The Cow festival: Day three of Tihar in Nepal

Cow covered in garlands in the Tihar festival in Nepal Tihar in Kathmandu
Cow with garlands during Tihar in Nepal
A happy smiling cow during the cow festival in Nepal

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.

Cows on the streets of Nepal during the cow festival Tihar
Cows on the streets of Nepal during the cow festival Tihar

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.

People preparing for Tihar in Nepal
After washing their windows people hang garlands and lights

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!

Cow wearing garlands during the cow festival in Nepal
Cow wearing garlands during the cow festival in Nepal

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.

Cow being fed during Tihar
Cows are fed extra food during the Tihar festival in Nepal

Laxmi Puja

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.

Colorful rangoli during Tihar
Colorful rangoli are made from dyes and are lit up at night outside peoples 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.

A path to show the goddess Laxmi the way into the house
A path to show the goddess Laxmi the way into the house

This all happens once it gets dark. So around 6pm.

A path drawn for the goddess Laxmi during Tihar
People create rangoli and draw a path for the goddess Laxmi to follow during the third day of Tihar in Nepal

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.

old buildings in Kathmandu are lit up
Even the old buildings in Kathmandu are lit up

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.

Heart shaped Rangoli
Rangoli come in all shapes and sizes!

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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