SHERIDAN – Vibrant colors dot the landscape, with bright orange shining over the rest. Candles in all apartments light up the night sky. Cows, dogs, crows and bulls are bowed down by the Hindu religion.
This is the festival known as Deepavali or Diwali which is the second largest Hindu festival in Nepal.
For a total of five days, families of all ages celebrate the turn of the year. Little Kitchen owner Thomas Jefferson brings Nepal to Sheridan and hosts his own version of the holiday.
The first day of celebration is called Kaag Tihar where Nepal worships crows as messengers of death. Crows are believed to bring messages to homes. If families feed the crows with rice and treats, they will have good luck next year.
The next day, Kukur Tihar focuses on dogs acting as spirit guides in the afterlife. With their status, owners spoil their dogs to secure a place after death. One of the steps involves applying chandon, a golden paste made from ground Indian sandalwood, and simrik, a herbal mixture, to the dog’s forehead. The owners also wear a string of marigolds around their necks and offer a meal of lamb and rice.
“We do this to honor what they do for our lives,” Jefferson said.
Jefferson previously lived in Nepal and first opened Little Kitchen in 2020. He soon found bringing his culture to Sheridan a priority. In recent years, Jefferson has held his own event, which falls on October 23 this year. He will be honoring around 50 dogs in the Little Kitchen from 3pm. In case of bad weather, the event will take place in a private room behind the restaurant.
This event will be held in partnership with the Dog and Cat Shelter for the first time, said Dog and Cat Shelter Dog Trainer Marian Eccles. The shelter used to only bring in a few dogs; This year, however, volunteers will help with the ceremony.
“The blessing really works, to be honest,” said Cindy Popp, manager of the dog and cat shelter. “When we went last year we brought a couple of dogs, one of which had been at the shelter for a number of years. The dog was adopted shortly after the event.”
The shelter is also accepting donations at the time of the event.
The third day is called Laxmi Puja where cows are worshiped with a flower garland in the morning. As part of the celebration, they are also fed sel, roti, rice, and dal.
Another part of the day involves cleaning a house for Laxmi Puja. Laxmi is the goddess of wealth and puja means to leave offerings to gods and goddesses. To welcome the goddess into their home, families clean their homes and paint floors with red mud, rato mato, and cow dung. They will omit offerings of fruit, money, sweets, flowers, and jewelry. Children often go out in the afternoons to sing “Bhailo” songs for money and food. In the evening the family plays cards.
Other methods include creating a mandala composed of colorful powders, rice flour, and flower petals. Once donned, residents add footprints of the mandala to their home, guiding the goddess of wealth to the place where they wish to be blessed.
The fourth day, Goru Puja, focuses on the ox or bull and regards it as the farmer’s indispensable helper.
The last day is called Bahi Tika, when the siblings celebrate each other. There are a variety of stories behind this special celebration; However, they all revolve around a wise sister who tricked a god into letting her brother live forever, Jefferson said. To participate, the sisters place colorful tika, garlands, around their brothers’ necks and then give them special treats called “shagun”. In return, the brothers perform the same ritual and shower their sisters with gifts.
On October 23, Jefferson invites everyone to attend the event and take the opportunity to learn more about the culture as a whole.
“I think it’s a nice way to support a local restaurant and someone who’s new in town,” Eccles said. “It’s a very healthy holiday where they celebrate a variety of things, like family, and I think that’s important.”