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. Laxmi, the goddess of wealth and luck is widely worshipped during this period.
Kag Tihar is the first day of the festival when crows are worshipped and offered food. Crows are considered to be the messengers of death and the belief is that by propitiating them, they would not bring any news of sorrow to the family. On the second day Kukur Tihar, dogs are worshipped as the Nepalis believe that the dog can lead the souls of the dead to heaven.
The third day is the most important day of the festival. Cows are worshipped on this day called Gai Tihar as they are believed to be a form of Laxmi. Laxmi puja is performed with great fervor by all the devout Nepalis. In the evening and throughout the night, homes are illuminated with bright lights, oil lamps and candles, with the doors and windows kept open to welcome prosperity and good fortune into the household. People enjoy themselves by lighting fireworks or playing cards.
Goru Tihar is the fourth day, when the ox is worshipped. On this day, followers of Vaishnavism perform the Govardhan puja, while people in the Newari community perform the Mha Puja and worship themselves. The last day of Tihar is known as Bhai Tika. On this day sisters adorn the foreheads of their brothers with tika as part of the ritual for their long life and good health.
This year Laxmi Puja is on 19th October, while Govardhan Puja and Bhai Tika fall on the subsequent days. 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.