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Tihar Festival

Tihar, also called as Diwali or Deepawali, ranks second only to Dashain in Nepal. It usually takes place in Nepali Kartik month (Octorber to November in Solar Calendar) and continues for five days. During this festival, people will honour crows, dogs, cows as well as Laxmi, the goddess of wealth and luck. As numerous candles and festive lanterns will be lit up for the Goddess of Laxmi, Tihar is also well-known as the festival of lights.

Nepal Light Festival
Thousands of lights will be lit up during Tihar Festival.

Since Nepal lunar calendar won't be published in advance, we couldn't figure out the exact date of Tihar Festival. Anyway, it often falls between mid-October and mid-November. And Nepalese have spent this colorful lights festival from Nov.9 to 13, 2015 and Oct.28 to Nov.1, 2016. When is Tihar Festival this year? Please contact us for more details.

Traditions of Tihar Festival

Tihar Festival is the second biggest festival in Nepal. It's celebrated for five days and bestowed with traditional cultural characteristics of Nepal. And each Tihar holiday has its own saying. The first day of Tihar is to worship crows, "the messenger of death". People often sprinkle rice on the ground for crows' pecking. The second day of Tihar is to honor dogs, "the guardian for the god of death". The third day is to welcome the Goddess of Laxmi. The forth day is to thank cows. The fifth day is to place Tihar quotes (Tihar Tika) to brothers and present Tihar gifts for sisters.

Day 1 Kaag Tihar/Crow Day, worshiping crows
On the first day of Tihar Festival, people will offer rice to the crows, "the messenger of death". These crows are busy all year round, and only have this day to rest. It is important to ensure that the crows are happy, otherwise they will inform the bad news, and bad things would happen in the coming year.

Worshipping crows on the first day of Tihar
Nepalese are feeding crows at Kathmandu Dubar Square.

Day 2 Kukur Tihar/Dog Day, thanking dogs
The second day of Tihar Festival is called as Kukur Tihar. On this day, Nepalis will honor dogs for they believe that the dog can guarantee the souls of the dead to get to heaven. People usually wear dogs with Tihar Tika and calendula garlands, and then treat them with a fancy dinner. In Nepal, the dog plays an important role as "the gatekeeper of death", which is said to lead the deceased across the river of death in the underworld. On Kukur Tihar, Nepalese policemen will present beautiful garlands to the patrol dogs and paint their foreheads in red cinnabar to thank for their contributions in social security.

Celebrating dogs on the second day of Tihar
Nepali plicemen are wearing dogs with Tihar Tika and beautiful garlands.

Day 3 Gai Tihar and Laxmi Puja, honoring cow and the goddess of wealth
On the third day of Tihar Festival, Nepalese often worship cows and Laxmi, the goddess of wealth. This day is also the most important holiday in the festival. People would get up early and clean the room thoroughly. Hence, they start to thank cows. After a cozy bath, those cows will wear red Tika and beautiful wreaths, with holy strings from the priest tied to their tails.

Thanking cows on the third day of Tihar
Nepalis will hold celebrations for the cows on the third day of Tihar.

When the night falls, dazzling candles, oil lamps and bright lights are lit up at the doors, steps, even on the roof. All the Nepalis will make their home as luminous as possible to attract Laximi's attention. If the day happens to be Saturday, shops and stores won't follow the traditional practices and keep open to welcome the goddess of wealth. At this moment, Nepalis kids won't be idle. They come to visit neighbors in small groups and sing Tihar songs like Bhailo and Deusi for blessings. In return, the house owner give them money, fruit and sweets.

Drawing on the statue of Laxmi
A Nepali women is concentrated in making the statue of Laxmi.

Playing fireworks in Tihar
It's time for kids to play fireworks.

Day 4 Goru Puja, Govardhan Puja and Maha Puja, celebrating Newari New Year
Under different cultural background, people will honor different things on the fourth day of Tihar. As ox is an indispensable helper for the farmer, people will perform Goru Puja for ox. Considered as the representative of Govardhan Mountain, cow dung is worshiped in Govardhan Puja. In addition, this day is also seen as the beginning of the new year for Newar community in Kathmandu valley. All the Newarians will reunite for this festival and perform Mha Puja to worship themselves.

On this day, the elder father would draw two geometric figures. One is painted for blessing the whole family and the other is dedicated to the death of Yama and his messenger. Then all the members will have a special family feast and enjoy some lucky food, like boiled eggs, fried fishes, tasty desserts, etc. After the grand banquet, they'll take turns to worship the death of Yama Panchak and exchange Tihar gifts with each other to pray for good luck in the next year.

Celebrating Newari New Year
A charming lady is dancing for Newari New Year.

Observing the celebrations of Tihar
The audience are totally attracted by the excellent performance.

Day 5 Bhai Tika, performing Kija Puja
The last day of Tihar is knowned as Bhai Tika. On this day, brothers and sisters will gather together and accept Tihar quotes on their foreheads. After placing the multi-colored Tika and splendid garlands to the brothers, the sisters would offer them some Shaguns (a kind of candy) as Tihar gift. And then the brothers would follow the same ritual to put Tika on their sisters and give them some money in return. This celebration has enhanced the close relationship between brothers and sisters.

Accepting Tika on the fifth day of Tihar
A young girl is just taking Tika from her brother.

Celebrations of Tihar Festival

There is no formal ceremony for Tihar Festival. And it's just similar to Christmas and New Year Festival in other parts of the world. On the eve of Tihar, the husband will buy gold and silver jewelry for his wife. After the festival of lights commences, houses and rooms will be cleaned and painted to show respect for the gods and goddesses. Nepalese put on their new clothes and make determination to start a new life. The merchants begin to use the new account book instead of the old one.

At night, each family and stores will lit varieties of colorful lights, and the sky is filled with spectacular fireworks. During this festival, friends and relatives will get reunion and exchange Tihar gifts and greetings with each other. The climax of Tihar in Nepal is bathing in the holy river to purify the body and mind. In addition to pray to the gods for the health of the whole family, Nepalis also pay special respect to Laxmi, the goddess of wealth and luck.

Generally speaking, Nepalis will celebrate to eleven great festivals from mid-October to mid-November. Tihar comes soon after Dashain. When the night falls, the whole Kathmandu valley turns to be a sea of lights. Why not contact us to tailor your own Nepal trip?

Master Catherine Jigme

About the Author - Master Catherine Jigme

With exceptional passion and outstanding leadership, Mrs. Catherine has dedicated herself to Tibet inbound tourism and China tour for 15 years. As one of the handful females who see great potential of Chinese inbound tourism, Catherine has made great contribution to promoting Tibet tourism and enhancing the employment of Tibetans and prosperity of local Tibetan community.

Over the years, she travelled overseas with Tibet Tourism Bureau many times to promote Tibet tourism. Currently, Catherine works as the marketing director of Tibet Vista, an opinion leader behind the whole team of Tibet Vista.

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