire crackers are blown on this day. In the evening the goddess of wealth Lakshmi is worshiped by lighting numerous lights. Goddess Lakshmi is worshipped for prosperity and wealth in the family.

Fourth day – Goru Tihar (Govardhan parbat ko puja) and Mah (aatma or self) Puja On Govardhan puja Goru Tihar, three different Kinds of puja are performed. We perform Goru Puja, or worship Oxen. We also perform Govardhan Puja, which is done by making a hill of govardhan parbat using Cow dung. Cow dung has big importance in Hindu culture. In the old days it was used for everything, from lighting at night (Methane) to polishing mud floors of traditional houses. No Puja is complete without cow dung in Nepali Hindu culture.

In this night, the Newar community performs Maha Puja, also known as self-puja. It is done to purify our body. In this puja a Mandap decorated with Saipatri (marigold flower), sweets and fruits and a special Mala (garland) which is made of thread is kept. Each member of the family has one Mandap. A female member of the family offers the person sitting on the Mandap a Sagun with her hands crossed. Shagun usually consist of fried eggs, fruits, sweets, meat, fish, lentil and pastries. In the left hand with egg and fish and in the right hand Rakshi (homemade alcohol). This day is also the beginning of Nepal Sambat, Newari New year. In the evening many Nepali children and young men go house to house singing Deusi song. People go in group with males and females members to celebrate Bhailo and deusi both.

Fifth Day: Bhai Tika or Bhai Duj Pancha Rangi Tika

The fifth and last day of Tihar is Bhai Tika. On this day, sisters put “Tika of five colours” (yellow, green, red, blue and white) on the foreheads of their brothers to ensure long life and pray to Yamraja for their brothers’ long life and prosperity. Sister offers brothers Shaguns of dry fruits especially walnut, hazelnut (Katus), fruits and sweets. Brothers also put Pancha Rangi Tika to their sister and bow her on her feet and assure her to protect her till the end of life.On this day, Rani Pokhari Temple (located at central Kathmandu) is opened for those who do not have any brother or sister. This is the only time in a year the temple is open to general public.

Happy Tihar to all!

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