Swanti (Tihar); the festivals of colorful lights

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Swanti (Tihar); the festivals of colorful lights image
Image by Mukti Shakya

Swanti or Tihar is the second biggest festival in Nepal, of course after the Dashain (Mohani). Due to the lack of ness on speaking the mother tongue, even newar people don’t use this term of the tihar festival. Yes, Swanti is the newari term for the most exotic festival of Nepal, Tihar.

This five days long festival always starts with Kaag tihar which is occurred in Trayodashi of Kartik Krishna Paksha and ends with Bhai Tika in Dwitiya of Kartik Sukla Paksha.

By some means, this festival is celebrated according to the lunar calendar. That’s why the festival’s dates change every year.

This festival is full of colors, lighting, diyos, fun, dance, and happiness. In this festival, people worship themselves along with crows, dogs, and cows. Well, worshipping oneself only happens in the newar community. There are so many things that happen during swanti. Here, we have a brief description of it.

Kwah puja

Kwah or crows are believed as the messengers of death. That’s why they are respectively worshipped at the beginning of the festival. The worshipping of crows is called kwah puja. There, the day starts with offerings to the crow. People left foodies on the rooftops. So that the crows can have it easily without any disturbance.

kaag tihar

Kaag tihar

Khichha puja

Just like the crows, dogs (Khichha) are also believed to be the messengers of death. However, this is not the sole reason for worshipping dogs. They are also treated and worshipped as the most loyal animal on the planet. On the second day of the swanti festival, people offer different delicacies to the dog and settle a garland to their neck to celebrate Khichha puja.

kukur tihar

Kukur tihar PC: Rupesh

On the same day, children, as well as females, collect flowers for Laxmi puja. And make garlands to decorate doors and windows the next day. However, these days, the Kaag Tihar and Kukur Tihar collided on the same day.

Laxmi puja

On the third day of the swanti, Laxmi puja is done. But before that, like crows and dogs, people also worship cows. There is a belief that cows lead the spirits of the deceased to heaven. In respect to that, people do not eat beef in Nepal instead worship it as a representative of the Goddess Laxmi.

gai tihar

Gai Tihar PC: Rupesh

The most attractive fact about the day is that people decorate their houses like a bride. Flowers, garlands, and lightings, with that diyos on windows and doors, rangolis. Everything just made that darkest night of no moon, the brightest night of the year.

You can hardly find any space without lights on that day. You would alternately find the entire valley filled with lights, making each and every corner and street as bright as heaven. Well, in the evening, householders commit Laxmi puja.

They make a Mandala in front of established Laxmi and proffer coins and stand in awe of her. Also, the girls play bhailo in the evening by going door to door in their neighborhood.


PC: Gagan

In the Newari tradition, the posture of goddess Laxmi holds two accessories and attendants like kuber and khyak.

Kuber is popular as the lord of wealth. Whereas, khyak are indistinguishable from yetis, a snowy creature. Those two accessories of Laxmi contain a Jwālā Nhāykan (mirror encircled by flames) and a Sinhamu (powder container covered by a five-tiered parasol) in the right and left hand respectively.

Mha puja

The second last day of the festival is the day of Govardhan Puja, Mha Puja, and Deusi. Deusi is quite similar to Bhailo this time instead of girls, young boys go around in the neighborhood and play deusi. About the Govardhan puja, it is done in every household. However, Mha puja is only celebrated in the newar community. 

Mha puja

Mha puja

Mha Puja is a ritual of worshipping oneself. In this puja, all the family members sat in a row and worshipped one after another. It is believed that doing Mha puja brings peace and prosperity to the family.

Moreover, they also celebrate their new year (Nepal sambat) on that very day. 

Know, how the celebration of the new year started in Nepalmandal with the following article…

Nyugu da and the legend of the Shankhadhar

Kija puja

Bhai tika or kija puja, whatever you call it, expresses the worshipping of brothers. The word kija means brother in the newari language (Nepal Bhasa). That’s why the fifth and the last day of the swanti is called kija puja. On this day, sisters worship their brothers for the sake of their long life and good health.

There is a very popular myth about celebrating this festival which says that whoever participated in kijapuja, will never die on that auspicious day.

There is a story about Kija Puja presented by Yomari Cartoon Series. They always present such legends in simple and interesting ways that anyone can assume what might have happened during that time of the event. You can have a look at their version of the story over here.
Mandala on Tihar

Mandala on Tihar
PC: Dinesh Ranjitkar

Moreover, most sisters go to their brother’s houses to do puja. With the delicacies like wine, meat, fish, lentil cake, and eggs. These five items symbolize the five tantric postulations of light, earth, water, air, and sky respectively.

Along with these delicacies, they also proffer sweets, fruits, dry foods, makhamali (Gomphrena Globosa) garland, and a sacred cotton thread to their brothers. In exchange for that, brothers also give gifts and money to their sisters.

In addition to this, they all put saptarangi tika on their foreheads. Lastly, this festival ends with a lavishing big feast as every newari festival does.


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