The evening of 26th October is a very special evening in Kathmandu with the celebration of Laxmi Puja – part of the Tihar Festival also known as the Festival of Lights. Shivapuri Heights Cottage provides a great venue to witness the festival and is also the perfect vantage point to view the spectacular display of lights down in the Kathmandu Valley.
Tihar, the festival of lights is one of the most dazzling of all Hindu festivals. In this festival we worship Goddess Laxmi, the Goddess of wealth. During the festival all the houses in the city and villages are decorated with lit oil lamps. Thus during the night the entire village or city looks like a sparkling diamond. This festival is celebrated in five days starting from the thirteenth day of the waning moon in October. We also refer to Tihar as ‘Panchak Yama’ which literally means ‘the five days of the underworld lord’. We also worship ‘Yamaraj’ in different forms in these five days. In other words this festival is meant for life and prosperity.
Goddess Laxmi is the wife of almighty Lord Vishnu. She was formed from the ocean and she has all the wealth of the seas. She sits on a full-grown lotus and her steed is the owl. On the third day of the festival at the stroke of midnight she makes a world tour on her owl looking how she is worshiped.
There is a story, which tells why this revelry is celebrated so widely. Once there was a king who was living his last days of life. His astrologer had told him that a serpent would come and take his life away. The king did not want to die so he has asked the astrologer if there was any way to escape death. The king was advised to sleep with lit oil lamps all around his bed and decorate the palace with oil lamps on Laxmi puja day. So goddess Laxmi would talk to the serpent not to take his life. It did happen, the serpent was convinced by goddess Laxmi. The serpent took the king to Yama Raj and told him that it was not yet the king’s time to come to the underworld. So Yama Raj opened his ledger and in it the kings remaining age was written zero, but the serpent cleverly put seven before zero. Thus the king lived for seventy more years. So onwards tihar is widely celebrated worshipping the underworld and goddess Laxmi.
The first day of Tihar is known as ‘Kag Tihar’, crow’s day. Crow is an underworld henchman. On this day crows are offered food on a plate made out of leaves in the morning before anyone in the house takes in food. In the kingdom of Nepal crow is not killed cause as a legend says that one crow had happened to drink the water of life. Thus you can see crows everywhere sitting without the fear of human beings. Crow the messenger of death is honoured on the first day of tihar.
We were picked up at the Hilton mid-morning and drove about 30 minutes thru Kathmandu and into the foot hills, we have arrived at Shivapuri Lodge! After the paved road, we transferred into a jeep and drove over a steep rutted dirt road.When we got to the gate, we walked for a few minutes up a steep path to our cottage. The lodge is owned and managed by Steve Webster and his wife Neeru. By the way, the weather is beautiful. Warm and sunny during the day and cool at night.
Entrance to the cottage
We had the cottage to ourselves. There is a smaller one near by that sleeps two and two more bedrooms in the main house higher on the hillside. We had some of our meals on the terrace where we stayed and others in the beautiful dining room in the main house. These meals were festive because of the 5 day Laxmi holiday celebration and the other quests. We met so many interesting people from all over the world.
Our first night, we had a fire right in front of the cottage. While we were talking Steve reminded me of a meeting we had with a very high Ripoche in the Everest Region. Steve explained that this was the one and only time he has had the opportunity to meet with the Ripoche. He is on the same level as the Dali Lami, but isn’t in the media. Our visit was after 9/11. I asked the Ripoche, “What can each of us do for World Peace?” He responded, that we could each take a small Buddha and our experience in Nepal, back to the States. He explained, that this would contribute to creating peaceful energy in the world. Steve told me, that every time he takes a group there, he gives them a small Buddha and tells them about our experience.
It is great to be here. Tomorrow, we will start our day with a yoga class at 6:30 🙂 Rapesh, our teacher, took 3 months of training in India. Here are some pictures: