Hills gear up for Tihar, Diwali

DARJEELING
28 Oct 2016

With two days to Diwali and start of 'Tihar', the most important festival in the hills, residents have started gearing up for the occasion. Today is ‘Dhanteras’, when people purchase gold and silver as also miniature idols of Goddess Laxmi and coins.

Shops in Darjeeling were choc-o-bloc with customers vying to get the best ‘dhanteras’ items on offer, which will be offered to Goddess Laxmi on Sunday. In the hills, Diwali and Tihar is a five-day affair that culminates in 'bhai tika', the celebration of the brother-sister bond.

Each of the five days leading to bhai tika sees an animal honoured by garlanding and feeding them. Today, the first day, is dedicated to the crow (kak tihar), which is worshipped to ward off grief because the animal is believed to symbolise sadness. The second day is meant for the dog (kukur tihar), believed to be the messenger of the god of death. On the third day, the cow (gai tihar), considered the symbol of prosperity and wealth, is pampered.

The fourth day belongs to the ox (goru tihar). From the third day onwards, tihar is celebrated with 'deusi and bhailo' songs and dance and lights and fireworks. During bhailo, groups of girls in colourful attire visit houses singing songs (similar to carol singing), while deusi by boys groups is more balladic and tells the story of the festival, with one person leading and the rest following in chorus. In return, the hosts offer the girls and boys money and food items such as 'selroti' (round bread made of rice flour and sugar).

“Today is dhanteras, the start of tihar in the hills. I bought a silver idol of Laxmi for Diwali. I am also waiting excitedly for bhai tika as my brother is coming home from abroad after three years

for the occasion. I have great plans to pamper my brother and also eager to receive the gifts he will bring for me,” said Sabita Biswakarma, whose brother works in a multinational company in Dubai.

Jewellery shop owners too had a hectic time catering to the demands of their customers but they were a happy lot all the same. “On this day (dhanteras), our customer numbers go up manifold and business is brisk since it is considered an auspicious occasion before Diwali and tihar. Small idols of Laxmi are selling like hot cakes as they are most preferred, but customers are also buying silver coins and in some cases gold coins,” said Raj Verma, the owner of a reputed jewellery shop in town.

During bhai tika, sisters fast the entire day for the well-being of their brothers. The occasion is marked by sisters praying for their brothers by applying 'tika' (vermilion on their foreheads) and garlanding them with marigold flowers and pampering them with a wide range of delicacies. In exchange, the brothers offer gifts to their sisters and bless them. (EOIC)