Travers Nepal

Tihar/Deepawali Festival in Nepal

The Tihar Festival, also known as Deepawali or Yamapanchak, is one of the most celebrated and cherished festivals in Nepal. It is a five-day Hindu festival that usually falls in October or November, depending on the lunar calendar. Tihar holds immense cultural and religious significance in Nepal, and it's a time when families come together to celebrate, worship, and exchange blessings. In this article, we will dive deep into the vibrant and spiritually enriching world of Tihar, exploring its history, rituals, cultural aspects, and its relevance in modern times.

History and Significance

Tihar has its roots in Hindu mythology, specifically in the great Hindu epic, the Mahabharata. According to legend, the festival commemorates the return of Lord Rama, his wife Sita, and his brother Lakshmana to Ayodhya after defeating the demon king Ravana. The people of Ayodhya lit oil lamps to guide their way and celebrate the victory of good over evil. This tradition of lighting lamps continues to be an integral part of Tihar celebrations.

Tihar is also celebrated to honor various animals like crows, dogs, cows, and oxen, who hold special significance in Hindu culture. Each day of the festival is dedicated to worshipping a different animal, symbolizing the bond between humans and nature.

The Ritual of Lighting Lamps (Diyo)

One of the most enchanting aspects of Tihar is the lighting of oil lamps, or 'diyo' in Nepali. These lamps are placed in and around homes, creating a mesmerizing atmosphere. The flickering flames of the diyos are believed to ward off evil spirits and bring prosperity. It's a tradition that brings families together, as they decorate their homes with colorful rangoli designs and light hundreds of diyos.

Worship of Dogs (Kukur Tihar)

During Tihar, dogs are worshipped as they are considered loyal and protective animals. They are garlanded with marigold flowers, offered delicious treats, and given 'tika' (a sacred mark) on their foreheads. This ritual symbolizes the bond between humans and their faithful companions.

Celebrating Cows (Gai Tihar)

Cows are revered in Hinduism as sacred animals, and Gai Tihar is dedicated to honoring them. The cows are adorned with garlands, and their foreheads are marked with tika. People also offer them a special meal, which often includes fruits and vegetables.

Honoring the Crow (Kaag Tihar)

Crows are believed to be messengers of Yama, the god of death, and on this day, they are offered food as a mark of respect. People place various dishes on their rooftops, and the crows swoop down to partake in the feast.

The Festival of Lights

Tihar is often referred to as the "Festival of Lights" due to the dazzling array of lamps, candles, and lanterns that illuminate the entire country. The sight of Nepal bathed in the warm glow of lights is truly breathtaking and adds to the festive spirit.

Preparations and Cleaning

In the days leading up to Tihar, households engage in thorough cleaning and decorating. This symbolizes the cleansing of impurities and welcoming the goddess of wealth, Laxmi, into their homes. It's also a time for shopping for new clothes and essentials.

Tihar Songs and Cultural Performances

Music and dance are integral to Tihar celebrations. Special Tihar songs are sung, and traditional dance performances, such as Deusi and Bhailo, are common during the festival. These cultural expressions add vibrancy and joy to the festivities.

The Exchange of Blessings

Tihar is a time for families to come together and exchange blessings. Elders bless the younger generation with tika, while younger family members offer their respects and gratitude to their elders. This exchange reinforces family bonds and respect for tradition.

Traditional Food and Sweets

No festival in Nepal is complete without delicious traditional food and sweets. During Tihar, various mouthwatering dishes like sel roti, yomari, and kheer are prepared and shared with family and neighbors.

Tihar in Different Regions of Nepal

While Tihar is celebrated nationwide, it can vary in customs and rituals from one region to another. Different ethnic communities within Nepal may have their unique ways of observing the festival, making it a culturally diverse and rich celebration.

Tihar and Hindu Mythology

Tihar is deeply intertwined with Hindu mythology and serves as a reminder of the triumph of good over evil. The story of Lord Rama's return and the symbolism of the rituals reinforce the spiritual aspect of the festival.

Tihar in Modern Times

In contemporary Nepal, Tihar has evolved with the times. While the core traditions remain intact, there are also modern elements added to the celebrations, such as creative lighting displays and social media campaigns to promote the festival's cultural significance.

Environmental Concerns and Solutions

The extensive use of oil lamps and fireworks during Tihar can have environmental consequences. Efforts are being made to raise awareness about eco-friendly celebrations, such as using LED lights and reducing waste.

Tihar and Tourism

Tihar attracts tourists from around the world who want to experience the rich culture and traditions of Nepal. The festival provides a unique opportunity for travelers to immerse themselves in the local way of life.

Tihar Souvenirs and Handicrafts

During Tihar, local artisans and craftsmen create unique souvenirs and handicrafts that reflect the essence of the festival. These items are popular among tourists and make for memorable gifts.

Tihar and Family Bonds

The emphasis on family togetherness during Tihar reinforces the importance of strong family bonds in Nepali culture. It's a time for reconciliation and strengthening relationships.

The Role of Women in Tihar

Women play a significant role in the preparations and rituals of Tihar. They are responsible for creating beautiful rangoli designs, cooking delicious meals, and contributing to the overall festive atmosphere.

Tihar and the Younger Generation

While respecting tradition, the younger generation also adds their own creativity and energy to the festival. They take part in cultural performances and help with various preparations, ensuring the continuation of Tihar's vibrancy.

Tihar and Interfaith Relations

Nepal is a diverse country with multiple faiths coexisting harmoniously. Tihar serves as a unifying festival, bringing people of different religions together in celebration.

Challenges and Controversies

Like any other festival, Tihar is not without its challenges and controversies. These may include issues related to animal welfare, noise pollution from fireworks, and the commercialization of the festival.

Future of Tihar

As Nepal continues to evolve, so does the celebration of Tihar. The festival will likely adapt to new technologies and changing cultural dynamics while preserving its core values.

Tihar's Global Influence

The celebration of Tihar has spread beyond Nepal's borders, with Nepali diaspora communities around the world participating in the festivities. This global reach showcases the cultural richness of Tihar.


Tihar/Deepawali Festival in Nepal is a beautiful blend of tradition, spirituality, and community. It's a time when the entire nation comes together to celebrate the triumph of light over darkness and the enduring bond between humans and nature. As Tihar continues to evolve, it remains a testament to the cultural heritage and resilience of the Nepali people.

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