The third day of Tihar is Gai Puja and Laxmi Puja.
In the morning of this day, the cow is worshiped. Hindus consider a cow as sacred and used its milk, dung and even urine for purification purpose. Cows are worshipped with tika and garland with a nice meal. People in villages who have a cow worship their cow but most of the people in Kathmandu don’t have a cow so they either go to a priest’s house or to a temple to worship the cow.
A cow also symbolises wealth and a form of goddess Laxmi.
In the afternoon, the whole house is cleaned in preparation for welcoming the goddess of wealth, Laxmi. Most of the houses have their front door decorated with a mandap and have a trail of red mud leading to their Puja room(worship room in the house) .
When I was young, I used to help mum do this. It was one of my favourite holiday activities. First red mud is used to make a trail leading to the Puja room. Once it is dry , a mixture of flour and water is used to make a symbolic footprint of Goddess Laxmi on the floor entering the home. Once the flour footprints have dried, vermillion mixed with oil is put on them along with some flowers. This results in a trail of small red footprints from the main door of the house to the Puja room symbolising that Goddess Laxmi has entered the house.
In Australia we can’t do this so I printed out small footsteps in a piece of paper and use that as an alternative to lead the Goddess Laxmi to our Puja area. We also put our piggy bank in the Puja area.
Laxmi Puja is also done by businesses to have a prosperous year ahead. They put tika on Goddess Laxmi’s idol as well as their cash register and deposit safes.
From this day on for the next 3 days, there will be women in groups coming door to door singing special songs called Bhailani. It is considered auspicious to have these groups come to your front door. The house owner will offer them some Rotis, fruits and money and they sing Bhailo blessing the household with good for fortune.