It’s almost the season for Diwali, one of the biggest festivals in the Hindu calendar, and boy does it look like an awesome pawty! The 5 day-long autumn festival, also known as the Festival of Lights, is a time for gift-giving, storytelling, and celebration of the relationships hoomans share with all living things. Each day is dedicated to honoring a different entity, and in Nepal (where the festival is known as Tihar) dogs get the royal treatment on the second day of the festival, know as Kukur Puja – the worship of dogs.
What’s Kukur Puja all about? We’ll let these pups tell you all about it.
First and foremost, you must accessorize. A garland of flowers is draped around the neck of every dog – not only those with loving homes, but strays as well. The floral necklace is called a malla, and is a mark of respect. The malla is a way of showing the world that whoever is wearing it is important, and also symbolizes the prayers that have been made for the pup.
A red mark is also applied to the forehead of the pup, away from the eyes. In Nepal, this mark is called the tika, and is made using a mixture of natural dye from flower extracts, rice and yogurt. The tika marks the dog as a devotee of the righteous path and one worthy of devotion. Anyone lucky enough to encounter this sacred pup on Kukur Puja will be blessed.
What’s a dog festival without snacks?
As any pup parent knows, the real language of love as far as dogs are concerned is food. Worship of dogs would not be complete without a tasty offering. Food offerings are put out not just for dogs in the home, but also for stray dogs. Food offerings vary person to person, but some common treats include milk, eggs, meat, or high-quality dog food. Some hoomans go all out and give pups sel roti, a deep-fried confection similar to a donut!
How did dogs become so important in Hindu tradition?
Pups play an important role in the ancient Hindu texts. In the Rigveda, Samara (the mother of dogs) assists Indra (the ruler of heaven) in retrieving stolen cattle. In Hindu tradition, a dog is also guardian and messenger of Yama, the lord and judge of the dead. A dog is also said to guard the gates of the afterlife. Those pups have some really important jobs, no wonder everyone tries to get on their good side!
The bond between people and pups goes way back in Hindu texts. Svana (Sanskrit for dog) is the hero of the religious epic the Mahabharata. Svana’s hooman, Yudhisthira, was revered for his love of truth and righteousness. As he is about to be escorted into heaven, Indra (the ruler of heaven) tells Yudhisthira “There is no place in Heaven for persons with dogs.” Yudhisthira refuses to enter without his loyal pup, which means sacrificing eternal bliss out of compassion and devotion. According to the text, at that moment Svana the pup morphs into a deity, who was just testing Yudhisthira, and the two walk through the gates of heaven together.
Happy Diwali to you and your pup!