Gangtok: October 24
Five day long Tihar festival or Deepawali celebrations began today with Kag Puja or ‘worship of crows’ in Sikkim and Nepal. The five days of this festival starts from the thirteenth day of the waning moon in October. Goddess of wealth, Laxmi is worshiped during Deepawali festival. Tihar is also called ‘Panchak Yama’ which means ‘the five days of lord of death.’ Yamaraj is also worshiped in many different forms in these five days. This festival is an unique example of how humans pay gratitude to nature through religion.
There are many stories associated with this festival. One such story says that an old king was told by his astrologer that a serpent will come to take his life. If he wants to avoid his death he had to lit oil lamps and decorate his house on Laxmi Puja night. He did so and goddess Laxmi was happy and she asked the serpent to save the King. The serpent took him to Yamraj and told that it was not yet the king’s time to die. Yamraj checked his ledger where kings remaining age was written zero. But the serpent cleverly wrote 7 before it by making it 70. From that day goddess Laxmi and Lord of death, Yamraj is worshiped for prosperity and long life.
Day 1: Kag Puja
The festival starts with Kag Puja or Kag Parva. Crows are said to be messengers of death. According to Hindu myths, cawing of a crow is symbol of grief, so devotees feed crows with sweets and offer food to avoid death and sadness from their homes. Food is offered on plates made of leaves early in the morning. No one in the house is allowed to eat before Kag Puja.
Day 2: Kukur Puja
On the devotees worship dog and so this day is called Kukur Tihar or Kukur puja. Dogs are also considered as messengers of death. People offer garlands, teeka and food to dogs.
Day 3: Gai Puja and Laxmi Puja
In Hindu myths cows are believed to be symbols of prosperity and wealth. So on the third day cows are worshiped. Devotees offer garlands, put teeka on cow’s head and feed them with delicious food.
In the evening goddess Laxmi is worshiped. The whole house is cleansed and decorated. Oil lamps are used for decoration. People give gifts to each other and sweet dishes are cooked. Homes sparkle like gems on the night of Diwali.
Day 4: Gobhardan Puja and Maha Puja
On the fourth day the celebrations are according to different cultural backgrounds.
Commonly Goru Puja or Ox worship is performed. Devotees of Lord Krishna perform Govardhan Puja in which a small hill shaped cow dung worshiped. This puja symbolises the act of lord Krishna when he lifted the gobhardan hill and saved millions of people and cows from floodwater.
Devotees of Newar community perform Maha Puja that is worshiping yourself. This symbolises worshiping of life. This day is also the beginning of Newar new year.
Day 5: Bhai Tika
On the last day of Tihar, sisters put tika on their brothers’ forehead and pray to the Lord of Death, Yamaraj for their brothers’ long life.
Thus the five days of Tihar Festival comes to an end. After the devastating earthquake in Sikkim and Nepal this year, people will pray not only for their family but also for the happiness of the victims of the the September 18, 2011, earthquake.