In Nepal, the festival celebrates the triumph of light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance. What’s unique is that Nepal dedicates the second day of these festivities – Kurkur Tihar – to the worship of dogs.
In Hindu tradition the dog is a messenger, believed to guard the gates of the afterlife and representing the path of righteousness. So on that second festival day, all dogs get special recognition and are honored.
The recognition starts with a garland of fresh flowers draped around every dog’s neck. This wreath, called a malla, is a mark of respect and dignity for the dogs, not only those with homes but strays as well. It symbolizes that prayers go with the wearer and proclaims their great importance.
On Kukur Tihar, each dog has a red mark applied to his or her forehead. Made from a paste of red dye powder mixed with rice and yogurt, this mark – the tika – is applied with a single stroke from the forehead upward from the eyes, and marks the dog as a devotee of the righteous path and an object of devotion. The tika acts as a blessing to all who encounter the dog, and represents the dogs’ sacredness for all to see.
All of this honor and recognition is nice for the dogs, but the best part of the festivities, especially for the homeless, is the food offerings that are an important part of the celebration. Treats are put out for the dogs, including sel roti – a deep fried confection similar to a donut, milk, eggs, meat, and high-quality dog food.
Denominations of Hinduism and Buddhism across the world participate in Kukur Tihar, but the festival’s origins are Nepalese. It’s a specific day used to acknowledge the cherished relationship humans have with dogs, reserved to publically celebrate human love and appreciation for these most loyal of companions.
There are many homeless dogs in Nepal and you can even adopt one. Interested in adopting a Nepali dog? Visit AdoptANepaliDog.com and celebrate Diwali at home this year.
Photos via: Imgur