Tue, 13 Apr, 2021

Tihar Celebrations

By Ankit Pradhan

Tihar is the one of the most important religious festivals celebrated by Hindus all over the world. It has its own religious significance. It is generally celebrated in the new moon day of Kartika. Celebration starts two days prior and end two days after the day. Hindus all over the world share celebrate this festival with joy and happiness, sharing love and affection with each other. In India, it is celebrated as Dipawali and is also known as festival of lights. It is celebrated as the victory of good over bad, since lord Rama killed demon Ravan on the very same day and rescued lord Sita. In India, people burn the statue of Ravan in order to remember the victory of good over evil. In Nepal, it is celebrated generally for five days. But nowadays, two or three festival days coincide and hence the festive season lasts for less than five days. There are different stories about how the celebration of Tihar began. But the most famous story or belief is that of Yama, the god of death, and his twin sister Yamuna. Yama and Yamuna were living away from each other for a very long time. Yamuna wanted to meet her brother Yama.. In order to meet her brother, she tried different mediums.She sent her message through a crow at first, then a dog and then a cow, but she was unable to meet him.  At last in order to meet Yama, she went herself. At first, she made a circle using oil and dubho. Then, she worshiped him with five different coloured tikas and flowers. She used makhmali and godawari flowers in order to worship him. Therefore, every sister follows the same tradition and worships their brother. The five days of Tihar are based on Yamuna’s attempts of meeting her brother. On the first day of Tihar, crows, who are believed to be the messengers of death, are worshipped with the hope of bringing good news to the household and preventing the house from any bad mishap. The second day is celebrated as Kukur Tihar. Dogs, who are believed to be very loyal and faithful partners of humans, are worshipped. It is believed that dogs can sense danger and death coming and are worshipped with a belief that they’ll continue with their loyalty. The third day is Laxmi Puja. On this day, cows are worshipped with tika, garland and by putting different colours on their body. Sel roti, wheat flour, rice and dal are served to the cows. People try to pass through the legs of cows and tie the sacred thread, the one they had put on the religious day of Janaipurnima, on its tail. In Hindu religion, cows are regarded as mothers since we grow up drinking the milk of cows. Some people also worship cows considering her as goddess Laxmi, goddess of wealth. On this day, we clean our houses with water and paint floors with red mud (rato mato) and cow dung. The entire house is decorated with lights and the floors are decorated with different designs. The designs which are created by using colour and flour is called rangoli. Small footsteps are made starting from the entrance of the house to the in-house temple. It is believed that these footsteps are the footsteps of goddess Laxmi. Then at the time stipulated by the priests, the puja is conducted. The whole house is lighted with candles and diyos in order to welcome goddess Laxmi. Furthermore, there is also a tradition of playing deusi and bhailo on this day and during the entire festive season of Tihar. At night, generally kids go to other people’s houses singing songs, asking for money and food, and giving blessing to the owners of the houses. This tradition is called deusi-bhailo and the song is called Deusire and Bhailini. This song is believed to have some connection with the king Mahabali since the words of the song quote “We did not come for no reason; we’re sent by king Bali”. King Bali is regarded as a devoted and selfless king and was blessed and rewarded by Vamana, the third incarnation of Visnu, for his selfless devotion. Thus, the children take the name of king Bali and ask for blessings and gifts, especially money. Goru Puja/ Govardhan Puja are performed on the fourth day of Tihar. To add, Newars celebrate Newari New Year on this day and perform Mha Puja (Mha in Newari means body). This year, they celebrated the beginning of the 1135th Newari New Year. Considering this day to be a new initiation, Newars purify their body off the sins they’ve committed in the prior year and worship their own body for a new start by celebrating Mha Puja. In order to perform this puja, mandaps (rangolis) is decorated with different colours and flowers. Everyone has their own mandap to carry out puja. A female member from the family offers sagun with hand crossed to the person sitting alongside the mandap. The sagun generally consists of fried egg, fruits, meat, fish, lentil, sprinkles of some alcohol, etc. On the left hand, there is egg and fish and on the right hand, there is rakshi (homemade alcohol). Also, people worship oxen and cow dung during this day. Cow dung has a very important role in our culture. We use cow dung to paint our houses and floors; we make diyos with cow dung and any puja or festival is believed to be incomplete without cow dung. The fifth day of the Tihar is Bhai tika. On this day, sisters shower their prayers to Yamraj and worship their brothers in order to prevent the death, to ensure long life and prosperity. Sisters put five different colours of tika (pancharangitika) that is composed of colours: yellow, red, blue, green and white on the forehead of their brothers. Before starting the puja, okhar (walnut) is broken; it is regarded as evils. A mandap is made using different colours and a fruit (mausam) is put in the middle of the mandap. On top of the fruit, a cotton-built thread-like material is lighted. Sisters circle their brother three times and worship them using flowers and corn. Sisters offer sagun to brothers which generally consist of dry fruits and sweets and in return the brother gives gifts and money to the sisters and bow upon their feet. On this day, Rani Pokhari Temple of Kathmandu is opened for those who don’t have sisters or brothers. Different people gather there to put tika from a sister though they don’t know each other. There they find sisters and brothers. In the legend, it is said that on the day of Bhai Tika, the messenger of Yamaraj came to take the soul of the brother, who was being worshiped by his sister. However, the sister asked the messenger to wait till the puja is completed and requested the messenger to put tika from her hand. That is, the sister worshiped the messenger as well. Being pleased by the sister’s act, the messenger asked what she wanted. The sister asked for the long life of her brother and saved her brother. Much like every other festival in Nepal, Tihar is also entwined with different norms and traditional values and stories. Hope this article furthered your knowledge about Tihar!