Tihar-Yam Panchak-Legend and Belief
Age, health, wealth, home, family, and society are the main subjects of happiness in human life. And, Tihar is a festival of cultural and religious significance that aspires to get out of poverty and aim towards prosperity, knowledge from ignorance, towards the light from darkness, from despair to hope, to consciousness from unconsciousness, and from sorrow to happiness.
The festival is celebrated for five consecutive days from Kartik’s new moon day. This period is also known as Yama Panchak, adding the name to yamaraj, the god of death.
According to folklore and legend, Yamaraj is the God who provides karma according to the auspicious deeds done by man all his life. During Yama Panchak, he comes to celebrate Bhai tika at his sisters’ invitation to the earth. As he comes to earth as a guest, even his guardians are worshipped and paid homage to make them happy.
Death being the ultimate truth, human nature is to try to be happy as long as he is alive. This is the reason why lamps are offered in honor of the god of death urging not to enter the house during the year, for no untimely death or accidents. The crow and dog are worshipped as they are considered to be saviors from untimely death. The god of Ayurveda, Dhanbantari is also worshipped for the accomplishment of treatment and early recovery.
The month of Kartik namely when the sun is in lowliness, on top of that the Amavasya, when the moon also week and is in hiding, thus a dark night. But, this same night symbols of consciousness and knowledge are practiced with happiness and prosperity. On the darkest night of the whole year, the oil lamps are illuminated to the goddess of wealth, Mahalaxmi. The houses are cleaned and flower garlands hung over the windows and doors the goddess is welcomed at every household. This is why the night is called sukharatri (a good night) and on the eve of this sukharatri the wealth not gained and the one in possession to be secure the law of worshipping the god of wealth Kuber is observed. This same day cows are worshipped as the living embodiment of goddess Laxmi, thus is also known as Gai Tihar. According to the scriptures, on the day of Kartik Sukla pratiprada the shows of cows and bulls are to be observed. With the wish to enhance the bulls and ox as food providers, Gokul as prosperity, mount Govardhan as a natural heritage reserve of grass, woods, and water as well as shelter from a catastrophic event. Lord Krishna, Balaram, Nanda, Yashoda, Gopal, etc. should be worshiped as augmenters of Gokul.
During the Dwapar era, according to the suggestion of Lord Krishna, Gopalas when were to worship Mount Govardhan instead of Lord Indra. By doing so, lord Indra becomes furious and the event that Krishna holds the Govardhan Mountain to save the Earth from the raining of the angry Indra also comes into account with Govardhan Puja. The Newar community, this day worships oneself (self) as a part of the divine entity, and New Year (Nhu-Daya Bhintuna) of Nepal Sambat also starts. This night of Kartik Shukla Pratiprada one should worship the danvir and the committed king Baliraja, for the devotion and proximity of Lord Narayana.
On the day of Bhai Tika, Yamraj and Yamuna are worshipped. There is a popular mythology that those who died during the Yama Panchak do not have to enter the gate of hell as Yama was delighted by the hospitality of Yamuna. On this day, worshiping the family of Yama, Yamuna’s maidservant, and Ashtacharanjibi, the sisters pray for the brother’s health and longevity while the brothers wish the sisters prosperity and longevity as well. On this day, worshipping of Ashtacharanjibi (Ashwattha), worship of Bali, Vyasa, Hanuman, Vibhishan, Kripacharya, Parashuram, and Markandeya is believed to achieve longevity. Tihar can be regarded as a festival to keep the bond between brothers and sisters strong and intimate. Whether it is sisters who have gone away after marriage, brothers and sisters who are away, irrespective of country, time, or circumstance, Tihar brings them back together once a year or every year. Tihar is also celebrated as a cultural festival. During the festival, fried bread, anarsa, and sweets are prepared whereas houses are decorated with oil – lamps, and flowers. It is also believed to provide peace, love, and healing through the seven colors tika on the forehead and purple globe amaranth flower garland worn by the brothers.
The teens also sing songs and hymns depicting the lives of lord ram and king Bali. According to Hindu scriptures, Yamraj was Surya’s son and Yamuna, his daughter. Sister Yamuna once invited Yamraj to her home. Yamraj accepted and went to the invitation to her for five days. Yamraj spent five days in the house of his sister and was very happy, asked sister Yamuna for a boon. She told her brother Yamraj, I ask for the blessing that “my brother should come to visit me every year”, and “love of all the brothers and sisters, the closeness and the brotherhood will always be a blessing.” This is the reason the brothers go to the sisters for a Tika and Bhai Tika is celebrated. It is customary to celebrate, Yamapanchak, the five days of Yamraj visiting his sister Yamuna as a guest.
On the first day of the Yampanchak, his messenger, “kag” the crow is given his favorite like fish, rice or any liking of the crow and reciting thus “हे महामति यमदुत काग, हामीले दियको खाने कुरा ग्रहण गरी प्रसन्न होऊ र यमदण्डरुपी संकटबाट मुक्ति दिलाऊ”. Oh, dear messenger of Yama, please accept the food we give you and relieve us from this crisis called Yama. There is a religious belief that giving food to the crow means one does not enter Yamlok.
The second day of the festival, also known as “Narak Chaturdashi”, since the dog is regarded as the gatekeeper of Yamraj. This day is also known as the dog festival or “Kukur Tihar”. On this day the dogs are worshipped, whereas on the third day the goddess of wealth Laxmi is called in each and every household, and Deepawali (Festival of Light) is observed.
Similarly, the fourth day is celebrated with the worship of Goru Puja and the Govardhan Mountains. On the fifth day, the worshipping of brothers sisters “Bhai Tika” is observed with great joy. On the same evening, after Yamdipdan, Yamapanchak, ie Tihar, is considered complete.
Of the five above-mentioned days, Laxmi Puja and Bhai Tika are celebrated with utmost zest.