Tihar: Festival of Light

Diwali (or Deepavali) is a five-day festival celebrated by Hindus around the globe. In Nepal, the equivalent holiday is known as Tihar. The season is called “the Festival of Lights,” after clay lanterns that are lit and stacked around each home. People also use pigmented rice, flour, sand, and flower petals to make decorative patterns on their floors and outdoor areas to welcome various Hindu gods and goddesses to their home.

On each day of Tihar, various animals are honored in Nepal: crows & ravens, symbolizing sadness (to prevent various calamities); dogs, thought to be messengers of the god of death; cows, symbols of prosperity; oxen, symbols of strength. On the last day at a special ceremony, sisters put tika (red or white dots) on their brothers’ foreheads to secure for them a long and happy life. They then typically exchange gifts.

Hindu devotees of the god Krishna will recall the story of how Krishna held up the fabled Mount Govardhan for eight days to protect the holy city from deadly rains. Elaborate meals will be prepared and offered to "lord Krishna," recognizing him as their deliverer. Many Hindu women feel the need of a deliverer from traditional culture, where they are often enslaved by their husband's family after marriage.

Whatever nuances each country's festival may take, the third day of Diwali is the most important. Hindus all over the world joyfully celebrate the victory of good over evil, light over darkness. At sunset, strings of lights will be lit alongside the more traditional lighting of many small, clay oil-lamps around the house to invite divine blessings for their families.