We are at the festival break again, for Tihar, also called Deepawali. Tihar has remained a source of rejuvenation for those who celebrate it. First, this is the occasion when households and shopping outlets are maintained speckles clean, they are decorated and lightened for the full five days in which prayers and worships continue. Animals and birds—from crows to dogs to cows and bulls—are worshipped. And on the final day of Bhai Tika— sisters offer tikas to their brothers and wish for their long lives and prosperity. This is the day brother-sister bonding gets manifested in action. These have, for long, remained defining characteristics of the festival we are celebrating only 15 days’ Dashain break.
That said, it must also be mentioned that like most other festivals, Tihar is also slowly becoming the event of extravaganza while core values and rituals that are associated with it are either being forgotten or simply ignored. The traditional Deusi and Bhailo—where men and women gather together and sing the songs evoking mythical stories—are becoming rare sights. Instead of singing the real songs, as used to be done in the past, music is played out through loud speakers, and people dance to this tune. One does not find the same flavor, rigor and emotional attachment, fun and entertainment in these practices anymore. With many people staying out of the country for work, many of our brothers and sisters have not been able to see each other in person to celebrate the occasion. These may be called the outcome of people having to earn livelihood for the families at any cost but troublingly, Tihar has also become the occasion for reckless drinking, unnecessary spending and, worse, gambling.
Home Ministry and Nepal Police in the recent years have taken some noteworthy measures to curb these practices. The crackdown on use and sale of firecrackers, for example, is one such measure. Burning of firecrackers during Tihar has resulted in injuries of children and at times, even death in the past. Likewise, gambling has been wrongly associated with this festival. Until the recent past, it was common to see the people play cards and gamble openly. Awareness raising and warning by the police has discouraged these practices. These are the changes for good. We in the society must learn to act with responsibility. Let us celebrate this occasion for wishing well of each other. Let us realize that festivals are source of refreshing us emotionally and spiritually. Ideally, our festivals have never been for reckless spending and irresponsible drinking and gambling. Let us not make it an excuse to resort to the habits which are not the true attributes of the festival. The beauty of Tihar lies in giving continuity to our age-old tradition and reviving the bonds among ourselves. Such occasion should be for reviving and further strengthening the social bonding. It should be so this year as well. On that note, we wish happy Tihar to all.