Today is the first day of The Festival of Light, variously called Tihar, Diwali and Dipawali. However it is less well known as Swanti to the Newar people, the original inhabitants of The Kathmandu Valley. My wife, Dr C is a Newar and has already been on the phone to siblings and nieces this morning!
Each day of Tihar involves cultural, social and religious activities designated to worshipping or respecting something specific, and I will reveal what these are day by day as the festival progresses. Kaag Puja is the first day of the festival when crows (Kaag) are worshipped as the messengers of Yama, the God of death. They are fed with sweets, breads, grains and other dishes placed on the roofs of people’s houses. The crow is believed to deliver news to the people as written in Hindu scriptures. The flight of crows towards the North was considered as a signal of peril, towards the West was regarded as a sign of grief, towards the East was believed as a sign of triumph and towards the South as a symbol of glory. In the Buddhist tradition however I prefer to see this day, and others, as respecting and caring for all sentient beings. Including crows!
Therefore worshipping crows on this day is expected to please the crows and bring only good news. The major purpose behind the ritual is to eliminate any sort of grief or death in the family. I have spent holidays in Kathmandu at this time on several occasions but sadly cannot travel this year, so will miss all the fun of family visits, feasting, and drinking the local firewater! However with any luck family and friends will send me photos each day I can share.
Day 2 of Tihar revealed tomorrow with a personal photo or two.
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