Tihar Festival

Welcome to the vibrant world of Tihar Festival, an enchanting celebration of lights that illuminates the mystical land of Nepal. As the sun sets on the majestic Himalayas, the city streets come alive with a kaleidoscope of colors, music, and joyous revelry. Tihar, also known as Deepawali or Diwali, is a five-day festival that holds a significant place in the hearts of Nepalese people. It is a time when families gather, houses are adorned with intricate Rangolis, and the aroma of incense fills the air. But this festival is more than just a visual spectacle; it is a time to honor and worship various deities, from the mighty Goddess Laxmi to the loyal dogs who guard our homes.

This is a view of Kathmandu during Tihar Fesitval from Hul Chowk
This is a view of Kathmandu during Tihar Fesitval from Hul Chowk

Join us as we embark on a journey to discover the traditions, customs, and legends that make Tihar a truly captivating and unforgettable experience. Let the lights guide us through the enchanting streets of Nepal and immerse ourselves in the magic of the Tihar Festival.

Significance and History of the Tihar Festival

Tihar Festival, also known as the Festival of Lights, is one of the most important festivals in Nepal. It is celebrated in the month of Kartik, which usually falls in October or November, and lasts for five days. The festival holds great religious and cultural significance for the people of Nepal, and it is believed to bring prosperity, happiness, and good fortune. The history of Tihar dates back to ancient times, and it has its roots in Hindu mythology.

Diyas or small clay oil lamps are lit in houses and temples across the country.
Diyas or small clay oil lamps are lit in houses and temples across the country.

According to legends, the festival is associated with various deities and has different stories behind its origin. One of the most popular legends is that of Lord Ram, who returned to Ayodhya after defeating the demon king Ravana. The people of Ayodhya celebrated his homecoming by lighting lamps and decorating the city with flowers and colorful rangolis. This tradition of lighting lamps continues to this day and is an integral part of the Tihar Festival.

The festival is also associated with the worship of Goddess Laxmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth and prosperity. It is believed that during Tihar, Goddess Laxmi visits every household, and people light lamps and candles to welcome her. The festival is also a time to honor and worship various animals, such as crows, dogs, cows, and oxen, as they are considered sacred in Hindu mythology. Each day of Tihar has its own significance and rituals, which we will explore in the following sections.

Five days of the Tihar Festival

Day 1: Kag Tihar – Celebrating crows

The first day of the Tihar Festival is known as Kag Tihar or Crow Puja. On this day, people wake up early in the morning and offer food to crows. Crows are considered messengers of death and are believed to have a special connection with Yama, the god of death. By feeding crows, people believe that they are appeasing Yama and ensuring the well-being of their departed loved ones.

The food offerings are usually placed on rooftops or in open spaces, and people watch as crows descend to eat the food. It is believed that if the crows eat the food without any hesitation, it is a good omen. This ritual is performed with great devotion and reverence, and it is believed to bring good luck and blessings to the household.

Day 2: Kukur Tihar – Honoring dogs

The second day of the Tihar Festival is dedicated to dogs, which are considered loyal and faithful companions. On this day, dogs are worshipped and honored for their role in guarding homes and protecting their owners. People decorate dogs with garlands of flowers, apply tika (a red mark) on their foreheads, and offer them delicious food and treats. The dogs are treated with utmost love and respect, and their loyalty is acknowledged and appreciated.

This day is also an opportunity to raise awareness about animal welfare and the importance of treating animals with kindness and compassion. It is a heartwarming sight to see dogs being showered with love and affection on this special day.

Day 3: Gai Tihar and Laxmi Puja – Worshiping cows and Goddess Laxmi

The third day of the Tihar Festival is dedicated to cows, which are considered sacred in Hindu mythology. Cows are worshipped as a symbol of wealth, abundance, and fertility. On this day, cows are adorned with garlands, painted with vibrant colors, and worshipped with flowers, incense, and lamps. People offer them fresh grass, grains, and sweets as a gesture of gratitude for their milk, which is considered a vital source of nourishment.

After worshipping cows, people also perform Laxmi Puja, where they worship Goddess Laxmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity. The puja involves lighting lamps and candles, offering prayers, and performing rituals to seek the blessings of Goddess Laxmi. It is believed that by appeasing Goddess Laxmi, one can attain prosperity, success, and abundance in life.

Day 4: Govardhan Puja and Mha Puja – Worshiping Lord Krishna and self

The fourth day of the Tihar Festival is dedicated to Govardhan Puja, which is associated with Lord Krishna. According to mythology, Lord Krishna lifted the Govardhan Hill to protect the people of Vrindavan from torrential rains and floods. On this day, people create small mounds of cow dung and decorate them with flowers and colors to symbolize Govardhan Hill.

They offer prayers and perform rituals to honor Lord Krishna and seek his blessings. This day is also known as Mha Puja, which means self-worship. People worship themselves on this day, considering the body as a temple and the soul as the divine presence within. It is a time for self-reflection, introspection, and gratitude for the gift of life.

Day 5: Bhai Tika – Celebrating the bond between siblings

The fifth and final day of the Tihar Festival is called Bhai Tika, which is a celebration of the bond between siblings. On this day, sisters perform a special puja for their brothers, applying tika on their foreheads, garlanding them with flowers, and offering them sweets and gifts. This ritual signifies the sisters’ love and blessings for their brothers and is believed to strengthen the bond between siblings. Brothers, in turn, give gifts to their sisters and promise to protect and support them throughout their lives.

Tilak of seven colors used in Nepalese celebration
Tilak of seven colors used in Nepalese celebration

Bhai Tika is a joyous occasion filled with love, laughter, and heartfelt emotions. It is a time for families to come together, celebrate their relationships, and create cherished memories.

Traditions and rituals during Tihar Festival

Tihar Festival is rich in traditions and rituals that are followed with great enthusiasm and devotion. One of the most prominent traditions is the decoration of homes with colorful rangolis and intricate designs. Rangolis are made using colored powders, rice, flowers, and other natural materials. These beautiful designs are believed to welcome positive energy and ward off evil spirits.

Another tradition is the lighting of lamps and candles, which symbolize the victory of light over darkness and good over evil. The entire city comes alive with a mesmerizing display of lights, creating a magical ambiance that is hard to describe in words.

Rituals such as the worship of deities, offering prayers, and performing aarti (a ceremonial dance with lamps) are integral part of the Tihar Festival. People visit temples, chant mantras, and seek the blessings of the gods and goddesses. They also perform Lakshmi Puja, where they offer flowers, fruits, sweets, and other offerings to Goddess Laxmi. The puja is accompanied by the chanting of sacred hymns and the ringing of bells, creating a serene and spiritual atmosphere.

Tihar Festival decorations and lights

The decorations during Tihar Festival are a visual treat for the eyes. Homes are adorned with colorful rangolis, which are intricate patterns created using colored powders, rice, and flowers. The designs range from simple geometric shapes to elaborate motifs inspired by nature and mythology. The vibrant colors and delicate patterns add a touch of elegance and beauty to the surroundings.

In addition to rangolis, homes are also decorated with strings of marigold flowers, lights, and candles. The entire city is bathed in a warm glow, creating a magical atmosphere that is both enchanting and festive.

The lights of the Tihar Festival are a sight to behold. Lamps and candles are lit in every household, illuminating the streets and spreading a sense of joy and positivity. The flickering flames create a mesmerizing dance of light and shadow, casting a spell on all who witness it.

In recent years, the use of electric lights and decorative bulbs has become popular, adding a modern touch to the traditional festival. The streets are adorned with colorful LED lights, creating a breathtaking display of colors and patterns. The lights of the Tihar Festival truly bring the city to life, transforming it into a magical wonderland.

Tihar Festival food and delicacies

Food plays a central role in the celebrations of the Tihar Festival. It is a time when families come together to prepare and share delicious meals and sweets. One of the most popular Tihar delicacies is Sel Roti, a sweet rice flour donut that is deep-fried until golden brown. It is a traditional Nepali dish that is prepared with great care and love.

Another popular dish is Kwati, a soup made with a mixture of nine different types of beans. It is believed to be nutritious and consumed during the festival for good health and well-being. Other traditional dishes include Alu Tama, a curry made with black-eyed peas and bamboo shoots, and Bara, a lentil pancake served with spicy chutney.

Sweets are an essential part of the Tihar Festival, and people indulge in a variety of mouthwatering treats. One such sweet is Malpuwa, a deep-fried pancake made with flour, milk, and sugar. It is often served with a dollop of yogurt or a drizzle of honey, adding a touch of sweetness to the festivities.

Another popular sweet is Anarsa, a rice flour and jaggery pastry that is deep-fried and sprinkled with sesame seeds. It is a crunchy and delicious treat that is enjoyed by people of all ages. The festival is also a time to exchange sweets and gifts with friends and relatives, spreading love and happiness.

Tihar Festival in different parts of Nepal

While Tihar Festival is celebrated throughout Nepal, each region has its own unique customs and traditions. In Kathmandu, the capital city, the festival is celebrated with great pomp and show. The streets are adorned with lights, and the city comes alive with cultural performances, music, and dance. The famous Kathmandu Durbar Square is beautifully decorated, and people gather to witness the grandeur of the celebrations.

In the Terai region, which is known for its agricultural heritage, Tihar is a time to worship and honor oxen and cows. The animals are decorated with vibrant colors and garlands and paraded through the streets amidst much fanfare. In the hilly regions, people celebrate Tihar by lighting lamps and candles and performing puja in their homes. The festival is a time for families to come together, reconnect with their roots, and celebrate their culture and traditions.

Tihar Festival in the modern era

In recent years, Tihar Festival has evolved to reflect the changing times and the influence of modern technology. While traditional customs and rituals are still followed with great devotion, there has been an infusion of new elements that add a contemporary touch to the festival.

The use of electric lights, LED bulbs, and decorative lanterns has become popular, creating a dazzling display of colors and patterns. Social media platforms are flooded with pictures and videos of Tihar decorations, creating a sense of excitement and anticipation.

People also exchange greetings and wishes through digital platforms, connecting with their loved ones even if they are far away. The festival has become a time for creativity and innovation, with people coming up with unique ways to celebrate and embrace the spirit of Tihar.

5-Day Celebrations of Tihar 2023

  1. Kaag Tihar: November 10th, 2023
  2. Kukur Tihar: November 11th, 2023
  3. Gai Tihar: November 12th, 2023
  4. Goru Tihar: November 13th, 2023
  5. Bhai Tika: November 14th, 2023

Tihar Festival 2023, 2024, and 2025 in Nepal

202313 NovMonGovardhan Puja
14 NovTueLaxmi Puja
15 NovWedBhai Tika
20241 NovFriLaxmi Puja
2 NovSatGovardhan Puja
3 NovSunBhai Tika
202520 OctMonLaxmi Puja
22 OctWedGovardhan Puja
23 OctThuBhai Tika
20268 NovSunLaxmi Puja
10 NovTueGovardhan Puja
11 NovWedBhai Tika

How to Celebrate Tihar as a Traveler

Experience the grandeur of the Tihar festival in Kathmandu, renowned as the largest and most vibrant celebration of its kind. As night falls, the city streets come alive with a magnificent display of lights, setting the stage for an array of religious and cultural festivities. While the smaller villages offer intriguingly unique celebrations, Kathmandu stands as the undeniable centerpiece, captivating visitors with its allure.

Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Rani Pokhari Temple, a hidden gem accessible to the public only on the fifth day of the Tihar Festival. Situated in downtown Kathmandu, this majestic temple rests amidst an enchanting artificial pond. Crossing a bridge, you’ll arrive at the pristine white structure, adorned with intricate white-elephant carvings and crowned by a striking dome—a truly awe-inspiring sight to behold.

Embark on a captivating tour of Thamel, a bustling neighborhood hailed as a “hotspot” for tourists in Kathmandu. Meander through its narrow streets on foot or enjoy a rickshaw ride for an immersive experience. Explore the myriad of charming little stores offering unique treasures, and make sure to visit the vibrant market. In Thamel, you’ll also discover a wealth of delightful restaurants serving authentic Nepali cuisine, allowing you to indulge in the local flavors and culinary traditions.

In conclusion, Tihar Festival is a celebration of lights, traditions, and cultural heritage that holds a special place in the hearts of Nepalese people. It is a time when families come together, houses are adorned with intricate rangolis, and the aroma of incense fills the air. From the worship of deities to the honoring of animals, each day of Tihar has its own significance and rituals.

The festival is a visual spectacle, with homes and streets illuminated with colorful lights and decorations. It is also a time to savor delicious food and sweets, exchange gifts, and strengthen the bond between siblings.

Tihar Festival is a celebration of life, love, and the triumph of good over evil. So, let the lights guide us through the enchanting streets of Nepal and immerse ourselves in the magic of the Tihar Festival.

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Sailendra Bhatta

An adventurer, writer, and Founder of Nepal Travel Vibes.

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