Tihar: The Second Largest Festival of Hinduism

Tihar, also called Yamapanchak, is the second largest festival of Nepal, especially Hindus, after Dashain. Tihar begins from Krishna Pakshya Trayodashi i.e. 13th day of waning moon in the month of Kartik to Kartik Shukla Dwitiya i.e. the second day of the waxing moon every year. In English calendar, these dates lie between October and November. Thus, Tihar is a five-da Nepalese Hindu festival celebrated in the late autumn which comes after 12 days of Kojagrat Purnima, the last day of Bada- Dashain. The word Tihar or Deepawali means the festival of lights and colors, when many candles and diyos (oil lamps) are lit both inside and outside the houses to make it glittering at night. The five-day festival is regarded to be of great significance as it shows reverence to not just the humans and the gods, but also to the animals like crow, dog and cow, who maintain an intimate & unique relationship with the humans.

Tihar Dipawali Yamapanchak

Day 1: The singularity of Tihar is contributed by this first day when a lowly creature like a crow is worshipped which is not found anywhere else in the world as a culture. We offer sweets, dishes and delicacies in a home-made plate made by knitting Shorea robusta leaves, which we call TAPARI keeping it on the rooftop. We decorate the plates with flowers and call the crows to come up to eat.The cawing of the crows symbolizes the sadness and grief in the Hindu mythology, so the devotees offer crows food to avoid grief and death in their homes. The crows are also said to be the messenger of Yamaraj, the deity of death. This means, if a crow caws at your house in the morning, it heralds bad news.

Day 2: Dogs are worshipped as a protector of the house on the second day of Tihar. People offer floral garlands, teeka and delicious foods to the dogs to acknowledge the cherished relationship between humans and the dogs. The day is also observed as Narak Chaturdashi.

Day 3: We worship the cows on the third day morning of Tihar. In Hinduism, cow is regarded as the kind mother who gives humans nutritious milk and fertile manure to grow crops. Even now, cow dung is plastered on the floor routinely for the purification of the house. Cow urine is also regarded as the purifying liquid in many occasions. Cow milk forms an essential component of panchamrit, the five elixir. Hence, people show their gratitude to cows garlanding them with flowers and feeding them with best grass and foods. Houses are also cleaned and painted. The Doors and windows are decorated with marigold garlands.In the evening, we worship Laxmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity. Doorways and windows are illuminated with diyo (oil lamps on ceramics) or candles. Nowadays, the whole house is brightly illuminated with electric lights. At night girls enjoy dancing and singing by visiting the houses in the neighborhood. This is called Bhailo, whereby the house-owner has to offer money and food to the children playing Bhailo.

Day 4: On the 4th day of Tihar, cow dung is moulded to form a small mountain representative of Govardan mountain and is then worshipped. On this day, the oxen are also worshipped. Perhaps, this is the only day in a year when the most neglected creature is worshipped and fed with good food.Newar community observes this day as Mha Puja or worship of the self.This is the beginning of new Nepal Sambat. At night boys gather around to play deusi in the neighborhood similar to Bhailo. It is believed that Baliraja or Mahabali who is the greatest alms-giver had ordered to go to sing Deusi- Bhailo.

Day 5:The fifth of last day is Bhaitika when sibling sisters apply Tika to the foreheads of their brothers praying for longevity. Mythology has it that Yamaraj, the god of death visited Yamuna (his sister)'s house for Tika. So, Hindu devotees follow Yamaraj by going to their sister's house one of five days of Yamapanchak for a longer life or immortality. The garlands that the sisters will be giving to the brothers are made up of Makhamali or Gomphrena globosa flowers that never wilts. In this way, sisters circle around brothers by pouring Jal or water thrice, apply oil to hair and offer seven-colored Tika and many delicious foods. In return, brothers give them gifts and money.

 If you want to watch the video on Tihar, please click below:

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