WATCH NOW: Kukur Tihar Is a Celebration Just for Dogs
Diwali is one of Hinduism’s grandest celebrations.
Although the nature of observance varies some among denominations and regions, the gist of this autumnal festival, also referred to as the Festival of Lights, is that it is a five-day period celebrating humanity’s relationship with all living things.
This includes gift-giving, storytelling, and, best of all, a whole day devoted to man’s best friend.
The Nepalese name for Diwali is Tihar. Each day of Tihar honors a different idea or entity. Day two of Tihar, Kukur Tihar, is devoted to the celebration and worship of dogs as mankind’s loyal companions and guardians. While the origins of Kukur Tihar lie in Nepalese Hinduism, today, it is practiced worldwide by Hindus and Buddhists of many different denominations.
So, why dogs? Because dogs play a prominent role in Nepalese Hinduism. They appear in some of Hinduism’s oldest texts and traditions. In one ancient text, the “Rigveda,” the mother of dogs, Samara, helps the ruler of heaven reclaim stolen cattle.
Such examples of dogs in Hindu tradition are plentiful. It is a dog that serves as guardian and messenger for Yama, the ruler of the dead, and again, a dog that watches over the gates of the afterlife. Lord Shiva also had a dog as a vahana (vehicle).
In another Hindu text, the “Mahabharata,” it is even a dog that represents the concept of dharma, the path to righteousness.
The Kukur Tihar festival honors dogs not only conceptually, but also physically. All dogs – pets and strays – are draped with flower garlands called mallas. The flowers are a symbol of respect and of the prayers bestowed upon the bearer.
Dogs also receive special red markings on their foreheads during the Hindu festival. The red mark is called a tika; it is made from a red dye powder and and applied to the forehead in one upward stroke. The red tika marking brands the dog a seeker of righteousness and an object of devotion. Finally, Kukur Tihar honors dogs with delicious food offerings, which can be anything from milk, to eggs, to meat, to baked goods.
Although day two is all about the dogs, days one, three, four, and five honor crows (Kaag Tihar), cows (Gai Tihar ), oxen, and fraternal bonds (Bhai Tika), respectively. Lanterns adorn the night, symbolizing the power of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, and the falling away of obstacles that prevent humans from experiencing and authentically connecting with the world, and all its living things.
What do you think of this dog festival? How do you celebrate your close relationship with your devoted dog? Tell us in the comments below.
WATCH NOW: Why Pets Are the Best