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How Dogs Shine in Kukur Tihar, The Festival of Lights

Diwali and Tihar are Hindu "Festival of Lights" celebrations known for dazzling candles, street lights, and fireworks displays. Let's learn about the sacred role dogs play in Hindu culture and how they can safely participate in the festivities.

Kukur Tihar Dog

Diwali and Kukur Tihar: The Festivals of Lights

Though they are both distinct festivals with different traditions and rituals, Kukur Tihar (part of the Tihar festival) and Diwali are multi-day celebrations with a few similarities.

  • Festival of Lights: Diwali and Tihar are known for the many lights, candles, and oil lamps (diyas) that decorate their streets, festivals, temples, and homes throughout the celebration.

  • Timing: Diwali and Tihar are celebrated around the same time each year, as they follow the lunar calendar. In 2023, Diwali is Friday, November 10th to Wednesday, November 15th, and Tihar is Friday, November 10th to Tuesday, November 14th.

  • Who celebrates: Tihar and Diwali are both Hindu festivals celebrated in Nepal and the Indian states of Sikkim, West Bengal, and Assam. Diwali is also observed by Jains, Sikhs, and some Buddhists across India, Nepal, Fiji, Guyana, Malaysia, Mauritius, Myanmar, Pakistan, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and other regions.

  • Fireworks displays: Diwali and Tihar often use fireworks and firecrackers for their celebrations.

  • A shared theme: Both festivals celebrate the victory of good over evil and light driving out darkness.

  • Workship of Lakshmi: Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity, is welcomed into their homes on Laxmi Puja, a day of both festivals.

What is Kukur Tihar?

Kukur Tihar, also known as the “day of the dogs,” is a festival celebrated in Nepal as part of the multi-day festival of Tihar dedicated to honoring and worshiping dogs for their loyalty, companionship, and role as protectors.

Kukur Tihar highlights the importance of treating all dogs with kindness, compassion, and respect. Dogs are celebrated in the following ways:

  • Tika and garland: Dogs are adorned with tika, a mark on their forehead made with vermilion, and garlands made of marigold flowers. This symbolizes their sacred status and acknowledges their loyalty and companionship.

  • Special meals: Dogs are treated to delicious foods as a gesture of gratitude for their devotion and friendship.

  • Acknowledgment of guardianship: In Hindu culture, dogs are believed to guard the gates of the afterlife. During Kukur Tihar, people recognize and honor the role of dogs as protectors and guardians.

  • Blessings: People seek blessings from the dogs, offering prayers and expressing gratitude for their unwavering loyalty and protection.

  • Street dogs: Kukur Tihar extends its celebration to stray dogs as well. People decorate and feed street dogs, recognizing the importance of compassion and kindness towards all dogs, not just pets.

  • Symbolic worship: Dogs are seen as a representation of the deity Bhairava, who is associated with destruction and protection. Worshiping dogs during Kukur Tihar is a way of seeking protection from negative forces and expressing reverence for their significance in Hindu culture.

What role do dogs play in the Hindu faith?

In Hinduism, dogs hold a significant and revered position. Dattatreya, believed to be an incarnation of Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu, and Lord Shiva, is frequently portrayed with dogs as his companions.

This symbolic association highlights dogs’ unwavering loyalty and protective instincts embodied within Indian culture. Dogs are regarded as sacred creatures, revered for their companionship and role as protectors in the Hindu faith.

Can dogs participate safely in Diwali and Kukur Tihar festivities?

Ensuring your dog feels safe and comfortable during the Festival of Lights is possible with these tips in mind:

  • Create a safe, quiet space for them away from noise and lights.

  • Keep your dogs indoors during fireworks displays to minimize exposure to the loud sounds.

  • Use calming techniques such as soothing music, pet-safe pheromone diffusers, and calming treats to help your dog relax.

  • Try a pressure wrap like the ThunderShirt to help ease their anxiety.

How do fireworks affect dogs?

The dazzling fireworks that light up the sky during the Festival of Lights can be a significant source of distress for dogs. Their sensitive hearing means that loud explosions can cause anxiety and stress. To learn more, check out our guide for how to comfort dogs during fireworks.

Alternative ways to celebrate

You can still enjoy the Festival of Lights with your dogs in pet-friendly ways:

  • Light pet-friendly lamps or battery-powered candles in your home to create a warm ambiance without risking any wagging tails.

  • Prepare special dog-friendly versions of treats inspired by traditional Diwali and Tihar dishes. (Note: Sel roti is a popular delicacy, though some ingredients are best consumed in moderation for dogs. Consult your vet for any dietary questions you may have.)

  • Spend quality time with your dogs through play and cuddles to reassure them.

Here’s to a joyous Festival of Lights for you and your pup!

As you celebrate Diwali, Tihar, or any similar festival, we can't forget to consider our soulful sidekicks. Taking a few precautions ensures that the Festival of Lights is a time of joy and safety for all our loved ones, pets included.

Dylan M. Austin is Independence Pet Group’s highly caffeinated Sr. Content Writer, supporting Figo Pet Insurance, Pets Plus Us, and PetPartners. Based in Seattle, he's usually hanging out with his Chihuahua Terrier mix, Will, and tending to an increasingly excessive houseplant collection.

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