Have you ever heard of Kukur Tihar? This annual Hindu festival originated in Nepal falls on the second day of the festival of Tihar, which is the 10-14th November this year. During the festival of Tihar, many animals including cows and crows are also worshipped, but Kukur Tihar is all about our canine companions. On this day, people worship dogs to please Yama, the god of death. Dogs are decorated with tilaka (a traditional marking on their foreheads) and wear flower garlands around their necks. People also offer them various foods including meat, milk, eggs, and dog food.
Source: The Kathmandu Post
It is widely believed that dogs were first domesticated in Nepal and Mongolia, meaning they have been a part of Nepalese culture for many hundreds of years. In an ancient epic poem titled 'Mahabharata', the five legendary brothers are accompanied by a dog on their way to heaven. During the epic, all of the brothers besides Yudhishthira and his dog perish along the way. Yudhishthira makes it to meet the king of the gods, who welcomes him to heaven, but tells him that he must leave his dog behind. Yudhishthira refuses to enter heaven without his dog and says he will go back to earth. The king of gods is impressed by his actions, and ends up opening the gates of heaven to both him and his dog.
In Hindu mythology, Yama, the god of death, has two dogs that guard the door of hell. Dogs are considered to be a companion of Yama and to please him, dogs are worshipped. Nepali Hindus believe that by worshipping dogs they will be able to view death more positively, and that the dogs will guard them against torture in hell.
Source: REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar
During Kukur Tihar, all dogs are worshipped, including police dogs and even stray dogs. They are fed, bathed, decorated with tilaka and adorned with flower garlands. The relationship between humans and dogs is also part of the celebrations during Kikur Tihar. It is considered a sin if somebody behaves disrespectfully towards a dog on this day.
Many Nepalese people still celebrate the festival, even outside of Nepal. The festival has also been widely praised as a way of teaching love and respect for animals, and has been adopted by other countries and cultures to share this message. Kukur Tihar has been celebrated in Mexico, Australia and even the UK.