Situated amidst the grandeur of the Himalayas, the enchanting country of Nepal is renowned for its rich cultural tapestry and array of vibrant festivals. One such celebration is Tihar, also known as Diwali or Deepavali. Tihar is the second most important festival in Nepal after Dashain, lighting up the country in a spectacular five-day display of reverence, joy, and illumination.
Historical and Cultural Significance
Tihar is steeped in ancient Hindu traditions and mythologies, with each day dedicated to honoring different figures from the animal kingdom, culminating in reverence to the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi, and the bond between brothers and sisters. The festival is a celebration of the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, and good over evil.
Rituals and Celebrations
The first day of Tihar, known as Kaag Tihar, is dedicated to crows, regarded as messengers of death. People offer food to crows to avert grief and death in their homes. The second day, Kukur Tihar, honors dogs for their loyalty and friendship.
The third day, Gai Tihar, and Laxmi Puja is the festival’s central day. In the morning, cows, symbolizing prosperity and wealth in Hinduism, are worshipped. In the evening, it’s time for Laxmi Puja. Goddess Lakshmi is revered as the goddess of wealth and prosperity. Devotees meticulously clean their houses and decorate them with oil lamps, candles, and vibrant Rangolis to invite the Goddess into their homes.
The fourth day, Govardhan Puja, is dedicated to the worship of oxen and Govardhan Mountain, which Lord Krishna is believed to have lifted to provide shelter to the people from incessant rains. The Newar community also observes Mha Puja on this day, a ritual of self-purification and empowerment.
The fifth and final day of Tihar is Bhai Tika. Sisters apply a five-colored Tika on their brothers’ foreheads, praying for their long life and prosperity.
Artwork and Cultural Displays
Tihar is a feast for the eyes with beautiful artwork and decorations. Rangolis, or patterned designs made from colored powders and flower petals, adorn courtyards and living rooms. Elaborate designs of footprints are also drawn leading into homes, symbolizing the entrance of Goddess Lakshmi.
Getting to Nepal
To experience Tihar in Nepal, international travelers will need to fly into Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu. The airport is served by a range of airlines, connecting Kathmandu with major cities around the globe. From the airport, various modes of transportation like taxis, buses, or hotel shuttles can take you into the city.
As Tihar is one of Nepal’s significant festivals, planning and booking in advance is crucial. Expect higher prices for flights and accommodations, and anticipate a great influx of tourists, both domestic and international, during the festival.
Tihar, with its profound cultural significance and radiant celebrations, offers a unique insight into the heart of Nepalese culture. Participating in Tihar means stepping into a world illuminated by countless lights, symbolizing hope, prosperity, and the shared joy of humanity.