Paisa dekhe pachhi Mahadev ko pani tinnetra khulchha.” The popular saying in Nepali translated into English reads something like: Even Lord Shiva’s third eye cannot resist the sight of money. Mythically speaking, the third eye of Shiva opens very rarely, only once in eons. So if money has that effect on Shiva’s eye, imagine its effect on us mortals. No wonder we have marked out five days of Tihar to venerate the goddess of wealth, Laxmi.
A traditional Puja setting infront of a portrait of the Goddess
In Hinduism, abstract personification of what is manifest is quiet common. So money or wealth is worshipped as goddess Laxmi during the Tihar festival. On the day of Laxmi puja people leave no stone unturned to make sure that the goddess of wealth is pleased enough to stay at their homes for a whole year. It is a common belief that on the night of Laxmi Puja goddess Laxmi roams the earth and enters the house that is pure, clean, and bright. Many families, to have the entrance of their homes stand out, plant fully grown banana trees at the gates. Others make colorful traditional Rangoli designs to attract the attention of the goddess and welcome her. Some even go as far as to draw footsteps right from the main gate to the prayer room so that the goddess knows exactly where to go.
Tihar is also called Deepawali which means row of lights. During Deepawali houses are illuminated with wick lamps and candles. No corner of the house is left in darkness.
According to the Hindu mythology, a demon king named Bali became so powerful that he posed a threat to the celestial deities and their kingdoms. Lord Vishnu, disguised as a dwarf monk Vamana, arrived at the door of Bali and shrewdly made Bali agree to grant him as much land as he could cover in three steps. The king seeing no harm granted this wish. The Vamana avatar of Vishnu then grew in size so big that he covered the heaven and the whole of earth in his first two steps. Having nothing left in the whole universe for the third step, Bali, who had by then realized that it was lord Vishnu himself, offered his own head, inviting Vishnu to step on it. Vishnu pushed him into the nether world with his foot. In return the Lord gave him the “lamp of knowledge” to light up the dark underworld. He also gave him a blessing that he would return to his people once a year to light millions of lamps from his lamp and dispel the blinding darkness of ignorance, greed, jealousy, lust, anger, ego, and laziness with the radiance of knowledge, wisdom and friendship. That is why on Deepawali people light up all the lamps in the house using just one lamp that represents king Bali’s lamp of knowledge and signifies “the awareness of the inner light”.
Another mythological belief says the festival commemorates Lord Rama’s return to his kingdom Ayodhya after completing his 14-year exile. As he returned home after defeating Ravan, the king of demons, Lord Ram was welcomed by his people with the illumination, fireworks, joy and festivity. And so to this day we celebrate Deepawali to signify the victory of divine forces over those of wicked.