Tihar (festival)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Also calledSwonti (Nepal Bhasa), Deepawali (दीपावली), Yamapanchak (यमपञ्चक)
TypeReligious, Nepali
CelebrationsDecorating homes with lights, singing, dancing, gambling, etc.
ObservancesPrayers and religious rituals
DateNew moon day of Kartika, celebrations begin two days before and end two days after that date
2019 dateOctober 26–29
2020 dateNovember 13–17
Related toDiwali, Swanti

Tihar (Nepali: तिहार), also known as Deepawali and Yamapanchak, is a five-day-long Hindu festival celebrated primarily in Nepal and some parts of India such as Darjeeling district, Kalimpong district, Sikkim, and Assam. It is the festival of lights, as diyas are lit inside and outside the houses to illuminate at night. It is known as Swanti among the Newars.[1] Set in the Bikram Samvat calendar, the festival begins with Kaag Tihar in Trayodashi of Kartik Krishna Paksha and ends with Bhai Tika in Dwitiya of Kartik Sukla Paksha every year.[2]

Tihar is the second biggest Nepali festival after Dashain and is usually allocated a three-day-long national holiday in Nepal. The festival is novel in that it shows reverence to not just elders and gods, but also to animals such as crows, dogs, and cows that have long lived in relationship with humans. People make feet patterns of Laxmi on the floor of living rooms or courtyards using materials such as colored rice, dry flour, colored sand or flower petals outside their house, which is meant to be a sacred welcoming area for the Gods and Goddesses of Hinduism, mainly Goddess Laxmi.[3]

A dog after being venerated during Kukur Tihar in Nepal.

Day 1: Kaag Tihar[edit]

The first day of the festival is called Kaag Tihar.[4] Crows and ravens are worshipped with offerings of sweets and dishes placed on the roofs of houses. The cawing of crows and ravens symbolizes sadness and grief in Hinduism. Devotees believe that the offerings will help avert grief in the home.

Day 2: Kukur Tihar[edit]

The second day is called Kukur Tihar.[5] It is called Khicha Puja by the Newars.[6] People offer garlands, tika and delicious food to dogs and acknowledge the cherished relationship between humans and dogs.

Dogs occupy a special place in Hindu mythology. In every home and street, Dogs get special treatment on this day. As mentioned in the Mahabharata, Bhairava, a fierce manifestation of Lord Shiva, had a dog as a vahana (vehicle). Yama, the god of death, is believed to own two guard dogs – each with four eyes. The dogs are said to watch over the gates of Naraka, the Hindu concept of Hell.[7] Owing to this belief, this day is also observed as Naraka Chaturdashi.

Day 3: Gai Tihar and Laxmi Puja[edit]

Garlands of marigold being prepared for decoration. Houses, offices and commercial complexes are decorated with garlands in the morning of Laxmi Puja.
Goddess Laxmi, the Hindu Goddess of wealth and prosperity.

The morning of the third day is Gai Tihar (worship of the cow). In Hinduism, cow signifies prosperity and wealth. In ancient times, people benefited a lot from the cow. Its milk, dung, and urine were used for various purposes like food and purification. Thus, on this day, people show their gratefulness to cows by garlanding and feeding them with the best grass and food. Houses are cleaned and the doorways and windows are decorated with garlands made of Saya Patri (marigold) and Makhamali (Gomphrena globosa) flowers.

In the evening, Laxmi, the goddess of wealth, is thanked for all the benefits that were bestowed on the families by lighting oil lamps (diyo) or candles on doorways and windows to welcome prosperity and well-being. From the third day onward, Tihar[8] is celebrated with Bhailo and Deusi and with lights and fireworks. On the night of Laxmi Puja, girls visit the houses in the neighborhood and sing the Bhailini song, sometimes accompanied by musical instruments. Deusi is mostly sung by boys. Deusi is balladic and tells the story of the festival, with one person narrating and the rest following in a chorus. The girls and boys wish blessings on the family of the houses they visit and they are offered food (including selroti), money and gifts by the family of the houses where they visit. Nowadays, social workers, politicians and young people visit local homes, sing Bhailini and Deusi songs, and collect funds for welfare and social activities.

Coincidentally, Laxmi Puja also marks the birthday of Laxmi Prasad Devkota, who is widely revered and honoured as the greatest poet of the Nepali language.

Cow dung during Gobardhan Puja

Day 4: Govardhan Puja[edit]

Applying tika during Bhai Tika

On the fourth day of Tihar, there are three different kinds of pujas, depending on the people's cultural background. Mainly ox is worshipped on this day by giving it good food. It is observed as Goru Tihar or Goru Puja (worship of the ox). People who follow Vaishnavism perform Govardhan Puja, which is worship of Govardhan mountain. Cow dung is taken as a representative of the mountain and is worshipped. The majority of the Newar community perform Mha Puja (worship of self) on the night of this day. This day is the beginning of the new Nepal Sambat calendar year. Children and teenagers perform Deusi Bhailo on this day by visiting the houses in their locality. It is a joyous time of celebration and is a representation of the communal Nepali culture.

Day 5: Bhai Tika[edit]

The fifth and last day of Tihar is called Bhai Tika or Kija Puja. It is observed by sisters applying tilaka or tika to the foreheads of their brothers to ensure their long life and thank them for the protection they provide. It is believed that Yamraj, the god of death, visited his sister, Goddess Yamuna, on this day during which she applied the auspicious tika on his forehead, garlanded him and fed him special dishes. Together, they ate sweets, talked and enjoyed themselves to their hearts' content. Upon parting, Yamraj gave Yamuna a special gift as a token of his affection and, in return, Yamuna 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 die on that day.

Sisters make special garlands for their brothers from a flower that wilts only after a couple of months, symbolizing the sister's prayer for her brother's long life. Brothers sit on the floor while their sisters perform their puja. The puja follows a traditional ritual in which sisters circle brothers, dripping oil on the floor from a copper pitcher and applying oil to their brother's hair, following which a seven-colour tika is applied on the brother's forehead. Next, brothers offer tikas to their sisters in the same fashion with an exchange of gifts. This ritual is practised regardless of whether the brother is younger or older than the sister. Those without a sister or brother join relatives or friends for tika. This festival strengthens the close relationship between brothers and sisters.

In addition to these, Newars make colourful Ashtamangala mandalas and recite chants and procedures in accordance with Tantric rituals. Along with the seven-coloured tika, sisters provide brothers with Sagun, sweets, Makhamali (Gomphrena globosa) garland, and a sacred cotton thread of Tantric importance, similar to Janai thread meant to protect their bodies.


  1. ^ Toffin, Gerrard (2007). The Mwahni (Dasai) Festival and the Caste System. Social Science Baha. p. 316. ISBN 978 99933 43 95 0.
  2. ^ "Tihar, Dates in Nepal, Kaag Tihar, Kukur Tihar, Gai Tihar, Laxmi Puja, Govardhan Puja, Bhai Tika". Lumbini Media. 23 September 2017. Retrieved 23 September 2017.
  3. ^ Selvamony 2006, pp. 172
  4. ^ "Tihar begins; Kaag Tihar today". The Himalayan Times. 28 October 2016. Retrieved 31 October 2016.
  5. ^ "Kukur Tihar being observed across the nation". The Himalayan Times. 29 October 2016. Retrieved 31 October 2016.
  6. ^ George van Driem (1993). A grammar of Dumi, Volume 10 (illustrated ed.). Walter de Gruyter. p. 404. ISBN 978-3-11-012351-7.
  7. ^ "Yama, the First Man, and King of the Dead". sacred-texts.com. Retrieved 29 October 2016.
  8. ^ "Tihar - Festival". Retrieved 28 May 2019.