Saturday, November 6, 2010

Tihar the Festival of Lights

So it's another big festival in Nepal. As I write this you can hear the sound of bottle rockets, firecrackers, roman candles and M80s exploding in the night mixed with the sound of Nepali music and some children singing in the streets. Since holidays in Nepal are an almost weekly occurrence  the big ones get set apart by a large number of days, Tihar, the one currently getting celebrated, is a festival that takes place over five days, and I believe we are on day three.

My Street Lit Up for Tihar

As usual I know very little about what is being celebrated, what I do know is that each day is marked with a set of different pujas (blessing ceremonies) to mark different things. Today was the Laxmi puja and gai Puja, ones for blessings of the Goddess Laxmi are for wealth and prosperity and the gai puja is for the reverence of the cows, which are important in Hinduism. Yesterday was the blessing of the dogs and many pups had red tikas on their forehead and marigold necklaces. Of course the humans like these more than the dogs, and before I could get my camera Tan, the dog down the road, was out of his.

Even Dogs Have Their Day: Cutie & Tan on the day of the Kukur Puja

The celebration includes lighting up the houses with candles and strings of lights, somewhat reminiscent of Christmas back in the US. In fact many of the lights they sell here are actually Christmas lights that were made in China. Some amusingly even play Christmas music, although this shouldn't be too shocking in a country where one of our neighbors has a ring tone of "Oh Suzanna" on his phone.

Mandala at Saraswati Temple

Yesterday evening many of the houses created intricate mandalas in front of their homes and had them decorated with candles. They usually included a path that was also lit with candles leading into the residence. I'm not sure of the symbolism, but a wild guess on my part is that it's to guide a spirit or god to bless their houses....but again I'm just not sure. At the Saraswati Temple down the road there was very intricate and large mandala made that was quite impressive, and people nearby where playing music and singing.

Mandala at vegetable stand near my apartment.

What would a Nepali festival be without singing and dancing? Something like caroling also seems to take place as people go around from house to house singing and buzzing doorbells. The house owners eventually come out and give the people money or treats or something, I'm not real sure. The most common song sung comprises of a single person singing about three words that vary and then everyone else in the group singing a single repeated phrase at their conclusion. Kind of fun to watch them go around, mostly children and occasionally woman with various hand drums and variations on tambourine.

Providing Music at Saraswati Temple

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