SHERIDAN — Vibrant colors dot the landscape, with bright orange shining above the rest. Candles in all of the dwellings light up the night sky. Cows, dogs, crows and bulls are bowed to through the Hindu religion.
This is the celebration known as Deepavali or Diwali, which is the second largest Hindu festival in Nepal.
Families young and old come together to celebrate for a total of five days around the new year. Bringing Nepal to Sheridan, Little Kitchen Owner Thomas Jefferson will host his own rendition of the holiday.
The first day of the celebration is called Kaag Tihar, where Nepal worships crows as the messenger of death. It is believed that crows bring messages to households. If families keep the crows satisfied with rice and treats, they will have good luck going into the next year.
The next day, Kukur Tihar, focuses on dogs that act as spirit guides in the afterlife. With their status, owners pamper their dogs to secure a spot after death. One of the steps includes applying chandon, golden paste made from ground Indian sandalwood, and simrik, a plant-based mixture, to the dog’s forehead. Owners also apply a string of marigolds around their neck and provide a meal of lamb and rice.
“We do this to appreciate what they are doing for our life,” Jefferson said.
Jefferson previously lived in Nepal, first opening the Little Kitchen in 2020. Shortly after, he found it a priority to bring his culture to Sheridan. For the past few years, Jefferson has held his own event, with this year falling on Oct. 23. He will be honoring around 50 dogs at the Little Kitchen starting at 3 p.m. With inclement weather, the event will be held indoors in a private room behind the restaurant.
This event will be in collaboration with the Dog and Cat Shelter for the first time, Dog and Cat Shelter Dog Trainer Marian Eccles said. Previously, the shelter just brought in a few dogs; however, this year volunteers will be helping with the ceremony.
“The blessing really works, honestly,” Dog and Cat Shelter Operations Manager Cindy Popp said. “When we went last year, we brought a couple of dogs, one of which had been at the shelter for a few years at the time. Shortly after the event, the dog got adopted.”
The shelter will also be accepting donations at the time of the event.
The third day is called Laxmi Puja, where cows are worshiped in the morning with a garland of flowers. They are also fed sel, roti, rice and dal as a part of the celebration.
Another part of the day includes the cleaning of one home for Laxmi Puja. Laxmi is the goddess of wealth and Puja means leaving offerings for gods and goddesses. To welcome the goddess into one’s home, families clean their houses and paint floors with red mud, rato mato and cow dung. They will leave out offerings of fruit, money, sweets, flowers and jewelry. Often, children will go out to sing “Bhailo” songs for money and food during the afternoon. At night, the family will play cards.
Other methods include creating a mandala, which is made of colorful powders, rice flour and flower petals. Once laid out, residents will add footprints from the mandala into their home, leading the goddess of wealth to the place they want to be blessed.
The fourth day, Goru Puja, focuses on the ox or the bull, considering it an indispensable assistant to the farmer.
The final day is called Bahi Tika, where siblings celebrate each other. There are a variety of stories behind this specific celebration; however, they all revolve around a clever sister who tricked a god into letting her brother live forever, Jefferson said. To participate, sisters put multicolored tika, garland, around their brothers’ necks, followed by giving them special treats called “Shagun.” In return, the brothers will perform the same ritual and shower their sisters with gifts.
On Oct. 23, Jefferson welcomes all to be a part of the event, taking the opportunity to learn about the culture as a whole.
“I think it is a nice way to support a local restaurant and someone new in town,” Eccles said. “It is a very wholesome holiday where they celebrate a variety of things, such as family, and I believe that is important.”