Every dog has its day

Festival Issue 132 Nov, 2012
There is a popular saying in English, ‘Every dog has its day’; in Nepal, there actually is a day for dogs. The second day of Tihar, one of the biggest festivals of Nepal is celebrated as Kukur Tihar – kukur means dog in Nepali. On this day, early in the morning, dogs are worshipped and offered good food. For an avid animal right activist like Jan Salter, who founded the Katmandu Animal Treatment Center (KAT) this age-old tradition was a pleasant discovery when she came to Nepal during the 60s. “It is such a nice thing that Hindu religion gives respect to animals,” said Salter. With certain religious belief behind it this ritual has been carried out for a long time. While many might not know the exact significance of the ritual the charm of this particular day lies in the way dogs react to being treated in such a manner.Start this topic among friends and you get a detailed explanation of their pet’s behavior on Kukur Tihar. An ex-colleague of mine had two Japanese Spitz dogs; a breed known for being active and lively. She tells me that they actually were a little scared of the oil lamps used during the ritual. “They just couldn’t sit still when we tried to put tika on their foreheads, so while one of us did the actual puja, others had to hold the dogs,” she shared adding with a huge smile, “As soon as the puja got over, they would indulge in some kind of wrestling match that ended with the garland put around their neck being completely destroyed. There would be petals all over the floor!”The garland seems to be the most fascinating or irritating thing for the dogs. Happy to get special treat, the food would be gulped down within seconds and the attention diverted to the garland. The tussle lasts as long as the flowers remain intact in the thread used to keep them together. “Every dog seems really excited to see each other adorned with the mala (garland) and the tika on their head,” observed a friend of mine who has named her German Shepard, Chulbul. What about Chulbul? I asked and she replied, “Chulbul totally loves the food but thinks it is ridiculous to wear mala so she just runs away.” And even if she manages to put the mala, her dog simply gets it off some way or other.  The festive feel begins for this particular pet when it sees other dogs in the street with mala. It gets all excited and starts jumping around these dogs who have been subjected to same divine treatment.  Yes, this day even stray dogs get treated well. One can only imagine how bewildered they might get to see people who shooed them away a day before actually come to them with food and try to perform puja. Let’s just say they bask in the glory of the old adage.