Annually, the bond between dogs and their humans is being celebrated in Nepal. Tihar is a five-day light festival that honors animals. The second day of the festival is solely dedicated to dogs and is called Kukur Tihar which translates to the phrase “worship of dogs”.
During the Kukur Tihar, all dogs (police, home, and stray) are recognized as the guardians of humanity and are celebrated for their loyalty and dedication. The festival happens between October and November every year.
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The celebration stems from the Nepali Hindu belief that dogs are the messengers of the God of Death, Yamaraj. It is believed that a canine waits for all people at the gates of heaven. Some other Hindu texts also mention dogs as a liaison between men and gods. They are also said to be guardians of humans.
The Kukur Tihar, in particular, is dedicated to Shiva’s black dog. During this day, a red tika or talik paint is drawn on the heads of the dogs. This is done to symbolize sacredness. The red paint is made with yogurt, rice, and a certain red powder. It is believed that coming across a dog with this symbol is a blessing.
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Also, during this day, a Malla or a flower wreath is put around a dog’s neck. After putting these decorations in place, the participants in the festival offer food to the dogs as a motion of gratitude for their loyalty and service. The offerings are usually made of cheese, biscuits, meat, eggs, fruits, and some good dog food.
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During this day, dogs are the distinguished guests. They are fed first before the people eat their meals. The police force also shows their appreciation to the dogs while wearing their full regalia. The dogs are paraded around the Central Police Dog Training School which is located in Kathmandu.
Other days of the Tihar festival are dedicated to other animals such as cows, ravens, crows, and oxen. The day of Kukur Tihar is celebrated in other parts of the world as well. Some people outside Nepal have their private ceremonies that honor their dogs.
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Thanks to Pawpolous for sharing this story.