Major Hindu festival Tihar begins; Kaag Tihar today

KATHMANDU: Tihar festival, which is also called Yama Panchak or Deepawali, has started from today. Also known as the festival of lights, people celebrate Tihar by lighting their houses with butter lamps.

Goddess Laxmi is worshipped in this festival. Also worshipped is Yama, the God of death, whose relationship with his sister is marked during the festival which has a special significance in fostering love and respect between brothers and sisters.

The festival is celebrated for five days by performing various rituals. The first day is called Kaag Tihar when crows are worshipped as the messengers of death. The second day is Kukur Tihar when dogs are worshipped as protectors of the house. The third day is Gai Tihar and Laxmi Puja. On this day, cows are worshipped early in the morning and Goddess Laxmi is worshipped in the evening. On this evening, people celebrate with much enthusiasm by lighting their houses, singing, dancing and merry-making.

Likewise, a small hillock made out of cow dung (representative of Govardhan Parbat) is worshipped on the fourth day of the festival called Govardhan Puja. People from the Newar community celebrate the fourth day of Yama Panchak as Mha Puja (worship of oneself). The day is also the beginning of Nepal Sambat calendar.

The fifth or the last day of Tihar is Bhai Tika — the day when brothers receive Tika from their sisters and vice versa. The auspicious hour for Bhai Tika this year is 11:55 am on Friday, November 9, according to the Nepal Panchanga Nirnayak Samiti (Nepal Calendar Determination Committee).

During the festival, people decorate their houses with colourful lights, flowers and oil lamps. They also cook and eat various delicacies, including sweets and sel roti, a traditional Nepali food made from rice flour, in the shape of a ring.

Playing Deusi-Bhailo and worshipping various animals and birds as parts of nature are significant aspects of this festival.

The government has announced a three-day public holiday starting from Laxmi Puja to Bhai Tika from November 7 to 9.