The five-day Nepalese Hindu festival of Tihar started this week, with Tuesday marking Kukur Puja, or the “Day of the Dogs.”
What is the Tihar Festival?
There are five days in the Hindu festival of lights called Diwali (Deepawali)- or Tihar .
Tihar Festival is celebrated in Nepal and by the Nepali diaspora.
Diwali is celebrated with bonfires, candles, fairy lights, diyas (traditional earthen lamps), and rangolis (traditional floor art). Friends and families gather together, sharing their joy, food, and gifts with one another.
“Kukur Tihar” falls on the second day of the Diwali (Tihar festiva).
Traditionally, each of the five days of Tihar festival are dedicated to the worship of different animals – all associated with the Hindu god of death.
- The first day, Kaag Tihar (Kwah Pujā), is dedicated to crows and ravens. Their cawing represents grief and sadness. Sweets are left on rooftops for them to fend off this despair.
- On the third day, Gai Tihar, cows are venerated with garlands and the best grass, because they signify wealth and prosperity. Houses are cleaned and adorned with marigolds and chrysanthemums.
- Day four favours oxen.
- Day five is dedicated to people, with sisters traditionally putting tilaka on their brothers’ foreheads in the belief that it will secure a long and happy life.
Each day celebrates a different animal and the second day of the festival honours dogs .
Why are dogs celebrated?
For devout Hindus, the celebration (named “Kukur Tihar“) is tied to a belief that dogs are the messengers of Yamaraj (Yama) – the Hindu god of death, and that by worshipping the animals and ensuring their happiness, Yamaraj can be appeased.
Yamaraj is said to have two dogs – Shyam and Sadal – who guard the entrance to hell. Dogs have long held a special place in Hindu culture. In the ancient text of the Mahabharata, the great king Yudhishthira refused to enter heaven without his devoted dog. Presumably that means that all dogs go to heaven in Hindu lore, as they should.
Adorned with colourful garlands of flowers and tilaka, all dogs – including strays – are gently bathed by families and served selections of milk, meat and more.
“Kukur Tihar” in pictures
Sources: Euronews, 3/11/2021, Australian Dog lover digital magazine
Last Updated on 06.11.2021 by iskova