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Kukur Tihar: Nepal’s Very Own Festival of Dogs

By Orgesta Tolaj


16 October 2023

Kukur Tihar: Nepal’s Very Own Festival of Dogs

© Jametlene Reskp / Unsplash

Nepal is known for having the highest peak on the planet – Mount Everest and is also known as the birthplace of Buddha. This fortifies Nepal’s diverse and harmonious cultural landscape and features unique traditions like Kukur Tihar, known as the “Festival of Dogs.” This celebration, part of the Tihar festival, reflects Nepal’s profound bond with nature and respect for animals, particularly dogs. This blog delves into the importance, customs, and heartwarming rituals of Kukur Tihar. Here’s a look at everything you need to know about the Nepalese festival.

What Is Kukur Tihar?

In Nepal, there is a special day called Kukur Tihar during the Diwali festival when people express gratitude to dogs for their loyalty and companionship. Diwali is a Hindu festival of lights celebrated worldwide, with a strong presence in Nepal and India. Kukur Tihar is a unique Nepalese tradition within Diwali to honor the faithful friendship of dogs.

The Tihar Festival in General

Kukur Tihar is a special day within the broader context of the Tihar festival, also known as Deepawali or Yamapanchak, celebrated with great enthusiasm in Nepal. Tihar is a five-day Hindu festival that typically falls in October or November, based on the lunar calendar, and is considered one of the country’s most significant and vibrant festivals.

Kukur Tihar

The uniqueness of Tihar lies in its multifaceted celebration of animals, with each of the five days dedicated to the worship of different creatures. The festival commences with the worship of crows, symbolizing the messengers of the Yama, the god of death. The following day, cows are revered as a representation of wealth and prosperity, and on the third day, oxen are honored for their invaluable contributions to agriculture.

Why Is Kukur Tihar So Significant?

Kukur Tihar is a Nepalese festival that holds deep cultural and spiritual significance, celebrating the loyalty, guardianship, and unconditional love of dogs. Dogs are not just seen as pets but as symbols of faithfulness and protection, and Kukur Tihar is a day to honor and thank them for their unwavering devotion.

The customs and rituals of Kukur Tihar include garlanding dogs with marigold flowers for good luck, applying a red tika on their foreheads to symbolize blessings, offering them a special feast, and lighting oil lamps to ward off evil spirits. The festival extends its warmth to street dogs, with communities setting up feeding stations for them to partake in the festivities.

Kukur Tihar
© Kelsang Ongmu Tamang

Kukur Tihar is a reflection of Nepal’s deep-rooted connection with nature and its animals. Dogs are celebrated as symbols of loyalty, often appearing in Nepalese folklore and mythology as protectors and companions. The festival also conveys a message of environmental conservation by caring for stray dogs, demonstrating a commitment to ecosystem balance. Moreover, Kukur Tihar promotes unity and harmony, transcending religious boundaries and bringing people from all walks of life together to celebrate their shared love for dogs.

Why Are Dogs Important in Kukur Tihar?

In Vedic verses, dogs are referred to as Sarama considered the mother of all dogs. The Rig Veda recognizes their role as protectors, with Lord Indra sending Sarama to find missing cows. Dogs are also regarded as mounts (Vahan) of Bhairava, a fearsome form of Lord Shiva. Hindu dharma establishes a connection between dogs and Lord Dattatreya, an incarnation of the Trimurti. In the epic Mahabharata, Lord Yama assumed the form of a dog to accompany Yudhistira on their final journey, testing the Pandavas’ adherence to dharma. Additionally, feeding black dogs and treating them well is believed to mitigate the severe malefic effects of the planets Saturn and Rahu.

Kukur Tihar
© Sushil Basnet / Unsplash

What do you think of this festival tradition? Do you wish you could celebrate your furry friends from where you are from?

You might also want to read: These Hypoallergenic Dog Breeds Will Fulfill Your Needs

Orgesta Tolaj

Your favorite introvert who is buzzing around the Hive like a busy bee!