Tihar is the second biggest Nepalese festival after Dashain, and correlates with the Indian Festival of Light - Divali. Over the course of several days, people give offerings and prayers to the gods and goddesses in Hinduism and give thanks to animals, pets and sibling relationships, with different cultural groups celebrating the festival slightly differently.
On Laxmi Puja, families decorate their homes and offices with marigolds and beautiful Rangoli motifs outside their homes. People make patterns on the floor of living rooms or courtyards using materials such as coloured rice, dry flour, coloured sand or flower petals – they are so beautiful and unique to each house! Crows and ravens are worshipped by offerings of sweets and dishes placed on the roofs of houses. The cawing of crows and ravens symbolizes sadness and grief in Hinduism, so devotees offer crows and ravens food to avert grief and death in their homes. Dogs, cows and crows are all worshipped and thanked - you see dogs and cows wandering around with tika and marigold garlands which is a sight to be seen! Laxmi the Goddess of wealth and prosperity is thanked with families leaving oil lamps and candles in the doorways and windows, to welcome prosperity and well-being. I love the tradition of the local children visiting houses in the neighbourhood with instruments and colourful outfits, who dance and sing for tips from each neighbour. With my western comparisons, it is a more fun version of Halloween ‘trick or treating’! The young boys and girls have all practised their Bollywood dancing and lose all shyness when they perform their chosen song!
All the buildings around Kathmandu are usually covered in fairy lights, its definitely on a par with Londons Oxford Street Christmas lights and beautiful at night! For many nights there are echoes of celebrations and fireworks around the city.
One of the main events at Tihar is Bhai Tika where sisters perform a puja ritual to their brothers, applying a seven-colour ‘tika’ on their forehead to ensure long life and to thank them for protection. The brother performs the same puja with tika on their sister, and they exchange gifts. This festival strengthens close relationships with brothers and sisters.