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Tihar is the second biggest festival of the Hindu Communities after the Dashain celebrated over a period of five days. Tihar is also called Deepawali or Laxmi Puja.
The first day of Tihar is called Kaag (crow) Tihar. Crows and ravens, believed to be the messengers of the death god, Yama, are worshipped with offerings of grains, seeds, and sweets placed on the roofs or out on the streets.
The second day is called Kukur (dog) Tihar On this day, all dogs, whether pets or strays are offered treats and worshipped by placing a tika on their forehead and garlands of marigolds around their necks. This day marks the special relationship between humans and dogs, where dogs are thanked and celebrated for their loyalty, service and companionship.
The morning of the third day is called Gaai (cow) Tihar. The cow is an important animal in Hinduism and is considered sacred. The cow is associated with the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi. Hindus revere the cow as a particularly docile animal that gives a lot more than it takes. Thus, on the third day of Tihar, Nepali Hindu people show their gratitude to the cow by feeding them treats and worshipping them with tikas and garlands. Lakshmi, the patron goddess of the festival, is welcomed into homes that have been cleaned and the doorways and windows decorated with garlands made out of marigolds. Oil-fed lamps are put up all around the home, especially in doorways and windowsills, while electric lights are draped over houses in the belief that the goddess will not visit dark homes. A special puja is offered to Lakshmi in the evening, wishing for wealth, prosperity and good health. In the evening, young girls go around the neighbourhood, singing and dancing in a tradition called bail. They are offered small amounts of money and food as rewards for the entertainment they provide. Fireworks are also common on this particular day.
The fourth day of Tihar is Govardhan Puja and Mha Puja when the ox is worshipped and celebrated. The ox is seen as an analogue to the cow in Hinduism, as the ox provides manual labour, especially important for an agricultural country like Nepal. Hindus also perform Govardhan Puja, which is worship towards the holy Govardhan mountain.
The fourth day of Tihar also generally coincides with new years’ day of the Newari calendar and thus, is the celebratory Mha Puja for the Newar community, Mha Puja is a unique tradition where the self and the soul within are worshipped by the Newari people.
The fifth and last day of Tihar is called Bhai Tika. This final day is celebrated with much fanfare across the country, brothers and sisters mark their special bond by worshipping each other by putting a tika on the forehead and garlands.
The ceremony program is performed regardless of whether the brother is older or younger than the sister and first or second cousins are also eligible for the ceremony. In the end, the brother touches the feet of their sisters with their forehead, signifying love, respect and devotion. The brothers receive a variety of cooked food, fruits and packaged food while the sisters receive cash or other gifts.