In Nepal, Tihar festival nepal is held in high regard, only second to the Dashain. It's is also known as the most beautiful festival. In some parts of India, it even replaced Dashain as the largest festival. Tihar 2020 falls on November 13th and lasts until the 17th.
Some Legends about Tihar
Tihar derives from the Sanskrit words Deepa and avail which literally mean "lights in rows". It is related to several Hindu myths. These myths all tell the story of justice over injustice and light over darkness.
One of the myths tells that Hindu god Krishna killed the Narakasura, a mythical Asura king, who intended to destroy the world. In northern India, Hindus worship the god Krishna, who lives on the sacred Mount Gfadhana and is regarded as the eighth avatar of Vishnu, one of the main Hindu gods. This myth has deep religious significance for the followers of Vishnu.
While the most commonly known story for Indians in the Southern region is to recall the return of God Rama after 14 years away from his hometown, during which he defeated the demon king Ravana and finally returned to Ayodhya, the oldest city in India. To celebrate this, the people lighted thousands of pottery lamps.
As the Brahmin described: "this city held a grand and joyous celebration for the return of the king. The shining lights symbolize how brilliant the heroic image of the king. And the name of the festival highlights the joy of people."
This festival is also of great significance to Sikhs and Jains in India. For Sikhs, Tihar is to celebrate the release of their spiritual leader, Guru Gobind Singh, from captivity by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan of India. For Jains, it is a festival to commemorate the founder of Jainism, Mahavira. He was born into the Western Paradise after his death.
Customs of Tihar
Tihar is considered to be the most beautiful festival in Nepal. However, in the traditional Nepalese culture, the 5-day Festival is actually related to death. On each day of the Tihar festival, people will worship a kind of animal, which has a symbolic meaning of death.
Kaag Tihar – Day 1
The first day of Tihar is called Kaag (crow) Tihar. Crows are principally worshipped today. In Hinduism, crows are believed to be the messengers of the death god Yama, who will guide the dead to the underworld. The crows have been busy all year, and only this day they can rest.
In the early morning of that day, people would light up oil ropes and incense candles in the courtyard and interiors put the cooked rice on the leaves, and leave it in front of the door to feed the crows. Here crows symbolize people's afterlife. The more crows that gather to eat rice, the more prosperous the people's afterlife. Otherwise, they will report bad news and make people feel uneasy for the next year.
Kukur Tihar (Day 2)
The second day is called Kukur (dog) Tihar. Dogs are revered by people on this day. In the Hindu concept, dogs are said to be the gatekeepers of the underworld. And these dogs can lead the souls of deceased people across the river of death, bringing their souls to heaven. Dogs also represent a person's previous life and they could prevent evil things from harassing the soul of the deceased.
On Kurkur Tihar, dogs will enjoy the highest courtesy. People would mark dogs with a red dot "tika", a symbol of blessing, put marigold garlands on dogs, and prepare a hearty meal for the dogs to pray for convenience when they met the gatekeepers of the underworld.
Gai Tihar and Lakshmi Puja (Day 3)
The third day is called Gai (cow) Tihar. The cow is the legendary “mount” of the goddess of wealth Lakshmi and thus it's also associated with prosperity. People hold celebrations for the cow and its auspicious goddess Lakshmi. The most typical decoration is the mandala with mineral pigments, flowers, and oil lamps as the main materials.
Govardhan Puja, Goru Puju and Mah Puja (Day 4)
The fourth day of Tihar is called Puja, where the ox is worshipped and celebrated. It is said to be the legendary mount of the death god Yama.
Before entering the reincarnation, Yama will judge the deceased for his past life, fairly measure his right and wrong, make a decision on the hierarchical level in his afterlife.
Bhai Tika (Day 5)
The fifth and last day of Tihar is called Bhai Tika. On this day, the brothers in the family will go to their sister's residence to receive a variety of colors of "tika" and garlands as well as blessings to enhance the bond between brothers and sisters. The sisters will put seven-colored tikas on their brother's forehead. And then the brothers would follow the same ritual to put Tika on their sisters and give them some money in return.
In addition to the scene of the prosperous light, the five-day Tihar is actually like one's spiritual journey.
We will finally embark on a fateful journey alone, with crows leading the way, dogs waiting at the gate of the underworld, crossing the wicked river Styx with the assistance of cows, and go up to Yama for judgment.
However, even under the gaze of the gods, what a person can really rely on is the heart lamp ignited by his own nature, which will illuminate the way home and be liberated with the help of relatives.