The Nepali Tihar Festival honors many things, but the second day of this five-day festival is dedicated entirely to one thing: man’s best friend. On that day, called Kukur Tihar, dogs in any given area are celebrated as physical manifestations of the Hindu god Bhairav, in furrier form, of course. Learn more about the ins and outs of the Nepal dog festival and how it celebrates and honors our favorite four-legged friends:
The Festival Itself
Although the Tihar festival is commonly called the Nepal “dog festival”, it is actually much more than that. The festival honors everything from humans and gods to animals such as crows, cows and dogs. These animals are worshiped due to their longstanding, devoted and symbiotic relationships with humans and are honored in various ways.
During the festival, the people of Nepal use colored rice to draw special shapes onto their living room floors or into their courtyards, which are intended to be virtual welcoming mats for a wide variety of gods and deities.
Garlands of Flowers and Sacred Markings
On the second day of the Tihar festival, all dogs in attendance at are dressed in colorful flower garlands, which mark them as holy and help signify man’s gratitude at the relationship between dog and human. After the garlands have been applied, the dog’s foreheads and often their paws are marked with red or orange powder, called tika. This is a common practice in Nepal that denotes the marked person or animal as sacred. The dogs are also treated to a shower of falling flower petals, often from Marigolds, which is offered as a showing of gratitude.
Although dogs are valued companions in Nepal, they are not often doted on as they are during Kukur Tihar. During the festival, dogs are treated to a wide variety of special food, which is geared toward further thanking them for their service, loyalty and love. Many people cook for days beforehand to provide all the area’s dogs with a special feast on the day of the festival.
The Tihar festival appeals to dog lovers worldwide due to its spirit of celebration and gratitude. Although the second day of the festival, Kukur Tihar, is a tradition that developed in Nepal, it has since been adopted by cultures worldwide. Although the traditions vary, the focus of the Nepal dog festival and others like it is to thank our four-legged friends for their service, loyalty and love throughout the centuries.
Many U.S. cities have smaller celebrations dedicated to celebrating dogs and their friendship and many canine pet parents around the country have become involved in these. Generally, the traditions of flower garlands and sayings of thanks abound, although each celebration does it slightly differently. If you are interested in reserving a special day for your furry friend, look into your local listings to find a version of the Kukur Tihar festival near you.