In Nepal and India, there is a Hindu festival known as Diwali, or the festival of lights. Each day of the holiday has its own focus—crows, cows, siblings, and the goddess of wealth each get a day depending on the denomination of Hinduism to which you ascribe. In Nepal, Diwali is called Tihar and the second day of their festivities, Kukur Tihar, is dedicated to thanking dogs for their friendship and service.

Dogs have long held a special place in Hindu culture. In the ancient scripture, the great king, Yudhishthira, refused to enter heaven without his devoted dog. Presumably that means that all dogs go to heaven in Hindu lore, as they should!

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So how are these loyal pups honoured? On Kukur Tihar, a red mark is applied to the forehead of each dog. In Nepal, this mark is called the tika, a paste made from abir (a red dye powder) along with rice and yogurt. The tika is applied in a single stroke on the forehead upward from the eyes. A garland of flowers is draped around the neck of every dog; not only those with homes, but strays as well. This floral necklace, called a malla, is a mark of respect and dignity. It announces the wearer as important, and symbolizes the prayers that go with the dog. Like the malla around the neck, the red tika marks the dog as both a devotee of the righteous path and as an object of devotion. So, the tika blesses the dog with an air of sacredness and also acts as a blessing to those who encounter the dog during the festival.

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Prayers and flowers are certainly nice, but as far as dogs are concerned, their favorite part of Kukur Tihar must be the food. These food offerings take a variety of forms. Depending on the treat-giver, the lucky dog’s snacks may include milk, eggs, meat, or high-quality dog food. Some may even offer dogs a bit of sel roti, a deep-fried biscuit similar to a donut.

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This really is a day when dogs have the best of everything! We may need to visit Nepal!