With lamps banishing the darkness of the new moon night, fireworks lighting up the sky and people exchanging greetings, Tihar is a festival like no other. Tihar, one of the largest festivals for Nepali Hindus after Dashain starts today. Also known as Yampanchak, the festival is observed for five days.
The first day of Yamapanchak, Kaag Tihar (worship of crows) is celebrated by offering sweets and food to the crows. According to Hindu mythology, crow is considered the messenger of Yama. As the cawing of the crows symbolizes sadness and grief, the devotees offer the crows food to avert grief and deaths at their homes. This festival is considered to be of great importance as it shows reverence to Yama, the god of death, and animals including crow, dog, cow and ox, which maintain a close relationship with humans.
The second day is Kukur Tihar, where dogs — as friends of Bhairav are worshiped while third is the Gai Tihar and Laxmi Puja. Decorating homes with multi-coloured lights, flowers and oil-lamps as well as preparing and consuming various delicacies — including sweets and sel roti — are part of this also called Deepawali (ring of lights) or Festival of Lights. Playing of deusi-bhailo and worshipping of different animals are also a significant aspect of this festival. On the day, cows are worshiped in the morning and Laxmi, the goddess of wealth in Hindu mythology in the evening. The fourth day is Goru Puja (worship of the oxen), and Mha Puja (worshiping of one’s soul or inner self) in the Newar community while the fifth and final day is Bhai Tika.
Tihar is also a festival where the bond between brothers and sisters are strengthened and responsibilities to each other are recognized through Bhai Tika. On the occasion of Bhai Tika, sisters put multi-coloured tika on their brothers’ foreheads, gift dry fruits and nuts, and wish for their longevity and prosperity, while brothers pledge to always take care of their sisters and give them gifts. The fun festival comes to an end with the celebration of Bhai Tika on Saturday.