Tihar, the festival of lights, is a five-day-long Hindu festival celebrated in Nepal.
Also known by the names Deepawali and Yamapanchak, Tihar is the second biggest Nepalese festival after Dashain and usually falls in the month of October or November every year.
Yamapanchak, meaning the five days of Yama, honors Yama Raj, the God of Death.
Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and luck is also widely worshiped during this period.
The festivals brings together the key aspects of nature- people, animals and colors. As part of the festive rituals, cows, crows, dogs and ox are worshiped across the country symbolizing the manifestation of various gods.
Tihar festival begins with the worshiping of crow, which is considered as the messenger of death in Hindu tradition. Crows are considered to be the messengers of death and the belief is that by pleasing them, they would not bring any news of sorrow to the family.
On the day, Nepali Hindus offer different food items to crows early in the morning and pray for luck, as they believe crows bring in messages to houses at the start of the dawn.
The second day of the festival is dedicated to dogs and is celebrated as Kukur (dog) Tihar.
On the Kukur Tihar day, the entire Nepali Hindu community worships dogs owing to their religious significance as the guard of Lord Yama, the god of death. It is also believed that dogs can lead the souls of the dead to heaven.
Dogs are offered special prayers with tika, garland and delicious foods.
The third day of Tihar is called Gai Tihar and marks the worshiping of holy cows, which hold great significance in the Hindu tradition. On the day, cows and goddess Lakshmi are worshiped with great fervor as cows are considered to be a form of goddess Lakshmi.
People illuminate their homes with bright lights, candles & oil lamps and keep their doors and windows open to welcome prosperity. Additionally, people play cards and light fireworks.
The fourth day of Tihar witnesses the worshiping of oxen and is celebrated as Goru Puja. Apart from Goru Puja, this auspicious day also marks three different pujas including Govardhan Puja and Mha Puja.
On this auspicious day, Vaishnavism followers perform the Govardhan Puja, where believers worship a Govardhan Parvat made of cow dung.
After worshiping animals for three days, the fourth day justifies the concept of worshiping the soul, which is common in all beings. The Newari community performs the Mha Puja and worship their own souls.
This is the fifth and the concluding day of the 5-day long Tihar festival.
On this day, sisters adorn the foreheads of their brothers with Paanch Rangi Tika, a combination of five different colors including yellow, green, red, blue and white, wishing them a long life and prosperity.
While sisters offer Shaguns (wishing good luck) of dry fruits such as hazelnut (Katus), walnuts, sweets and fruits, brothers in return give them gifts and money along with blessings of protection assurance for the rest of their life.
Visitors to Nepal during this time can enjoy the grand Tihar festival in Kathmandu with colorful night lighting and many cultural and religious celebrations. Rani Pokhari temple, which is open to the public only on the fifth day of Tihar each year, is another attraction. The five days of the Tihar festival provide a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the Nepalese hospitality and leave with memories that last a lifetime.