Diwali in India and Diwali in Nepal are celebrated very differently. First of all, it is not called Diwali in Nepal, but is known as “Tihar”. Each day of the festival is dedicated to different animals like dogs, oxen, crows and cows.
While Indians celebrate Diwali by bursting noise emanating firecrackers and lighting up their homes, Nepali Hindus do something very different during the festival. The second day of Tihar is totally dedicated to worshipping dogs as guardians and friends.
Dogs and humans go back a long way. They are mentioned in sacred texts like the Rigveda and also in the Mahabharata. The story of Yudisthira refusing to enter heaven without his pet dog is very famous. In the story, the dog is the representative of “righteousness” or of “dharma”.
The second day of Tihar is known as “Kukur Puja” in Nepal and all kinds of dogs, whether homeless or pets, are worshipped, honoured and recognized in Nepal. They are garlanded and a “tika” made up of red dye, yogurt and rice is applied on the forehead of the dogs. The colour used for the tika is apparently completely safe for their skin.
Along with recognizing dogs with a floral garland and the “tika”, dogs are also served delicious food on the day of Kukur Puja. Each dog in Nepal, whether staying in a home or roaming around the streets, gets to eat to his/her heart’s content on this day. The food mainly consists of milk, meat or eggs. Some people even offer locally made desserts to the dogs. And dogs are not complaining! Variations of “Kukur Puja” are celebrated by Buddhists as well. The famous saying “every dog has its own day” must have its roots in this festival!
While countless dogs and puppies in India are abused and tortured regardless of the day of the month it is, Nepal holds up a worthy example for us to follow by celebrating Kukur Puja. Like every year during Diwali in India, this year also there have been numerous cases of dogs and puppies getting badly burnt because of carelessly aimed crackers. Numerous dogs have jumped into wells to escape all the deafening noise around them and have died.
Dogs have always been with us, serving quietly, never complaining. If there are so many homeless dogs on the roads, it is because we have destroyed their habitat and have closed our doors on them. A dog never forgets a human even if he or she just gives her a kind look and never looks back again. It is time we give them their due. Dogs dont ask for garlands or for lavish celebrations. All they need is a little pat on their head, a little food, a little kindness.