Tihar full detail information

The festival of lights, Tihar (Devanagari: तिहार) is also popular as Yamapanchak (Yama means the god of death and Panchak means five), Deepawali or Swanti(स्वन्ती:) in Newa language. This is the second biggest Nepali festival after Dashain, celebrated by Hindus for 5 days few weeks after celebrating Dashain during the month of Kartik (October or November). It is also known as Yama-panchak where people honor Yama, the God of Death. The Goddess of wealth Laxmi is also worshipped during the day of Laxmi puja. Though it is celebrated by all Hindus various communities celebrate Tihar in different ways. Tihar is celebrated in India as well and it is known as Diwali in India but with some significant differences.


The 5 days of Tihar

The festival shows respect not only to the gods but also to animals like crows, cows, oxen, and dogs. The 5 days of Tihar are Kaag Tihar (Day 1), Kukur Tihar (Day 2), Gai Tihar and Lakshmi Puja (Day 3), Govardhan Puja (Day 4) and Bhai Tika (Day 5).

DAY 01: First day of Tihar is Kaag Tihar (crow)

In Nepal, Tihar begins with Kaag Tihar on Trayodashi of Kartik Krishna Paksha (the 13th day of the waning moon), which is the day of the crow and this day crow is worshipped. Kaag Tihar is known as KWO PUJA in the Newa language. Crow is known as an informant of Yama. Crow is worshipped by offering rice, sweets, etc on the roof of the house. It is believed in Nepali society that the cawing of the crow is believed to be the prediction of hearing some bad news. Some people also say if a crow hits one’s head with their wings then it is considered as a misfortune or something bad to happen in the coming days.

DAY 02: Second day of Tihar is Kukur Tihar (dog)

On the second day is Kukur Tihar and it is known as KHICHA PUJA by Newars of Nepal. On this day dog is offered prayers, Tika on the dog’s forehead, calendula garlands and food in the morning as the agents of Yama, honor their loyalty.

DAY 03: Third day of Tihar is Gai Tihar and Laxmi Puja (cow and goddess of wealth)

Gai Tihar and Laxmi Puja are on the third day of Tihar, the day also belongs to the cow that represents Laxmi. The cow is prayed on this day as “Gau mata”. The cow is considered a mother (mata) by Hindus and it is strictly prohibited to kill cow in Nepal. If anyone does that then he/she will be taken action legally. The cow is offered prayers with calendula garlands in the morning and Goddess Laxmi is worshipped in the evening.

People clean their houses, offices, shops, and surroundings during the day and in the evening decorated with lights such as candles, diyo (oil-wick lamps), and electric lights to welcome the Goddess of Wealth. People make a path of footprints of Goddess Laxmi leading into the house. During this day, windows and doors are decorated with Marigold flowers. There will be lit up with extra lights inside and outside of the house in the evening. Diyo is kept on the doors, windows, and stairs with the hope that the Goddess enters into the house. On this day, you can get a beautiful view of brightly lit-up Kathmandu city on the streets, roof-top, or from hills near Kathmandu such as Swayambhu, Tarkeshwor, etc. Laxmi Puja is a special festival for all because everyone’s life is deeply connected with wealth.

In the evening, a group of girls visit each house in the local community and play Bhailo. It is a tradition for girls to go from house to house singing Tihar songs. Girls will give blessings and the residents of the house give selroti, sweets, money, and other foodstuff in return. The girls share foodstuff and money received from people among themselves.


DAY 04: The Fourth day of Tihar is Govardhan puja and Mha puja (oxen puja and worshipping own body)

The fourth day is for the draught animal, oxen. People of some communities use cow dung to make goverdan mountains and Govardhan Puja is performed by worshipping it. During this day the Newa community of Nepal especially in Kathmandu valley performs Mha Puja. This is dedicated to oneself, Mha means body and Puja means worship. Newa people worship their own bodies for good health. It is the day beginning of the Nepal Sambat Calendar. Nepal Sambat is the national lunar calendar of Nepal.

At night/evening, a group of boys gather together to play Deusi and visit each house in the local community similar to what the girls do during Bhailo.

DAY 05: Fifth day of Tihar is Bhai tika (Brother’s Day)

The last day is celebrated as Bhai tika (Brother’s Day) on Dwitiya of Kartik Sukla Paksha every year and the sister performs certain rituals for the long life of her younger brother. Newa people celebrate this day as KIJA PUJA, kija means younger brother in Newa language also known as Nepalbhasa. Elder sisters put tika on their brother’s foreheads. Bhai means younger brother in Nepali language. Actually, Bhai tika is done with an elder sister and younger brother but these days people also do Bhai tika with an elder brother who doesn’t have a younger brother. Sisters pray to the God of death known as Yama for their brother’s long life and brothers bring gifts to their sisters. The festival ends with feasting.

In Nepal, firecrackers are used for entertainment during the festival but the Nepal government has banned using them. Firecrackers have been banned in recent years because of increasing cases of injury. Nepal government declared 3 days of national holiday during the festival. Cards, langur burja, and kauda (a game of cowrie shells) are played during the festival but legally gambling is not allowed.

Story of Bhai Tika

Once upon a time, a sister and brother were living happily. Sister loved her brother a lot and one day, the sister had completed all her morning household like sweeping the floor, praying god and cooking food. Breakfast was ready but today her brother had not woken up yet.

She started calling him from the kitchen but her brother didn’t come down. She wondered why her brother hadn’t woken up yet. Then she went to her brother’s room and saw that her brother was sick. She did Jaki Holi so that he might feel well. In the Newa community, Jaki Holi is a ritual with rice, people take a handful of rice to help eliminate bad spirits from one’s body. She did everything she could to make her brother healthy again but his health was not getting any better.

After a few moments, she was shocked to see the Yamaraj (Lord of Death) in her brother’s room. Yamaraj was there to take away her brother’s soul. It is believed that when someone dies people say Yamaraj took away. She refused to send her brother with Yamaraj and begged for his life but Yamaraj said I must take him. Lord of Death said it is the law of nature, people are born to die and no one is immortal.

Now there is no way to save his brother. She wipes away her tears as an idea comes into her mind and asks for one last thing from the Lord of Death. She asks to do a ritual (puja) before sending his brother with Yamaraj but he says there is not much time left so he could not let her perform any rituals. Sister promises that it won’t take long and she will do it as quickly as possible. After getting permission from Yamaraj she starts to perform rituals and requests the Lord of Death to be a part of this ritual. Yamaraj accepts it and the sister starts managing all the necessary things for the ritual.

She started making mandalas on the floor inside a circle marked with water. A small circle is drawn with mustard oil at the center of the mandala then it is surrounded with rice, unhusked rice, black beans, black lentils, and puffed rice. After making the mandala, puja begins and she asks to sit Yamaraj first and then his brother.

Firstly, she worshipped Yamaraj and was next to her brother. She said “I am drawing a mystical border through this water, so that no harm may come your way. Until this oil dries off from the ground, these black beans grow, until this garland that I am putting on you dries off may nothing happen to you. After puja, there is a ritual of giving Sagun with egg, small fish, and alcohol for good luck. She gives Sagun to both of them and at the time of giving Sagun, she cleverly puts a little salt on the boiled egg and gives Sagun to Yamaraj. Yamaraj takes Sagun and after eating the egg he finds that there is salt in it. Yamaraj stands up and shouts at her that she made him eat salt. Sister says that the ritual is not completed yet and cannot leave before it’s done. She requests him to take a seat. Yamaraj sat down thinking now he would have to repay the gratitude of this salt. Till today it is truly believed in rural parts of Nepal that they will have to repay the gratitude of the salt.

Now, they are at the end of the ritual and it’s time to take his brother away but the sister cries saying please don’t take my brother away. Yamaraj says I have eaten your salt and I’m impressed by your attempt so I will not take him today. From that day people started celebrating Bhai Tika every year.

Story behind Deusi

In Treta yug, there was a King Bali who was Lakshmi-Narayan’s devotee, who attained the same power and lifespan as Indra(king of heaven). He was given a boon from Brahma and unlike other demons, he didn’t conquer heaven but he ruled the world with the belief that good governance could make it a better place than heaven. He had taken an oath to alleviate poverty and his kingdom became prosperous during his rule. After seeing this other kingdoms also wished to be ruled by him.

After his success, his heart began to fall into pride, thought he was the greatest. He thought there was no one greater than him and believed the worship of gods to be an insult to him. Now he began to think he deserved to be the ruler of heaven and no other deserves to be king of heaven except himself. King Bali’s pride took him to invade heaven and conquer it as other demons did in the past. He became the king of Heaven and thought to perform Ashwamedha Yagya to show his power to the world. Ashwamedha Yagya is done to ensure his lasting dominion. He had control over the three worlds Heaven, Earth, and the Underworld (Patal).

He was performing Ashwamedha Yagya, Guru Shukracharya had told King Bali not to stand up and go elsewhere before completing the ritual. During Yagya, a monk came to the ritual site and began to beg. King Bali was full of pride. He thought a monk should not be kept waiting by a great charitable person like him. He disobeyed Guru Shukracharya and stood up in between Ashwamedha Yagya. He told the monk to ask anything he wished to have and the monk asked for only three steps of land. King Bali was surprised to hear this and laughed and reminded the monk about his position. He said he has conquered the three worlds and he is the Lord of Heaven, Earth, and Underworld (Patal). King suggested the monk ask for a valuable thing but the monk refused. The monk refused to ask for other valuable wish and said if he could give then three steps of land would be more than enough.

King Bali gave his word and as soon as King Bali promised, the body of the monk started to grow big. The became so large that his two feet measured the whole universe and now there was no place left to keep his third feet and the king bowed down to put the third foot on his head. Lord Vishnu in the form of a monk placed the last foot on King Bali’s head. King Bali was shocked and now he realized that Lord Vishnu came in the form of a monk to break the pride as he was a devotee of Vishnu.

Lord Vishnu was pleased by King Bali’s devotion and sent him to rule the Underworld but the lord understood the King’s love for earth. Because of the King’s love towards earth Lord Vishnu allowed him to come back every year to rule the earth for 5 days. During the Tihar festival, people gather in groups and go door to door, announcing the arrival of King Bali saying “Hami tesai ayaenau Bali raja le pathako”.

Tihar and Rani Pokhari (pond) Temple

Rani Pokhari
Rani Pokhari

Rani Pokhari is only opened once a year to the public during the 5th day of the Tihar. People who don’t have their own brothers or sisters visit Rani Pokhari Temple to celebrate Bhai Tika. They find a brother or sister over the temple and celebrate the last day of the festival.

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