Swanti or tihar is the second biggest festival in Nepal, of course after the Dashain. 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 name of the brightest festival of Nepal, which is tihar. This five days long festival always starts with kaag tihar which lies 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, lightings, diyos, fun, dance, and happiness. In this festival, people worship themselves along with crow, dog, and cow. Well, worshipping yourself, this only happens in the newar community. There are so many things that happen during swanti. Here, we have a brief description of it.
Kwah means crow in newari terms. Therefore, worshipping crow is what we call kwah puja. This is the very first day of the swanti festival. There, the day starts with the offerings to the crow. People left foodies to the rooftops. So that the crows can have it easily without any disturbance. They believe that crows are the messengers of death. That’s why they are respectively worshipped at the beginning of the festival.
After worshiping a bird, people worship the most loyal animal on the planet, dog ( khichha). Kichha is a newari term of dog. On the second day of the swanti festival, people offer different delicacies to the dog. And put a garland to their neck as well. Somehow, people honor dogs as a messenger of death like the crows. 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.
The third day of the swanti, it’s Laxmi puja. The day of sa puja as well. Like crows and dogs, people also worship the cows. There is a belief that cows lead the spirits of the deceased to heaven. In respect of that, people do not eat beef in Nepal.
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 the brightest night of the year. You can hardly find any space without lights on that day. While in the evening, householders commit Laxmi puja. They make a Mandal 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.
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 to 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.
The second last day of the festival is the day of deusi. Young boys play deusi on that day as girls played bhailo at Laxmi puja. But, newar people do one more thing on that day, mha puja. Yes, Mha puja a ritual of worshipping yourself. All the family members place in a row and worship themselves one after another. That brings peace and prosperity in a row in their family, an instance. The new year of Nepal sambat also lies on the same day. So, they celebrate the new year as well with mha puja.
Local newars pronounce Bhai tika as kija puja. The word kija denotes the brother in the newari language. Meanwhile, the fifth and the last day of the swanti is called kija puja. On this day, sisters worship their brothers for their long life and good health. There is a very popular myth about celebrating this festival. That whoever participated in kijapuja, he will never die on that auspicious day.
Moreover, mostly sisters go to their brother’s house 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 to their foreheads. Nevertheless, this festival ends with the lavishing big feast as every newari festival does.