From sweeping and scrubbing the floors to putting on lights and flowers to decorate the house, Tihar festival is being warmly welcomed into our homes and into our hearts. After worshiping crows and dogs, we are set to celebrate Laxmi Puja and Gai Tihar. This year, Laxmi Puja is being celebrated on Sunday (evening) while Gai Tihar on Monday.
How do we celebrate the two festivals?
Gai means cow in Nepali. So Gai Tihar simply means, the special day of cow(s). In Hinduism, the cow is a sacred animal and a maternal figure, as she provides us with life-sustaining milk. Thus, the morning of the third day of Tihar is dedicated to her, for she gives us more than she takes.
Early in the morning, people prepare tika and special food to feed the cow(s). They also prepare a garland of marigold flowers. People, who rear the cows, bring their cow out of their shed, some even give them a bath to clean her. After that, they put tika on her forehead and garland on her neck. They thank her for serving the family, wishing for them to continue what she has been loyally doing. People also show their gratitude towards her by finding her the best grass to eat.
Laxmi Puja is the day when we worship Goddess Laxmi, the Goddess of wealth. People observe the festival during the evening. So after sundown, people turn on the lights they have put to decorate their houses. People daub (dried) cow dung in front of their gates in a circular shape, it’s called pitliki. Then, they put oil lamps right at the middle of that circle or around it. Some make rangolis (shapes and patterns made with colors, flowers, and other elements) to make it more beautiful. It is believed that by doing so we pray to Goddess Laxmi to come to our house, and bless us with wealth and prosperity. People also put oil lamps around the house to lighten it up more.
In the evening, young girls and boys (in groups) come together to play bhaili. They go from home-to-home to sing, dance and give blessings to the house, mostly for prosperity. In return, then the family gives them selrotis, sweets, and money as a thank you.
How does the legends connect Laxmi Puja and Gai Tihar?
Gai Tihar and Laxmi Puja usually fall on the same day of the Tihar festival, because of which people often confuse them as the same thing. But they are not. Yes, they do fall on the same day but these are two different celebrations. While people observe Gai Tihar in the morning, they observe Laxmi Puja during the evening of the same day.
Legends say that the day is the birthday of Goddess Laxmi. The Goddess incarnated from the depth of the bottomless ocean, on the new moon day of the Kartik month. Another legend says that she married Lord Vishnu on the same dark night of the year. To commemorate the union, devotees illuminated a lot of oil lamps, and placed in rows to mark that holy occasion.
Meanwhile, mythologies suggest that Goddess Laxmi resides in the cow dung. Goddess Laxmi is in charge of providing happiness, prosperity and wealth as well. Thus, people believe that daubing cow dung in the courtyard in a way helps to get rid of worries.
The Kathmandu City really comes alive during the Tihar festival. It seems like the city is wearing a blanket of colorful lights. Every street, every alley, and the bazaar is lively and bright, with people singing and dancing, having fun.
May Goddess Laxmi bless us all. Have a joyous deusi bhailo everyone!