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The History of Deepawali

By Bhagwat Dangal, Healthcare Class student, Laconia

Deepawali – Festival of Lights

This is how we used to celebrate our great festival in Nepal and we are celebrating here in the USA also to protect, preserve and save our culture and tradition so that the next generation will also follow the same culture and tradition practiced by us and not be influenced by other cultures.

Deepawali or tihar is known as the festival of lights. It is also called Yampanchak as it is celebrated for five days. In other words, this festival is meant for life and prosperity. It is observed from the 12th day of the Krishna Paksha or waning phase of the moon in Kartik (October-November) to the second day of Shukla Paksha or waxing phase of the moon in Kartik month as per traditional Hindu calendar in Nepal.

The Story

The five day Hindu festival is considered to be of great importance as it shows reverence to not just the humans and the Gods, but also the animals like crow, cow and dog, who maintain an intense relationship with the humans. There are different stories related to the tihar. The most popular Tihar story is Rama returning to Ayodhya at the end of his 12 year exile in the woods and eventual victory over Ravana, and being welcomed with lights. Also popular is the myth of the defeat of the demon Mahishasur by Durga. She was so ecstatic she danced in a frenzy that threatened to destroy the universe. To calm her, a grand feast was prepared, with decorations and brightly-lit courtyards. A lesser-known myth is about Bali, a great king sent to the netherworld for excessive devotion to Vishnu who was allowed to visit his kingdom for five days a year – celebrated as Tihar. Deusi and bhailo songs often refer to this story.

Five Days of Celebrations

The first day of the festival is called Kag Parva. The crow, which is considered the messenger for Lord of Death, Yama Raj, is worshipped by offering sweets and delicious dishes this day. The cawing of the crows symbolizes sadness and grief in Hindu mythology, so the devotes offer the crows dishes to avert grief and deaths in their homes.

The second day of the festival is Kukur Tihar, where the dogs, considered to be an obedient pet and guard of the humans, are worshipped and offered garlands, tika an meals.

On the third day, the mother of the universe, the cow, is worshipped by the Hindus. The cow is considered to be the surrogate mother of the humans according to Hindu myths, so they worship her with tika, garlands and fruits on that day. Laxmi, the goddess of fortune, is also worshipped in each house in the evening on this day. Houses are decorated with colorful papers, lights, lamps and candles in the evening. Goddess Laxmi is worshipped with flowers, oil lamps, colors, bells and money. The females in the house also make symbolic footprints leading up to the entrance of the puja room in their house and pray to make their houses prosperous in the days to come. The houses, villages and towns seem different on this day as compared to other days of the year. After the completion of laxmi puja or worshipping goddess laxmi, different groups of people visit houses reciting deusi and bhailo, a special song for tihar. It is one of the most enjoyable parts of the tihar or deepawali, especially for children because they can have some money to buy candies and sweets.

On the fourth day, Goru puja or worship of oxen, is performed. People also perform Gobardhan puja (worshipping cow dung) as it was useful in the olden days for different purposes.

On the last day of the fifth day is known as Bhai Tika Day. The brothers are offered tika and garlands, along with flowers, oil, fruits and gifts by their sisters, wishing them long life and prosperity. The brothers give their sisters gifts and cash with love. The most exotic and dazzling festival comes to an end after these five magnificent days of worship and honor to the goddess Laxmi and the underworld kingdom.