|Also called||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|
|2013 date||November 1-5|
|2014 date||October 21-25|
Tihar (Nepali: तिहार) also known as Deepawali in terai region of Nepal is a five-day-long Hindu and Buddhist festival celebrated in Nepal which comes soon after Dashain. Similar to Deepawali, where one day is celebrated for goddess Laxmi and the other one is celebrated to worship brothers for their long life. However, all ethnic groups celebrate this festival. Among the Newars, it is known as Swanti. The festival is celebrated from Trayodashi of Kartik Krishna to Katrik Shukla Dwitiya every year. The name Tihar means the festival of lights, where many candles are lit both inside and outside the houses to make it bright 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 things outside of their house, called "Rangoli" in Nepali & Hindi, to make their Home look attractive & beautiful at night.
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 and Diwali in India represent the divine attachment between Human and other animals and birds in our nature.We worship crow before having our meal.We feed the crow during this day as god. To strengthen the worship of nature, all these rituals are introduced in Hinduism.
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 Tihar and Laxmi Puja
The morning of third day is Gai Tihar (worship of the cow). In Hinduism, the cow is sign of 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 village with many musical instruments playing a historical game called Bhailo all night long. They collect money from all the houses by singing and dancing and share the sweets and money amongst themselves.
From the third day onwards Tihar is especially famous for Deusi and Bhailo, light and fireworks. Deusi and Bhailo are the songs which have only been sung on those Tihar days. The Deusi is mostly sung by the boys while the Bhailo is sung by the girls. Social workers, young and children visit local homes to sing these songs, and in return the home owners give them money, fruit, rice 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 Krishna perform Gobardhan Puja, which is worship towards Cowdung. Cowdung is seen as very useful in Nepal, as in the olden days it was used for everything from light at night (Methane) to polish for the mud floors of traditional houses. The Newar community on the night of this day do Mha Puja (worship of self). Because this period is also the beginning of Nepal Sambat, or the new year of Nepalese especially commemorated by Newars, it ensures prosperity for the new year.
The fifth and last day of Tihar is Bhai Tika, when where sisters put tika on the foreheads of brothers, to ensure long life, and thank them for the protection they give. When the sisters give the tika, the brothers give gifts or money in return. 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 three times dripping oil on the floor from a copper pitcher. Afterwards, sisters put oil in brother's ears and hair, then give tika. Breaking of walnuts by sisters before giving tika to brothers is a common practice.
Tika starts with placing a banana leaf already cut into a line placed on brother's forehead held by one of the sister's hand, then applying tika base (made from rice paste) in the open space. Then sister dabs seven colors on top of the base using her fingers. Some may give tika with the help of a small stick or a brush without the using banana leaves. In this case, small stick is dipped into the tika base, then brushed vertically on the forehead, then using a different stick, the seven colors are applied on top of the base. After tika, flower garland is put around brother's neck. Then brothers give tika to sisters in the same fashion. Sisters also receive flower garland around their neck and brothers place their head over sisters feet and receive their blessings. This is practiced regardless of whether brother is younger or elder to the sister. Also, brothers give gifts such as clothes or money to sisters while sisters give a special gift known as Sagun (which is made of dried fruits, nuts, candies etc.). A fantastic Tihar feast takes place. Those without a sister or brother join relatives or friends for tika. Sisters pray for their brother's long life to Yamaraj, the Hindu god of death. This festival brings close relationship between brothers and sisters. In this ways Tihar ends.
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