The Cow Festival or Gai Puja & Laxmi Puja
Day Three of the week long Tihar festival in Nepal is comes the day after the festival of dogs when things really kick off. It’s a day of multiple celebrations.
It’s important to note that this is when traditions differ slightly. Hindus and Newar sometimes celebrate the cow festival on different days. The ox is often mixed up in all this and confusion abounds.
For tourists it’s a question of finding a cow to see how they are celebrated. Otherwise if you can’t, there’s still the evening celebrations which are fantastic.
Start of the day
The day starts with the yearly washing and cleaning of businesses and homes. Windows are washed, shutters cleaned and carpets beaten.
You can’t help but notice this in the early morning throughout Nepal. If you’ve been here for a long time you might just be in shock at seeing people actually wash those old dusty windows.
After cleaning people will start to hang colorful garlands and lights around their windows and doors for the celebrations later that night.
The Cow Festival
The cow is holy in Nepal and represents mother earth, prosperity and wealth. They get a lot of attention all year round. But on this day they get the best of everything!
If you are in Kathmandu city then my suggestion is to walk down to Paknajol and then down to the main road leading to Swayambhunath (shown in my guidebooks to Kathmandu city and Kathmandu Valley. There are usually a few cows along this road in the morning.
In Pokhara there are nearly always a few cows wandering around lakeside. In Chitwan the nearby farms will have cows.
The goddess of wealth is highly appreciated in Nepal! As such people go to great lengths to create beautiful designs made from powdered dyes, candles and food known as rangoli. These are made outside homes and businesses.
Interestingly, people also create a pathway of dye, sometimes with little white footsteps, to show the goddess the way into their homes.
This all happens once it gets dark. So around 6pm.
Festival of lights
As the rangoli are being made and lit up so too are little butter maps and electric lights around windows and doors. Thankfully the load shedding that plagues Nepal takes the night off and there is electricity all night.
Thamel and the old city is beautifully lit up at this time. It’s a fascinating time to simply wander the streets and watch people take so much care creating rangoli. Lighting candles. And blessing their houses. The whole city takes on a festive cheer.
If you are going to be in Nepal during Tihar it’s worth the effort to be in Kathmandu city to witness this.
Tomorrow is the fourth day of Tihar in which people celebrate the ox, cow dung, themselves and it’s also Newari New Year!
Here’s a full list of festivals in Nepal.
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