The Nepali festival Tihar
The Nepali festival Tihar
About Tihar : The Nepali festival Tihar is also known by many names such as Dipawali or Bhai Tika or Laxmi Puja or as a festival of lights. It is a five-days festival, which comes soon after the Dashain Festival, and Tihar is all about worshiping of different animals such as crow, dog, cow, and worshiping of the Hindu Goddess of Fortune or Wealth (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 popularly known as Bhai Tika day (Bhai in Nepali means Brother). To sum up Tihar festival, Tihar is the festival when sisters wish a long life to their brothers (Bhai)! Tihar 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 by accepting someone close to you in your relatives. If nothing works, you find one among your friends and neighbors, it becomes almost as if it was real. Whom ever you made your sister or brother remains so for life, and each year this festival makes your bond stronger. Tihar is a festival of sisters wishing a long life to their brothers, and Tihar is the most popular festival in Nepal. So hold on to your topi (hat), loads of excitement and fun are coming at you now!
Days of Tihar :
Tihar and Crows (1st Tihar Day) – Here comes Tihar to teach you a lesson! Early in the morning of the first day of Tihar, family prepares a good meal. Each member of the family takes the first portion of the meal outside on a platter. The crows come down in large numbers and partake of the feast, they will call others before beginning to eat : Share, Share what you have with all! Crows (Kag in Nepali) are considered as the messenger of the Lord of Death, Yama. There is a popular Nepali superstition of crows too: When the crows caw, sadness is coming.) On this day crows are worshiped and are kept happy. Where there are no crows, any winged animal of the heavens (bird) will enjoy the feast. So Tihar is also about appreciating animals around us.
Tihar and Dogs (2nd Tihar Day) – On the second day of Tihar, Kukur (Dogs) are adorned with flower garland around their necks, red tika on their forehead, and are offered great meals, they are the king of the day! On this day, people pray to the Kukur to guard their homes. Call someone “Kukur”, he/she will bash you instantly! There are lots of Kukur running around in search of a loving home. You can find them on streets and in your backyards, but on this day, even the most unsightly Kukkur will be treated like a king, everyone has a day. Tihar is also about breaking the boundaries only men created, “The Good”, “The Bad”, “The Ugly”, and all but same to the mother nature! In Hinduism it is believed that Kukur guard’s the underworld empire just like it guards our everyday homes!. Tihar is about loving Kukurs too!
Tihar and Cows (3rd Tihar Day) – The 3rd day of Tihar is about worshiping the mother of the universe – cow. According to Hinduism, the human infant is fed breast milk by its human mother for under three years. After weaning, the cow acts as the surrogate mother providing milk for the rest of the human life – through childhood, adult age and old age. Cows are the mothers of the universe, the sacred animal. The cow puja is performed by giving a tika to a cow on her forehead, and a flower garland (Flower Leis) on the neck, and offering good meals. Those performing Cow puja place her manure in different parts of the home, drink a drop or two of the cow’s urine, as a part of a purification process. Also dip a blade of grass into the urine and lightly sprinkle it on each other’s body to become closer to the mother of the universe – cow.
Tihar and Laxmi Puja (3rd Tihar Day) – One of the most important day of the festival is Laxmi Puja on which day the Goddess of wealth (Laxmi) is worshiped in every household in the entire Nepali Kingdom by means of Puja, decoration, candle lights, and oil lamps. In this 3rd day of the Tihar Festival, the entire nation becomes an illumination of lights. Pictures and icons of Laxmi Devi (Goddess) are placed and worshiped in a Puja room (or a place in a living room or a dedicated room for worshiping Gods) Puja is performed using flowers, incense, oil lamps, color-powders, bell and money (both notes and coins). Laxmi puja is performed at dusk using red mud, and puja is often done by a female in the family. She uses her hand covered with red mud to make a symbolic foot-print on the floor entering the home and makes a trail leading to the Puja room.
Laxmi puja is not only for households but is equally done by Companies. Business-Laxmi-Puja is done exactly the same way as is done in home. Usually company’s cashier performs the puja during which time the entire office including office compounds are lit with various lights including electrical, candle lights, and oil lamps and usually staffs are invited to participate in the puja procession. “Tihar and Songs : Bhailini Songs (3rd Day) : The eve of Laxmi Puja Day is made spectacular not only by lights but also by echos of a special song known as Bhailo or Bhailini that’s played only on this day in the entire year! A group of girls get together and sing Bhailo door to door, giving blessings to the family in return for money or homemade treats.
Tihar and Songs : Deusi Songs (4th Day) Male members sing what is called Deusi or Deusuray in Nepali. You can write just about any Deusi song as long as each line ends with the word `Deusi’ or `Deosuray’. A group of males get together, carry what-ever musical instruments they have or can play, and sing Deusi door to door blessing the home and family in return for money and/or refreshments. Teenagers perform various Deosi songs to collect money for their picnic! Some may play Deusi to collect money to build a new trail in a far away village in Nepal! During the Tihar festival the only kind of songs you are most likely to hear from local Radio stations are nothing but Tihar Songs, Bhailo, Deusi and folk songs about sisters or brothers unable to see each other during the festival due to various reasons. A poor sister, now a daughter-in-law may not get even a day’s break to visit her brother on this special day, and she might sing a song to make your tears flow! A Sample of Deusi Song. Includes a similar meaning in English Bhana Mera Bhaiho Deusuray. (Say it my brothers, Say it. Deusuray) Sormelai Kana Deusuray. (Say it louder and say it in tune. Deusuray) Rato Batoo Deusuray. (Red mud trail. Deusuray)
Chiploa Batoo Desuray. (Slippery trail. Deusuray)
Laddai Paddai Deusuray. (Slipping and Sliding. Deusuray)
Akeya Hami Deusuray. (Finally we made it to your home! Deusuray)
Yo Garma Laxmi Deusuray. (In this home Lord Laxmi. Deusuray) Sadthai Aun Deusuray. (Always come. Deusuray)
Hamilai Denus Deusuray. (Give us what you have money or meal) Bidtha Garnus Deusuray. (Please give us now, say good bye to us, so we sing for next home!)
(For an audio sample, visit web links at the end of this page! Tihar and Myself! (4th Day) – The fourth day of the Tihar is also about worshiping yourself. This puja (worshiping) is known as as Mahapuja. This is also the first day of the special annual calendar of an ethnic group known as Newar residing in Nepal. The coming of a new year is also celebrated in Tihar. Also a popular ritual of the day is the Govardhan puja or Goru Tihar (Oxen Worshiping). Oxen are worshiped on this day as they till lands and help grow crops to sustain life.
Tihar and Tika (5th and Final Tihar Day / Bhai Tika Day) : On the final day also known as Bhai Tika Day, sisters give tika (a colored powder placed on once’s forehead), and mala (a necklace of flowers or also known as as flower leis, similar to that’s used elsewhere like in Hawaii!) to brothers along with wishes for long life and prosperity. To sisters, Tihar is also the time to re-call their continued wish for a long and a happy life for their brothers. Brothers sit on a floor while sisters perform their puja. Puja involves following a traditional ritual in which sisters circle brothers three times dripping oil on the floor from a copper pitcher. Afterwards, sisters put oil in brother’s ears and hairs, then give Tika. Also breaking of walnuts by sisters prior to giving Tika to brothers is also a common practice.
Tika starts with placing a banana leave already cut into a line shape placed on brothers forehead held by one of the sisters hand, then applying tika base (made from rice paste) in the open space. Then sister dabs seven colors on top of the base using her fingers. Some may give tika with the help of a small stick or a brush without the using banana leaves. In this case, small stick is dipped into the tika base, then brushed vertically on the forehead, then using a different stick, the seven colors are applied on top of the base. After tika, flower garland is put around brother’s neck. Then brothers give tika to sisters in the same fashion. Sisters also receive flower garland around their neck. Brothers give gifts such as clothes or money to sisters while sisters give a special gift known as Sagun (which is made of dried fruits and nuts, and candies), and a fantastic Tihar feast takes place. Those without a sister or brother, join relatives or friends for tika. Sisters pray for their brother’s long life to the Hindu God of Death (Yam Raj).
More on Tihar…
Description of the Tihar Tika: : Here is a sample of the Tihar Tika. Tika is of seven colors Yellow, Orange, Blue, White, Green, Red and Black. A tika of seven colors is called Sapta Rangi Tika in Nepali, where Sapta means seven, Rangi means colors. The Horizontal lines dividing sections of this page have seven colors, which is a sample of Tihar Tika, so observe those colors as well! The order of the colors in the tika pattern or even the choice of colors will vary due to family traditions. Usually some colors are purchased while others are made at home. The three colors that are usually made at home are, green, white and black. Green is the crushed blades of grass, white is rice paste (raw rice crushed into powder and mixed with water), and black is charcoal powder or also soot from oil lamps. Traditionally, to create a perfect Tika pattern and to make it easier for the tika giver to give tika, leaves of Banana were used, and this tradition still follows in many households.
You take a portion of Banana leave, tear a small portion from the center, hold it against the forehead, use the rice paste as a base then dab colors in desired pattern, then remove the banana leave. Tika symbolizes the bond between brothers and sisters. Tihar and Flower Garland – Flower Garland (also known as necklace of Flowers or flower leis) is called Malla in Nepali, which is widely used in Tihar festival for home decoration and also to put around brothers and sisters neck. During Tihar, open markets are literally gardens packed with sensational flowers and aroma. Visiting Asan Toll, a central open market in Kathmandu is worth-it during this time! Flower growers make a lot of profit during this time. Tihar is a time to see Nepali homes and Nepali streets with flower garlands all around! Brothers and Sisters often save their flower garland as a souvenir. Tihar and Lights and Candles – Tihar is a time of candlelight, tinsel decoration and festive colored sweets, and more often this festival is also known by the name `Festival of Lights’. Tihar is probably the best festival of all due to its short holiday period yet packed with much excitement unlike other Nepali festivals! Tihar and Rani Pokharai (Pond) – Rani Pokhara is located at the center of Kathmandu.
This famous pond has a small holy temple located at the center. The compound’s door is locked all year around except on the day of Bhai Tika. Those who do not have sisters enter the temple to receive tika from priets. Tihar and Holidays – Although Tihar is of five days festival, only 3 days are the official holidays except for schools and colleges. The official holidays are 3rd day of Tihar (Laxmi Puja), Fourth Day of Tihar(Govardha Puja) and the Final Day: 5th Day of Tihar(Tika Day) Tihar and Cooking – Sisters prepare unique Nepali meal at home for brothers. This includes making of the famous Nepali bread known as Nepali Roti or Sel or Sel Roti (as two words together). This kind of bread is also known as Funnel Cakes in southern parts of the Unites States and are lively exhibited by country folks during annual fairs. It’s made by deep frying a mixture of fine rice flour, sugar, and water. The mixture is placed in the frying oil in circle by hand or by the help of a funnel. Nepali Sel Roti is popular for its crispy and crunchy taste, and is the number one treat in any festivals in Nepal. Bunches and Bunches of Sel Roti are made during Tihar by loving hands of sisters, and Sel Rotis travel from villages to villages in the bags of brothers!
Tihar and Shopping (Tihar and Sagun!) – What do Nepalese shop for during the period? Shopping of cooking items such as oil, butter, clothes for brothers and sisters, and sweets. In city, sisters shop for dried fruit products such as cashew, almonds, and fresh fruits in large amount while in villages sisters prepare home-made sweets and breads. The mixture of dried fruits along with sweets and candies are packed usually in a plastic bag, this package is known as `Sagun’, This single brand is the most popular shopping item of the season, and you can see it everywhere in open markets! Sagun is given to brothers by sisters on the Tika Day, and in return, brothers give sisters gifts such as new clothes and/or money. Tihar vs Diwali : Nepali Tihar and Indian Diwali festival are similar in many ways. For example, worshiping of Laxmi Goddess, and celebrating of the festival with candle lights, oil lamps and fireworks are common to both the festivals. Both the festivals are called as Festivals of Lights. Diwali (Dipavali) is also about celebrating the coming of the new year. Tihar also celebrates the coming of the new year (see 4th day of Tihar for more). Celebration of the bond between brothers and sisters are also common to both the festivals.