The second biggest festival celebrated in Nepal is Tihar. This festival is celebrated for five consecutive days from the Trayodashi of Krishnapakchya in the month of Kartik. This period of five days is also known as Yama Panchak. The first day of the Yama Panchak is also known as Kaag Tihar.
Kaag Tihar – Mythology
There is a Mythological legend about Yama Panchak which states, that the son of Lord Surya the god of death, Yamraj, came to the Yamuna his sister’s house at Martyalok (earth), and stayed as her guest during these five days as her guest and afterward returns to Yamlok after receiving Bhai Tika. At the beginning of Yama Panchak, he sends his messenger “the Crow” to give a signal that he is coming down to earth. Also considered as the vehicle of Sanidev, elder brother of Yamaraj the crow is considered a special messenger of Yamaraj. Therefore, the crow as Yamaraj’s messenger is worshipped early morning on this day of Kaag Tihar. During the whole year, the crow roams around us and on this day should be offered its favorites like fish, rice with meat, or any delicious liking (kakbali) of the crow reciting “Oh, Kaag, Dear messenger of Yama, please accept the food we offer you and relieve us from danger called Yama.
काकोSसि यमदूतोSसि वायसोSसि महामते ।
इमं बलिं गृहाण त्वं त्रायस्व यमसङ्कटात् ।।
Thus, today the initial day of the festival is called Kaag Tihar, because of special offerings and kakbali (offerings to crow) observed to make them happy. There is a religious belief that by worshipping and offering food to the crow, one does not have to enter Yamlok after death.
Kaag Tihar, or Kartik Krishnapakchya Trayodasi date, in its evening Yamraj will arrive so to welcome him Dipawali should be observed and done. This practice of lighting oil or ghee lamps welcoming him is known as Yamadipdan in practice. According to the religious scriptures quoted in the Skandapuran, on Kartik Krishnapakchya Tritiya one should light lamps (dipdan) in the evening or dusk for Yamaraj outside the main door of the house before the night falls in. In this way, through dipdan, he is requested not to enter the house and not to bring suffering or harm to anyone. In this process, I perform this dipdan systematically reciting the resolution by lighting the oil lamps to make Yamraj happy and for the fulfillment of the wish that everyone in my family will achieve longevity, health, prosperity, fame, good welfare, without any untimely death of family members from any kind crisis like accident or death. After lighting lamps, with Chandan (or sandalwood paste), Akshata (white rice), and Flower in folded hands, meditating and reciting ‘‘यमाय पाशहस्ताय महिषारूढाय कृष्णवर्णाय नमः” mantra one should pray with Namaskar position to Yamraj asking him to receive (dipdan) the lamp lighted in this process.
मृत्युः पाशधरः कृष्णः कालो दण्डधरो महान् ।
तुष्टोSस्तु दीपदानेन त्रयोदश्यां स धर्मराट् ।।
मृत्युना पाशदण्डाभ्यां कालेन ह्यामयेन च ।
त्रयोदश्यां दीपदानात् सूर्यजः प्रीतये मम ।।
धर्मराज नमस्तुभ्यं भवान्नुद्धरणक्षमः ।
अज्ञानाज्ज्ञानदोषान् मे क्षमस्व त्वं कृपाकरः ।।
Thereafter, on the evening of Chaturdashi, scriptures mention that one should perform Dipdan with an oil lamp consisting of four threads made of wool, to Yamraj and perform yamatarpan (presenting liberation to Yama) also. For the siddhi (justification) of Yamdipadan, one must donate alms to Brahmins. Performing Dipdan to Yamaraj eliminates accidents and untimely death. Therefore, the symbolic meaning of this karma is family happiness and good health.
Tihar is a festival, which satisfies the desires of a healthy body, wealth, good welfare and happiness, etc are fulfilled by various methods. For acquiring this, there is a tradition to worship many deities. According to mythology, Lord Vishnu the promoter of Ayurveda appeared this day, today as the incarnation of Dhanvantari. During the churning of the ocean (Samudra Manthan) by the gods and asuras, after the origins of deadly poison (halahal), Mythical cow of Basistha (Kamdhenu), Airavat (Indras Elephant), high-fledged horses, Celestial nymphs (apsaras), Celebrated Precious stones (kaustubhamani), Son of God of water (Varuni), maha Shankha (great holy conch), a tree that grants any boon (KalpaBrikchya), Moon, Laxmi / Lakshmi, Banana tree (KadaliBrikchya), etc at the end Dhanvantari manifested. Dhanbantari appeared with a golden Kalash filled with nectar in his hand. After distributing nectar, on the request of Devaraj Indra, which he accepted took the position of Dev Baidya (Physicians of Gods) and started living in heaven. Therefore, Dhanvantari, the promoter of Ayurveda or pharmacology, is worshiped today as a god of health.
Kartik Krishnapakchya’s Trayodasi is also called Dhantaresh or Dhantrayodashi also. There is a tradition of buying jewelry, silver or gold coins, and utensils of different metals like silver, bronze, copper, brass, and even gold, etc. on this day. Even though the practice of arranging new utensils, dishes, etc., especially for Lakshmi / Laxmi Puja, is old but still prevailing. Nowadays, apart from traditional goods, it has become customary to buy practical utility goods, like motors, motorcycles, fridges, television, computer, mobile, etc. While the rich add or buy luxury items, the poor only try to meet their needs. To summarize, Dhantares is considered the shopping day of the Tihar festival. To Read this article in the Nepali Language please click here.