Tihar, or the festival of light, is a week-long Hindu celebration that dedicates an entire day to dogs!
During Kukar Tia – also known as the day of the dogs – pet dogs and strays are decorated with flower garlands, offered food, and blessed with the tika, a red mark on the forehead that signifies honour and respect.
A sacred animal
Dogs play a big part in Hindu mythology. Yama, the god of death, is said to own two fierce guards dogs called Sadal and Shyam. Each dog is believed to have fours eyes which they use to watch over Naraka, the Hindi concept of hell. Braiarvai, or the one who is beyond fear, is a Hindu deity who travelled on the back of a dog.
Hindus believe that honouring the dogs for a day will appease these powerful gods. It’s also an opportunity to celebrate the lasting bond between humans and their canine friends.
The festival runs for five days and celebrates other animals including crows, ravens and the cow, an extremely sacred animal in Hindu societies. Tihar culminates with Bhai Tika, a day of blessings and feasts. During the festival, houses are decorated with lanterns, a ritual which signifies the spiritual victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance.
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Au Népal, un festival nommé le Tihar honore les animaux. Les chiens, les corbeaux, les vaches et les bœufs sont des êtres symboliques pour la population hindoue. Sur ce cliché, un chien est représenté avec de la poudre vermillon sur le front appelé le tilaka. Reconnus pour leur loyauté et honnêteté, les gens prient pour eux. Crédit : Navesh Chitrakar/REUTERS #dog #Tiharfestival #India
Other national dog days
But Tihar isn’t the only festival that honours dogs. In Bolivia, the Fiesta de San Roque lasts for 8 days and dogs are decorated with colourful ribbons to honour the memory of Saint Roche, the patron saint of dogs. Saint Francis of Assisi was known for his love of animals and on the 4th of October local parishes are known to bless a dog in his memory.
The UK also celebrates a national dog day. It was set up pet and family expert Colleen Paige. It falls on August 26th, the date Colleen’s family adopted their first rescue dog.