Given India’s diversity, every culture has its own set of festivals and traditions. All over the country, the same festivals are celebrated with different names and slight changes in traditions. But all we know are the popular ones. Diwali also somewhat has a similar context. Few parts of India celebrate Diwali, but for a few, it turns out to be Tihar. 5 days festival of Tihar is celebrated in parts of Sikkim, and a few regions of West Bengal, such as Darjeeling and Kalimpong. Tihar derives from the Sanskrit words Deepa and avail which mean lights in rows. It means justice over injustice, light over darkness, and truth over lies always wins.
Diwali recalls the return of God Rama after 14 years of exile, defeating the demon king Ravana, and finally returning to Ayodhya, the oldest city in India. Tihar is celebrated to cherish the bond of Yama, the God of Death, and his sister the Yamuna. The myth says Yamuna and Yama lived apart for years together, and Tihar is a homecoming of Yama. The Yamuna sent him messages, urged him to come back, and for same used animals to deliver messages. One day, the wait ended, and brother Yama came back. After meeting Yama, she worshipped him using five coloured tika and flowers.
5 Days Festival Of Tihar
Based on this mythical tale, the rituals and traditions of Tihar are coined. The Yamuna sent cows and dogs to deliver the message. So, animals are worshiped, while observing the five-day festival of Tihar. The first day is celebrated as Kaag Tihar, Kaag means crow, so the crow is worshipped, he is known as the Messenger of Deaths from God Yama. The food is fed to the crow during this day so that no bad omen comes for the rest of the year.
On Second Day Kukur Tihar is celebrated, whereas in Kukur means Dog is worshipped for their loyalty towards human beings. They are praised and treated with a feast. Third-Day is Gai Tihar & Laxmi Puja, in which gai means Cow is worshipped, and also the Goddess of wealth, Laxmi. The cow is also a source of livelihood and consumption; this is more like showing gratitude towards the cow.
Fouth day is Goru Tihar & Mha Puja. Ox is honoured and the Mha Puja is usually performed by the Newar community. It means Self-Worshipping for a day. On this day, Bhailo (Cultural Program during Tihar Festival) is organised. The girls visit each house in the neighborhood and the host offers money and sweets in return. Boys play Deusi by visiting the neighborhood like Bhailo played by girls. As a ritual, the boy chants a story about the Tihar festival and sings a song supported by a group of people as a chorus.
The fifth Day is Bhai Tika, wherein Brothers and Sisters honour each other. They exchange gifts and money offering Tika on each other’s forehead. Like the Yamuna worshiped Yama, similarly, sisters do puja of their brothers and pray for the longevity, and prosperity of their brother’s age and wealth. They circle brother with mustard oil, flowers, and Dubo ( Cynodon Dactylon). As per the myth, Yamuna asked Yama not to leave till the oil, Makhamali flowers, and dubo gets dried, but with time changing, every person performs rituals as per their own will. This is how Diwali or Tihar is done in West Bengal.
If any time, you feel to celebrate a different kind of Diwali, do visit these regions to celebrate Tihar and learn about their culture.
Suggested Reading- The History of Dhunuchi Naach And The Bengali Durga Puja Traditions