One of the most important Hindu holidays is Diwali, which in Nepal is referred to as Tihar. The festival of lights, Tihar is a colorful, music filled celebration that last 4 days. I am so grateful to be in Kathmandu and experiencing this festival firsthand.
All of the buildings have streams of Christmas (or Diwali!) lights hanging all down the front or across the doorways. And you will see garlands of marigolds and other bright flowers strung on gates, windows or around patios. So many people light small tea candles to put in their windows or on the entryway up to their shop or home. It is such a vibrant festival!
Much like thanksgiving, this is a time of the year when people celebrate their loved ones and their blessings in life. There is even a day to celebrate your siblings and give them tika, or blessings. Yesterday was the day of Lhakshmi, in which people put a rangoli (or colorful mandalas made by colorful dyes & pastes) in front of their shops . They believe that if they put the mandala there and then make a trail of the same dye into their homes/shops, then the goddess Lhakshmi will bring them success, wealth and prosperity.
Jason was kind enough to invite me to his family’s celebrations so I could experience the holiday firsthand like a local. What a host this guy is! I joined his mother and father at their home for a delicious home cooked lunch of dal, chicken, rice, soup, yogurt, sauteed spinach, and of course, Tihar sweets. His parents run a private school and live on the groups. So they invited a group of musicians to perform for their friends and family, drawing about 50 people there! The performs sang songs and danced to traditional Tihar music, which was such a fun experience for me! Again, it was filled with color and joy. I even got my own tika blessing from his mother.
Also during the festival, there are young groups of carolers wandering around the streets performing little songs and dances for people’s home and collecting money. The near constant stream of tweenagers is adorable, as most of them are totally off-tune and don’t take themselves seriously, laughing midway through the song or just repeating the same verses over and over again.
Being here for this festival reminds me how similar humans really are, and how our religious traditions all draw off of one another. I mean come on, streams of lights and carolers? That sounds pretty similar to Christmas! But always the most important part of these festivals is spending time with family and friends. We all just want the same things out of life: happiness, love, people close to us, good food, a safe home. Humankind perceives all these differences between us, when in reality, at the core we all strive for the same goals. We seek joy in different forms, but it always revolves around the people in our lives. I am so grateful for my family and after our time in Greece, I feel closer than ever to the loved ones in my life. This distance at time is hard and filled with longing, but I know I will return to the warm embrace of my extended family and I can’t wait to see them all! I am celebrating a happy and thankful Tihar here in Kathmandu :)