Nepal’s Kukur Tihar celebration has been adopted by Mexico City. Photo: Daniel Cardenas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Whether or not you believe in dogs, this little Nepalese tradition will restore some of your faith in humanity. Each year, on the second day of the five-day Diwali celebrations in Nepal, the country celebrates Kukur Tihar or “day of the dogs” by worshipping man’s four-legged friend. Pooches of all kinds—strays and pets—are showered with flowers, adorned with garlands and tilak or gulal. After a ceremonial puja, they are treated to milk, eggs, meat, dog food or anything they like. This year, Kukur Tihar will be celebrated on Saturday, 14 November.
Nepal’s Kukur Tihar: the backstory
Nepal’s dog-worshipping tradition comes from Hindu mythology. In the Mahabharat, when the Pandavas set out on their final voyage to Swarga, a dog follows them on their journey. Along the way, Yudhistra loses his brothers and wife, but the loyal dog follows him till the gate. The texts say that Yudhishtira refused to enter heaven without the dog, such was the bond they fostered.
Elsewhere, in the Rigveda, Samsara, the mother of dogs, assists Indra in recovering his stolen cattle. Bhairava, an avatar of Lord Shiva, uses a dog as his steed. Yamraj, the God of Death, also has two watchdogs who guard the gates of hell.
But dogs are not the only animals celebrated in Nepal. On the first day of Tihar, a five-day festival, the crow is worshipped. On the third day, it is cows in the morning and Laxmi, the goddess of wealth in the evening. On the fourth day, different people worship different beings including oxen, mountains or even themselves!
And the festival is spreading. In 2016, Mexico adopted the Kukur Tihar, where locals walked their pets to Revolution Square in Mexico City and decked them with garlands and tika, just like they do it in Nepal. It’s an idea worth adopting—and the gods will bless us for it.