|Also called||Swanti (Newari), Deepawali (दीपावली), Yamapanchak (यमपञ्चक),|
|Observed by||Hindus worldwide (with various names and slight variations)|
|Celebrations||Decorating homes with lights, singing, dancing, gambling, etc.
|Observances||Prayers and religious rituals|
|Date||New moon day of Kartika, celebrations begin two days prior and end two days after that date|
Tihar (Nepali: तिहार) is a five-day-long Hindu festival celebrated in Nepal which comes soon after Dashain. Similar to Deepawali but with a regional variation. In Nepal all Hindu ethnic groups celebrate this festival with their own variation . Among the Newars, it is known as Swanti. The festival is celebrated from Trayodashi of Kartik Krishna to Kartik Shukla Dwitiya every year. Tihar in general signifies the festival of lights, where diyas are lit both inside and outside the houses to make it illuminate at night. The five-day festival is considered to be of great importance as it shows reverence to not just the humans and the Gods, but also to the animals like crow, cow and dog, who maintain an intense relationship with the humans. People make patterns on the floor of living rooms or courtyards using materials such as colored rice, dry flour, colored sand or flower petals outside of their house, called “Rangoli” which is meant to be sacred welcoming areas for the Hindu deities
Kaag (Crow) Tihar
The first day of the festival is called Kag Tihar or Kag Puja (worship of the crows). The crows are worshiped by offerings of sweets and dishes on the roof of the houses. The cawing of the crows symbolizes sadness and grief in the Hindu mythology, so the devotees offer the crows food to avert grief and deaths in their homes. Tihar in Nepal represents the divine attachment between Human and other animals .
Kukur (Dog) Tihar
The second day is called Kukur Tihar or Kukur Puja (worship of the dogs). It is also called as Khicha Puja by the Newars. Dog, which is believed to be messenger of Lord Yamaraj, the God of death, is worshiped once a year on this day. People offer garlands, tika and delicious food to the dogs, and acknowledge the cherished relationship between humans and the dogs. This day is also observed as Narka Chaturdashi.
Gai (Cow) Tihar and Laxmi Puja
The morning of third day is Gai Tihar (worship of the cow). In Hinduism, cow signifies prosperity and wealth. In ancient times people benefitted a lot from the cow. Its milk, dung even urine was used for different purposes like purification. Thus on this day people show their gratefulness to the cow by garlanding and feeding the cow with the best grass. Houses are cleaned and the doorways and windows are decorated with garlands made of marigolds and chrysanthemums.
In the evening Laxmi, the goddess of wealth is thanked for all the benefits that were bestowed on the families by lighting oil lamps or candles on doorways and windows to welcome prosperity and well being. At night the girls enjoy dancing and visiting all the houses of the neighborhood with musical instruments singing and dancing known as Bhailo all night long collecting money as tip from houses and share the bounty amongst themselves.
From the third day onwards tihar is celebrated by playing Deusi and Bhailo along with light and fireworks. . Deusi is mostly sung by the boys while the Bhailo is sung by the girls. Nowadays Social workers and politician along with, young and children visit local homes to sing these songs, and in return the home owners give them money, fruit and Selroti (a special type of Nepali bread made by rice flour and sugar).
Gobardhan Puja and Mha Puja
On the fourth day of Tihar, there are three different known pujas, depending on the people’s specific cultural background. Most perform Goru Tihar or Goru Puja (worship of the oxen). People who follow Vaishnavism perform Govardhan Puja, which is worship towards goverdhan mountain. Cowdung is taken as representative of the mountain and is worshiped . The Newar community on the night of this day do Mha Puja (worship of self).This period is also the beginning of Nepal Sambat(newari new year ) especially commemorated by Newars, it ensures prosperity for the new year.
The fifth and last day of Tihar is Bhai Tika, where sisters put tika on the foreheads of brothers, to ensure long life, and thank them for the protection they give.It is believed that Yamraj, the God of Death visited his sister Yamuna on this particular day.where she applied the auspicious tika on his forehead, garlanded him and fed him with special dishes. Together, they ate the sweets, talked and enjoyed themselves to their heart’s content. While parting Yamraj gave her a special gift as a token of his love and in return Yami also gave him a lovely gift which she had made with her own hands. That day Yamraj announced that anyone who receives tilak from his sister will never be thrown to death on that day . A special garland is made for the brothers out of a flower that wilts only after a couple of months, symbolizing the sister’s prayer for her brother’s long life. Brothers sit on a floor while sisters perform their puja. The puja follows a traditional ritual in which sisters circle brothers dripping oil on the floor from a copper pitcher applying oil in brother’s hair, then 7 color tika is applied on brothers forehead . Then brothers give tika to sisters in the same fashion along with exchange of gifts . This is practiced regardless of whether brother is younger or elder to the sister. Those without a sister or brother join relatives or friends for tika. This festival brings close relationship between brothers and sisters.