Dashain & Tihar

Interesting Nepali traditions during the nation’s favorite religious festivals
by Brooke Hartman

Dashain and Tihar are back-to-back religious festivals in Nepal marked by giant bamboo swings, kite-flying, and lights strung across doorways and rooftops. Government offices and schools are closed, most people travel back to their villages of origin to celebrate with their families, and billboards with countdowns and special marketing for, like, Coca-Cola appear all over.

Celebration-wise, it’s comparable to Christmas in the US. There are gifts and feasts, of course, but also a few other traditions that left us scratching our heads and smiling in cultural bewilderment…

Gentlemen, start worship your engines!

On the 9th day of Dashain festival, the god of creativeness is worshipped, as it is believed that all the things that help us make a living should be kept happy. Artisans, craftsmen, traders, and mechanics worship and offer animal blood to their tools, equipment, and vehicles. Also, it is believed that worshipping vehicles avoids accidents for the year, so vehicles from bikes to cars and trucks are decorated and worshiped on this day.

Don’t eat crow.

Seriously, don’t eat them because they’re sacred. Crows are worshipped on the first day of Tihar by attempts to tika them (placing red paint on their foreheads) and offerings of sweets and meals on the roofs of houses. A crow’s caw symbolizes sadness and grief in Hindu mythology, so many offer food to crows to avert grief and deaths in their homes.

Who let the dogs… wear garland and tika? (or Deck the Dogs)

On the second day of Tihar, dogs are decked with garlands and tika and offered delicious foods to acknowledge the cherished relationships between humans and dogs.

Don’t have a cow- decorate one!

Because they are a sign of prosperity and health, cows are worshipped on the third day of Tihar. Many show their gratefulness to the cow by offering garland, tika, and the best grass.

Oh, brother!

The last day of Tihar is for the brothers. Sisters make a special garland for their brothers out of a flower that lasts for a couple of months, symbolizing the sister’s prayer for her brother’s long life. Sisters circle brothers three times as they sit on the floor, dripping oil on the floor and putting oil in the brothers’ ears and hair. Sisters then put a special tika of seven colors on the foreheads of their brothers to bless them and celebrate long life.