Tihar- Lhotshampa Festival


Bhutan is a multi-ethnic country. It can roughly be divided into four groups: the majority, the Ngalop group, of western and northern Bhutan; the Sharchop of Eastern Bhutan; the Lhotshampa of southern Bhutan; and the Bhutanese Tribal and aboriginal scattered throughout Bhutan. A multi-ethnic country is bound to have many different cultures and traditions which makes each and every one of them unique from the others.

The festival, Diwali (Tihar), is unique to the Lhotshampas Bhutanese of Nepali origin- especially in southern Bhutan, as well as in other places with Nepali population. The first days of the Tihar follows the celebration and worship of the Goddess Laxmi (Laxmi Puja), who is the matriarch for wealth and prosperity, while the third day is the celebration of the bond between brothers and sisters, Bhai Tika.

Goddess Laxmi, painted by Raja Ravi Verma
Source: wikipedia.org

Tihar (Diwali) is also known as the ‘Festival of Lights’ because the first days of Tihar have people lighting lamps in all the corners of their homes, and outside, as a sign to welcome Goddess Laxmi, which is followed by a celebration with fireworks and firecrackers that lights up the whole night.

Source: unsplash.com

The Bhai Tika has a mythological origin related to the god of death, Yama. He had a holiday of five days and he desperately wanted to see his sister, Yamuna. When he visited her after a long time, she did everything to keep her brother happy. Hence, when it was time to leave, he wanted to repay the kindness with the tradition of ‘brother worship’. Another story states that when the messenger of death came for the soul of a man, the sister of the man invites the messenger to sit by her brother while she completes the Bhai Tika. The messenger agrees and is impressed by the sister so he offers her a wish, and she asks for the long life of her brother. Therefore, the tradition has continued to this day.  

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