German Shepherd at Kukur Tihar

Annual Festival Honors Dogs For Their Loyalty And Friendship

Do you think you love your dog? Well, do you have a couple of days set out every year to celebrate it? The celebration in question isn’t just like a birthday; it’s a five-day ceremony where the dogs are treated like demigods. This is the Kukur Tihar event dedicated to dogs in Nepal. 

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Spirituality in Nepal

Nepal, South Asia, is a highly spiritual nation. A 2014 poll discovered that 93 percent of the Nepali people questioned considered religion to be very important to them. Most notable are the Hindus, of which 81.3 percent identified as, during a 2011 census. Smaller religions include Buddhism (9 percent), Islam (4.4 percent), Kirat religion (3.1 percent), and Christianity (1.4 percent). [1]

Dogs are an integral part of Hinduism. They are typically associated with the Bhairava form of the Hindu god Shiva. Some Hindu communities consider them a link between the worlds of the living and the dead. Since so many Nepalis are Hindus, it’s little wonder why the dogs are revered. 

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The Diwali festival 

This festival is observed during the Diwali period (October to November). The people “worship” the companion of Bhairava: the dogs. The point of the ritual is to thank the dogs for guarding and protecting their homes, women, children, and health.

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Niranjan Shrestha/AP
Image Credit: Niranjan Shrestha / AP | EuroNews

Also, they do it to appease the Yamraj, the god of death, as they believe the dogs are his messengers. While the festival is a five-day event, the second day is the day that marks the celebration of the dogs. Known as the Kukur Tihar, it is a tribute to dogs and is marked by the adornment and lavish treatments of man’s best friends. 

Read: Gang of Dogs Turn Up at Hospital to Wait for Homeless Owner Who’s Being Treated Inside

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It is a period of festivities 

First, the dogs are blessed with Tika, a red substance made from rice placed on the dogs’ foreheads. They also adorn the dogs’ necks with garlands. Then, they are fed like kings. 

Families without dogs can celebrate their friends’ or neighbors’ dogs. Not even stray dogs are left out of the fun. Some of the treats given to dogs include meat, milk, eggs, as well as quality dog food. Truly, it’s a dog’s best day in Nepal. 

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Image Credit: Umid Pokharel | BBC

Another key aspect of this festival is the lighting up of places all over the nation. That is why the festival is also referred to as the Deepavali, the festival of lights. During this period, Nepalis clean their houses and light up lamps. Then they pray to Lakshmi — the goddess of wealth — to visit and bless them. 

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History of the Kukur Tiharfestival 

Recall that the festival is of Hindu origin. In the Mahabharata, an ancient Indian epic text with over 74,000 verses, the Pandavas set out on a journey to Swanage with a dog. According to the text, Yudhistra lost his wife and brothers and had just the dog to keep him company. They forged such a strong bond that when he got to the gates of heaven, he refused to enter without the dog. 

In another ancient text known as the Rigveda, the mother of dogs offers assistance to Indra, the King of Heaven, in finding his stolen cattle. 

Regardless of the dog-centric nature of this ceremony, dogs aren’t the only animals celebrated. On the first day, the crow is worshiped; the third day is for the cows and Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, and the fourth day for people to worship different beings including mountains. Heck, they can even choose to worship themselves on that day. The last day is dedicated to brothers and sisters. [2]

Read: Science Shows That Women Sleep Better Next To Dogs Than Men

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The Kukur Tihar has gone beyond Nepal 

Hindus and Nepalis all over the world respect this day of the dogs. People from other parts of the world take part in it including U.S. police dog handlers. 

A dog shelter in New Delhi, Friendicoes, also celebrated the day. Most of the staff members are from Nepal, so it was only natural for them to want to celebrate it. 

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On their Instagram page they explained the importance of the festival saying, “So today on ‘Kukur Tihar’ or the festival of dogs, our staff ensured our resident dogs get their fair share of attention. Dogs occupy a special place in Hindu mythology. In every home and street, they get special treatment on this day.” 

Australia was not left out

Bhim Neupane is a dedicated Nepali living in Melbourne Australia. He took the tradition with him to Melbourne where he and his family celebrated his German shepherd, Bruce. He believes it’s important to continue observing an important part of their culture, as well as his contribution to their future generation. “Dogs are the most loyal friends to humans,” he said. [3]

Truly, every dog has its day. It is beautiful to see the Nepalis celebrate Kukur Tihar the way they do. It’d be incredible if more people in other parts of the world could adopt it; heaven knows dogs deserve all the love and special treatment they can get.

Keep Reading: Retired Nurse Creates a Hospice for Dying Dogs

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Sources

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  1. Nepalese Culture.” Cultural Atlas. Editor. Accessed February 11, 2020.
  2. Nepal festival celebrates ‘day of the dogs’.” BBC. Editor. November 6, 2018.
  3. Every dog has its ‘favourite’ day in Nepal.SBS. Rajish Aryal. November 6, 2018.

This article originally appeared on Family Life Goals and has been published here with permission

Jade Small
Freelance Writer
Jade is a freelance writer and content creator from South Africa with over 7 years of experience writing and creating. She's also a proud single mom to a super 13-year-old boy.
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