Tihar, the festival of lights, is a special festival of the Hindus. It is an occasion when different animals like cows, dogs and crows are also been given special recognition and due respect. Cows are synonymous to mother as it gives milk. Dogs are considered loyal animals and they also protect us. Similarly, every animal has a special purpose and is celebrated all together during the festivals.
Crows are known as the messenger of Yama, the god of death. On this day, the birds are worshiped and fed. According to traditions, each family member separates his or her meal and puts it together for the crows to feed upon. In the Hindu mythology, it is believed that the cawing of the crows symbolizes sadness and grief. So devotees offer the crows food to avert grief and deaths in their homes.
On the second day of Tihar, dogs are adorned with flower garland around their necks, red tika on their foreheads, and are offered great meals. On this day, people pray to dogs since they guard the homes. Even stray dogs are worshipped on this day along with providing them with food. As legend has it, there is a dog guarding the gate to the underworld, and Bhairav, the god of destruction’s steed is also a dog.
Gai Tihar/Laxmi Puja
The third day of Tihar is about worshiping cows who are synonymous to mothers. Cows are also a sign of prosperity and wealth. Thus on this day, people perform puja to cows by putting garlands and feeding the cow with good meals. Houses are also cleaned and the doorways and windows are decorated with garlands made of marigold. In the evening, Laxmi, the goddess of wealth, is also worshipped for blessing the family with fortune. Oil lamps and candles are put on the doorways and windows to welcome prosperity through the appearance of the goddess. At night, girls celebrate it by singing and singing Bhailo (carol), and from the third day boys also play Deusi.
Gobardhan Puja and Mha Puja
On the fourth day of Tihar, there are different kinds of rituals that take place, depending on the cultures that people follow. Most people perform Goru Puja, worship of the oxen. The ox is worshipped with tika, garland and then a meal as well. On the other hand, people who follow Lord Krishna, perform Gobardhan Puja. They build a small heap made of cow dung and put some grass on it and perform puja on it. This puja symbolizes the act of Lord Krishna when he lifted the Gobardhan Hill and saved millions of people and cows from floodwater. People of Newar community also perform Mha Puja, worship of the “self,” which also marks the New Year according to Nepal Sambat.
The last day of Tihar is Bhai Tika when sisters put tika on foreheads of their brothers to ensure their long life, and also to thank them for the protection they provide. They also give a special gift known as ‘sagun’ which is made of dried fruits, fresh fruits, sweets, and followed by a huge feast. The brothers also put tika on their sisters’ foreheads and gift them in return. A special garland is made for the brothers out of a flower that wilts only after a couple of months, symbolizing the sister's prayer for her brother's long life. Thus, from this day, the five-day Festival of Lights called Tihar comes to an end.