Nepal Celebrates Dogs During Diwali Festival

Kukur Tihar, worship of the dogs, Diwali festival, Nepal

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Diwali is an important celebration on the Hindu calendar. The five-day winter-autumn festival, frequently referred to as the Festival of Lights, falls between mid-October and mid-November. In 2018, it begins on November 7th in most places.

In Nepal, the festival, called Tihar, 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 celebration of the special relationship dogs have to humans.

According to Hindu tradition, the dog is a messenger, believed to guard the gates of the afterlife. So on that second festival day, all dogs get special recognition and honor.

How Dogs Are Honored During Diwali

Dog adorned with flowers and tikka for the Tihar festival in Kathmandu, Nepal.

(Picture Credit: Dave Stamboulis Travel Photography/Getty Images)

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 also symbolizes that prayers go with the wearer and proclaims their great importance.

On Kukur Tihar, dogs have red marks applied to their foreheads. 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. It marks the dogs as devotees of the righteous path and objects of devotion. The tika acts as a blessing to all who encounter the dogs, 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. Those who take part in the festival put out food for the dogs, including sel roti–a deep fried confection similar to a donut often made with milk, eggs, meat, and high-quality dog food.

Dogs In Nepal

Dog looking embarrassed after being adorned with a Tika and marigold necklace during the Nepali Hindu festival of Tihaar (Dipawali)

(Picture Credit: Whitworth Images/Getty Images)

Denominations of Hinduism and Buddhism across the world participate in Kukur Tihar, but the festival’s origins are Nepalese. It’s a specific day to acknowledge the cherished relationship humans have with dogs, reserved to publicly celebrate human love and appreciation for these most loyal of companions.

There are many stray and homeless dogs in Nepal looking for forever homes. If you’re interested in adopting one, check out International Dog Adoption.

Do you celebrate Diwali with your dog? Are you happy to see the relationship between dogs and humans being honored around the world? Let us know in the comments below!

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