A day for a dog : Tihar
Among the many colourful and vibrant religious celebrations in Nepal, there is one that is particularly close to our hearts: Kukur Tihar. Throughout the year dogs are treated with indifference or disdain by the majority of Nepalis. Although there are considerable exceptions to this rule, dogs do not hold the same position in Nepali society as they do in Western countries, where they are known asman’s best friend.
For one day this all changes. On the second day of Tihar (also called Diwali, of the festival of lights) dogs are worshiped and paid tribute to across the country. Although traditionally a Hindu festival, there are many overlaps in the religious festivals of Nepal, which is a very diverse and polyethnic country. Everyone celebrates Tihar, including Buddhists and Christians.
Tihar is special because it recognizes the importance of all living creatures and ties together human beings with gods and animals. At KAT Centre, we value this philosophy that sees humans as part of a world that is shared equally with animals – we see our position not as masters but as friends and equals. It is this philosophy that is making Kathmandu a kinder place for animals.
Kukur Tihar is celebrated during the appearance of the new moon in the month of Kartik, the seventh month of the Vikram Samvat, the Nepali calendar. As a result, it falls on a different date each year. In 2018 this was the 6th of November and in 2019 it will be on the 26th of October.
"On the day of Kukur Tihar, we open our doors and invite all of our supporters to celebrate with us at KAT Centre.”
Dogs are thanked for their loyalty and service as protectors and for the benefits that they provide to humans such as helping to solve crimes and offering early warnings of natural disasters. It is also believed that since dogs are significant in Hindu mythology and have value to the gods, a person who shows respect to them will be rewarded with good health and prosperity.
During the celebration, dogs are worshiped in three main ways.
Firstly, garlands of flowers are prepared which are then placed around the necks of dogs.
These are usually marigolds with their distinctive bright orange colour. In recent years multi-coloured garlands of synthetic flowers have also become popular, adding variation to the traditional look.
The tika is the spot of colour that is added to the forehead and is famous throughout India and Nepal as the definitive symbol of Hinduism. Its use and significance for humans is widespread but it is not normally used on animals, although it is occasionally seen being applied to cows – the most sacred animal in the region.
In Hindi it is known asbindiand in Sanskritbindu. Tika is the Nepali word.
The forehead is seen as one of the chakra, or focal points of the body through which one can experience divinity and connect with the spiritual world. The tika itself represents a point of unity and creation, something pure and divine that opens up the human mind to the cosmos.
Although it is usually red, on special occasions other colourful powders can also be used.
Finally, dogs are offered delicious food and delicacies that they would normally never have the opportunity to eat.
Some people buy treats especially for the occasion, in the same way that gifts are sometimes given to pets at Christmas time in western countries.
Kukur Tihar will next be held on October 27th 2019. Although our doors are always open to visitors, on this day in particular we invite our supporters to join us for the celebration.
Please add this date to your diary and come along to KAT Centre to share this special moment with us, our staff and our dogs.
Directions to KAT Centre can be found here.