|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|
|2014 date||October 21–25|
|2015 date||November 8-12|
Tihar (Nepali: तिहार) or Swonti (Newar: स्वन्ती) is a five-day-long Hindu festival celebrated in Nepal which comes soon after Dashain. It is similar to Deepawali but with a regional variation. In Nepal, all Hindu ethnic groups celebrate this festival with their own variation. Among the Newars, it is popularly known as Deepawali or Swanti. The festival is celebrated from Trayodashi of Kartik Krishna to Kartik Shukla Dwitiya every year. Tihar in general signifies the festival of lights, where diyas are lit both inside and outside the houses to make it illuminate 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 crows, cows and dogs who maintain an intense relationship with humans. People make patterns on the floor of living rooms or courtyards using materials such as colored rice, dry flour, colored sand or flower petals outside of their house, called Rangoli which is meant to be a sacred welcoming area for the Gods and Goddesses of Hinduism.
Kaag (Crow/Raven) Tihar or Kwah Pujā
The first day of the festival is called Kaag Tihar or Kwah Puja (worship of the corvids). Crows and ravens are worshiped by offerings of sweets and dishes placed on the roofs of houses. The cawing of crows and ravens symbolizes sadness and grief in Hinduism, so devotees offer crows and ravens food to avert grief and death in their homes. Tihar in Nepal represents the divine attachment between humans and other animals .
Kukur (Dog) Tihar or Khichā Pujā
The second day is called Kukur Tihar or Khichā Pujā (worship of the dogs). It is also called the Khicha Puja by the Newars. Dogs, which are believed to be messengers of Lord Yamaraj, the God of Death, are worshiped once each year on this day. People offer garlands, tika and delicious food to dogs and acknowledge the cherished relationship between humans and dogs. This day is also observed as Narka Chaturdashi.
Gai (Cow) Tihar and Laxmi Pujā
The morning of third day is Gai Tihar (worship of the cow). In Hinduism, cow signifies 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 Sayapatri( marigolds) and Makhamali flowers (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 (Diyo) 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 neighborhood with musical instruments singing and dancing known as Bhailo all night long collecting money as tip from houses and share the bounty amongst themselves.
From the third day onwards tihar is celebrated by playing Deusi and Bhailo along with light and fireworks. . Deusi is mostly sung by the boys while the Bhailo is sung by the girls. Nowadays Social workers and politician along with, young and children visit local homes to sing these songs, and in return the home owners give them money, fruit and Selroti (a special type of Nepali bread made by rice flour and sugar).
Gobardhan Pujā and Mha Pujā
On the fourth day of Tihar, there are three different known pujas, depending on the people's specific cultural background. It is observed as Goru Tihar or Goru Puja (worship of the oxen). People who follow Vaishnavism perform Govardhan Puja, which is worship towards goverdhan mountain. Cowdung is taken as representative of the mountain and is worshiped. Additionally, majority of the Newar community on the night also perform Mha Puja (worship of self). This day is also seen as the beginning of the new Nepal Sambat calendar year.
Bhai Tikā or Kijā Pujā
The fifth and last day of Tihar is called Bhai Tika or Kija Puja and is observed by sisters applying tika to the foreheads of their brothers to ensure 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 a special garland 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 give tikas to their sisters in the same fashion along with an exchange of gifts. This ritual is practiced 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.
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