The festival of lights and illumination, Tihar or Deepawali, is just around the corner.

Tihar is the biggest festival after Dashain and is joyously celebrated every year by the Nepalis. Tihar is a spiritual festival that symbolises driving out darkness with the help of light. It also marks the awakening of inner light. The lights that embellish the houses, buildings and streets during Tihar represent the inner divine light that has the power to outshine darkness and clear obstacles from life. It is a five-day festival dedicated to various animals and events.

The first day of Tihar is dedicated to the crow. Crows are considered to be the messengers of the God of Death, Yamaraja.

The cawing of crows is said to be the message of grief and sadness. Crows are worshipped and offered food and delicacies to ward off misery and death from our homes.

The second day of Tihar is dedicated to the worship of man's most loyal friend, the dog. Dogs are offered garlands and food, and their loyalty to man is cherished. On the third day of Tihar, the cow is worshipped.

According to Hinduism, cows are an insignia of wealth and prosperity. They are worshipped as Goddess Laxmi, the Goddess of Wealth.

People offer garlands and good food to the cow as a way of showing their gratefulness towards the animal.

It is also the auspicious day of Laxmi Puja. The houses are cleaned and decorated with marigold flowers, and illuminated with oil-lamps (diyos) and candles. Small footsteps of Laxmi are made on the floor as it is believed that Goddess Laxmi herself walks into our homes bringing a lot of good luck and prosperity. Young children gather and visit homes in the evening singing the traditional festival Bhailo song.

The fourth day of Tihar is for the worship of the oxen. It is also the day of Govardhan Puja.

A replica of the Govardhan hill is made of cow dung and worshipped.

Cow dung holds religious significance in Hindu households. This day is also celebrated by the Newar community as Mha Puja. The Newars conduct a self-worship for the purification and cleansing of the body. This day also marks the Newari New Year (Nepal Sambat). In the evening, the houses are visited by groups of people singing the traditional Deusi song.

The fifth day of Tihar is dedicated to all the brothers and sisters.

According to mythology, Yamaraj, the God of Death, visited his sister Yamuna on this day. Yamuna applied the seven-coloured tika on Yamaraj's forehead, offered him garlands and fed him scrumptious food.

Yamuna was given a special token of love by Yamaraj, with a promise that anyone who receives tika from his sister would not die on this day.

So brothers and sisters come together to put the Saptarangi tika. The brothers are offered dry fruits, sweets and different other food items, and the sisters are gifted with money or presents.

It is a day to enjoy the wonderful relationship between brothers and sisters.

The Hindu festival of Tihar is not only symbolic of the relationship between man and god but also cherishes the interconnectedness between animals and humans. The worshipping of crows, dogs, cows and oxen reminds us of their immense value and importance in the ecosystem. The days dedicated to these different animals remind us to have kindness and compassion towards these creatures. This Hindu festival that is regarded as the festival of lights is expected to bring new hopes, ambitions, strength and positivity.

A version of this article appears in the print on November 04, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.