Deepawali (commonly known as Deewali in India and Tihar in Nepal) is a glorious 5-day festival and the biggest festival of Nepal after Dashain. It is also known as the festival of lights since people all over Nepal and India celebrate this festival by lighting candles and firecrackers at night. Houses are adorned with bright colors and different varieties of candles, butter lamps, or blinking electrical lights. Due to this reason, during this festival, most of the cities in Nepal, especially Kathmandu City look very colorful during the day and very glittery and lively during the night. During no other time or no other festival does Kathmandu look as beautiful as it does during Tihar.
On the first day, Nepalese celebrate Kaag (Crow) Tihar by worshipping crows, as it is believed that crows are special agents of Yama (the god of Death). Kukur (Dog) Tihar is celebrated on the second day. All over the streets, dogs are garlanded with flowers and offered food as well. On the third day, similar activity is performed on cows, so the day is called Gai (Cow) Tihar. It also the day when people worship Laxmi, the goddess of wealth, and so this day is also called Laxmi Puja day. On this day, people decorate their doorsteps by creating a path with colors, flowers, and candles to welcome Goddess Laxmi to their home. A similar event happens on the fourth day, during which people worship oxen. The fifth and final day is a special day known as Bhai Tika because this is the day when Nepali sisters put tika on their brothers’ foreheads and seek their blessings.
One absolutely fun tradition of this festival is playing Bhailo/Deusi. On the last few days of this festival, groups of men and women go from house to house singing and dancing, and the houseowners give them money and food in return. All this is very fun to watch, but the noise at might sometimes make it difficult for you to get a good night’s sleep during this time.
Tihar generally falls in late October and sometimes in early November. This is also the season when it is the most ideal time to visit Nepal since it is autumn season and the weather is likely to be just right. Also the skies will be clear most of the day, giving you plenty of opportunities to grab spectacular views of the faraway mountain ranges.
Note: The government of Nepal has banned firecrackers of late but nevertheless, you will still hear and see some people bursting them.
Things you are likely to be engaged in if you participate in this festival:
- Enjoy a spectacularly bright and colorful Kathmandu city at night.
- Observe/Participate in Dheusi/Bhailo
- Enjoy firecrackers at night.
- Observe Nepalese putting tikas on their forehead and wearing new, colorful clothes.
- Witness animals (crows, dogs, oxen, cows) being worshipped.
- Eat awesome Nepalese foods of different varieties.