KATHMANDU/Nov 1: The smell of fresh yellow sayapatri petals and purple godawari buds enriching the cool autumn breeze, flickering little lights decorating big malls and small shops alike, colorfully decorated stalls of Tihar goodies on the streets, the distant sound of a band of boys practicing for deusi, and our hearts dancing to the tunes of Tiharai aayo lau jhilimili... the second biggest and (arguably) the most joyful Hindu festival – Tihar – is finally here.
In this context, we sat down with four youths to talk about this festival of lights.
• Arpita Subba, 24, BScIT, Institute of International Management Science, Putali Sadak
• Sagar Timalsina, 21, BBA, Kathmandu Don Bosco College, Koteshwor
• Yunish Shrestha, 19, BScIT, The British College, Thapathali
• Sarthak Joshi, 19, BScIT, The British College, Thapathali
What’s the best thing about Tihar? Arpita: The best thing about Tihar is that it’s the only Hindu festival that celebrates all sorts of relationships – the brother-sister bond, the human beings and nature bond…and then unlike Dashain, there isn’t any brutal killing of the innocent creatures involved. Besides the lights and flowers, I really love the delicacies of Tihar, especially because I’m a vegetarian. Sagar: Besides studying, I also work fulltime, and when I set off for home in the evening, the jhilimili lights everywhere, even much before the festival actually starts, transforms Kathmandu into a totally blissful place. And this is the best thing about Tihar, I guess. It just de-stresses you.
Sarthak: It’s the lights and the Tihar-special decorations at the shops, small and big, in every corner of the street that makes Tihar a really special festival.
Is there any particular day in the five-day-long celebrations that you like the most? Sarthak: I find Mha Puja really interesting. It’s all about respecting yourself, and worshipping the God within you. It’s enlightening!
Yunish: I like celebrating the Nepal Sambat. The cultural rallies on that day are interesting. I’ve participated in the rallies only a couple of times, but it’s fun.
Sagar: Every single day of Tihar is significant in its own way, but I look forward to Bhai Tika the most, because it not only brings us siblings together but also celebrates our bond with the help of rituals that metaphorically signify the beauty of this relationship.
Arpita: I like it when we worship the crow, and especially our dogs who give us so much love throughout the year.
Is there anything you don’t like about Tihar? Arpita: I think there’s an unhealthy competition among women regarding buying jewelry during Tihar. It’s believed that buying expensive metal in Tihar for Laxmi Puja is auspicious. However, in the name of welcoming that auspiciousness and pleasing the goddess of wealth, they are investing in gold or silver jewelry to show off. It should stop.
Sagar: I really don’t like it when the deusi-bhailo groups ‘curse’ instead of offering blessings to those who only offer them a little money. Some of them even light firecrackers into people’s homes if the landlords don’t show up in time.
Yunish: I wish there were more family gatherings during Tihar like in Dashain.
Sarthak: I like celebrating Bhai Tika with my sisters. But then it gets a little awkward when they bring in a lot of gifts and edibles while I only have a limited budget to offer them as presents.
Do you have any memory of Tihar that you can’t help recalling every year? Sarthak: When we were little kids, we used to go singing deusi-bhailo in our neighborhood and earn some money. But by the time we had to distribute it among ourselves, we would have already spent it buying snacks. So we were left with nothing toward the end.
Sagar: I really miss the firecrackers that used to be easily available in every other shop when we were younger. Now that the government has banned it for security reasons, we can’t have that fun. I understand the government’s provision, but then it’s really not fair.
The Deusi-Bhailo trend has changed a lot, with western music slowly taking over the traditional ones. What do you think about that?
Sarthak: Actually, my friends and I have been practicing modern pop songs for the same. However, we also make sure that we don’t miss out on the traditional songs and always offer our blessings in the end. Today’s people love pop songs, so I guess they don’t mind.
Arpita: Deusi Bhailo used to be all about sharing joy, singing, and spreading positive energy. It’s merely a moneymaking affair now, and I really don’t appreciate it. Sagar: More than the entry of western music in Deusi Bhailo, I don’t appreciate the ‘notice’ that the groups send in to offices and even homes, informing them of the date the group is visiting them for deusi, including the expected amount of money as dakshina. It’s unacceptable.
What about the time restriction? Arpita: On the one hand, it’s nonsense. But then, it’s also true that many youngsters drink and make noise throughout the night in the name of deusi-bhailo. So maybe it makes some sense.
Sagar: Culturally, deusi bhailo starts in the evening and continues till late into the night. So the time limit is really crazy. However, I think it’s only in the cities that the time restrictions are obeyed. In the villages, people still sing and dance the night away.
L to R: Sagar Timalsina, Sarthak Joshi, Arpita Subba and Yunish Shrestha.(Bhaswor Ojha/Republica)
Yunish: It has never affected me much because my parents, for security reasons, never allowed me to remain outside till late…so I don’t have the experience of getting affected by the time restriction. However, since I plan to go out with friends to play deusi bhailo this year, I do wish that there weren’t any restrictions as such, so that we could make it to many places.
Sarthak: I’m sure the government set the time limit because the general public was affected in some ways. There would be no need for any kind of restriction if people had self-discipline.
Do you have any special plans for this Tihar? Arpita: Since we’re mourning the passing away of a relative, we won’t be celebrating Tihar this year. So I’m planning to travel to a few places around Kathmandu in the holidays. Sagar: I’m leaving Nepal in a few months, so I really wanted to have the best time celebrating Dashain and Tihar this year, but since the constant rainfall spoiled my plans for Dashain, I’m planning to enjoy Tihar to the fullest. Since I also am passionate about photography, I’m going to make the full use of my camera, capturing the best Tihar moments this year