On the second day of the five-day Hindu festival Tihar, Nepali Hindus and Gorkhas worship dogs to celebrate the animal’s connection to the fearless Bhagwan Bhairav. On this day, worshipers decorate dogs with garlands and Tilak. They are fed with their favourite food including meat, milk, eggs etc. On this day, it is forbidden to indulge in any disrespectful act against the dogs. The festival is widely popular amongst Gorkhas. Canine officers and stray dogs are honoured on this day.
Kukura/kukkura teohar at home today. pic.twitter.com/RFdxCsPAsv— Bibek Debroy (@bibekdebroy) November 3, 2021
The mythological connection
There are two mythological connections associated with the festival. It is believed that the dog is the ride of Bhagwan Bhairav, and it is worshipped to please God. According to legends, Bhagwan Yama, the God of Death, has two dogs named Shyama and Sharvara who guard the doors of hell. By worshipping the dogs during Kukur Tihar, the worshipers believe they will save them from the tortures of hell. It also helps in seeing death in a positive manner.
We have a festival called “Tihar” in Nepal, where we worship all kind of animals and goddesses. Today is “kukur tihar” where we show gratitude and love towards dogs make them eat delicious treats. 😌🌸 So happy kukur tihar to everyone from a fellow Nepalese army 💃😆💫💕💕 pic.twitter.com/J87jlc1KIJ— PIKU⁷ soft 💫 (@Peacelife_BTS) November 3, 2021
One story from Mahabharata also mentions the importance of the bond between dogs and humans. According to the story, a dog had accompanied the Pandavas on the journey to Heaven. All Pandavas, including Draupadi, could not complete the journey and only Yudhishthira and the dog reached the doors of Heaven. When Indra Dev came to receive him, Yudhishthira asked to let the dog accompany him to Heaven. Indra Dev refused, stating everyone cannot attain Heaven.
Happy Kukur Tihar.— PrideAndPrejudice 🌊 (@YashuBnB) November 3, 2021
Furry Friends get extra love that they deserve . pic.twitter.com/gb9fuubTeM
Yudhishthira refused to go to Heaven, saying the dog had been with him thick and thin. He cannot abandon the dog at the end of his life. Pleased by the selflessness and dedication to the sense of righteousness under any circumstance, the dog was allowed to enter Heaven. The story stated that the dog was actually the God of Dharma himself who showed his true form after Yudhishthira stood strong on his vow to take the dog with him to Heaven. It is suggested it was Bhagwan Yama in the form of a dog accompanying Yudhishthira to Heaven.
Kaag Tihar – The day when crows are worshipped
During the festival, crows and ravens are also worshipped as they are considered to be messengers of Bhagwan Yama. They are worshipped on the first day of the Tihar festival, also known as Kaag Tihar. Food including meat and grains are offered to crows during the festival.
Crows hold an important role in Hinduism. They are also considered to be the messengers of Pitra or the ancestors. They are worshipped and offered food during Shrada, the 16-day long Hindu festival where Hindus across the world pay homage to their ancestors.
Dogs might have been first domesticated in Nepal
The bond between dogs and people of Nepal goes back to the point where dogs were first domesticated by humans. According to ABC Science, a genetic study suggested that the dogs might have been domesticated for the first time in Central Asia, precisely in modern-day Nepal and Mongolia.
An international team led by Adam Boyko at Cornell University studied over 185,800 genetic markers in around 4,600 purebred dogs belonging to 165 breeds along with over 540 village dogs. The study was conducted across 38 countries. The scientists deemed it as the “largest-ever survey of worldwide canine genetic diversity.” The scientists had said, “We find strong evidence that dogs were domesticated in Central Asia, perhaps near present-day Nepal and Mongolia.”
Dogs played a vital role during the Nepal earthquake rescue operations
Dogs were the unsung heroes of the rescue operations of the devastating earthquake that hit Nepal in 2015. During the rescue operations, special canine units were deployed that helped in spotting surviving victims under the rubble.