Nepali festival Tihar is also known by many names such as Dipawali or Bhai Tika or Laxmi Puja or as a festival of lights. There is a five-day festival, which comes soon after the Dashain Festival, and Tihar is all about worshiping of different animals such as crow, dog, cow, Ox and worshipping of the Hindu Goddess of wealth or prosperity (Goddess Laxmi), and cooking great meals at home, brothers and sisters shopping for gifts, flying kites, decorating homes and streets, playing cards with friends, resting and relaxing, and finally ending the festival with an exchange of a special temporary mark on forehead (tika in Nepali). The last day of the festival is known as Tika day, or commonly known as Bhai Tika day (Bhai in Nepali means Brother).
There are special five days celebrations:
First day called Kaag Tihar – Worshiping Crows
Crows and ravens are worshiped by offering them sweets and dishes, which are 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.
Second day Called Kukur Tihar – Worshiping 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 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.
Third day called Laxmi Puja – Worshiping Cows / Goddess Laxmi
On this day, people worship cows. In Hinduism, a cow signifies prosperity and wealth. In ancient times, people benefited a lot from cows. Thus, on this day people show their gratefulness to cows by garlanding and feeding their cows with the best grass. Houses are cleaned and the doorways and windows are decorated with garlands made of Sayapatri (marigolds) and Makhamali flowers.
In the evening, Goddess 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 Bhaili all night long collecting money as tip from houses and share the bounty amongst themselves.
Fourth day called Govardhan Puja – Worshipping Oxen
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/ Ma Puja” (worship of self).
From this day onwards, Tihar is celebrated with Deusi. Deusi is mostly sung by the boys while the Bhailo is sung by the girls. Deusi is balladic in nature and tells the story of the festival, with one person in the group narrating and the rest as the chorus. In return, the house owners give them money, fruits and Selroti. Nowadays, social workers and politician along with young people visit local homes and sing these songs, and collect funds for welfare and social activities.
Fifth day called Bhai Tika – Worshipping Brothers & Sisters
The fifth and last day of Tihar is called Bhai Tika and is observed by sisters applying tika to the foreheads of their brothers to ensure long life and thanking 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. 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. Next, brothers give tikas to their sisters in the same fashion along with an exchange of gifts. This ritual is practised regardless of whether the brother is younger or older than the sister.
To sum up Diwali festival, Tihar is the festival when sisters wish a long life to their brothers (Bhai). Diwali is a festival for brothers and sisters, but What if you are a brother without a sister or a sister without a brother. Well, you can make one of your relatives close to you in your relatives. If nothing works, you find one amongst your friends and neighbours, it becomes almost as if it was real. There is a festival of sisters wishing a long life to their brothers.