How Important Are Dogs in Nepal?

Dogs might be man's best friend all year long, but on one special day in Nepal, they get put on pedestals -- literally.

Dogs are blessed and venerated during the festival of Kukur Tihar.
Dogs are blessed and venerated during the festival of Kukur Tihar.

Tihar is a five-day Hindu festival of lights held every year in Nepal and parts of India that celebrates the intimate relationship among people, gods, and animals, namely dogs, crows, and cows. The second day is known as Kukur Tihar, or "Day of the Dogs," and canines of every kind are greeted with garlands, tika (an honorary red mark placed on their foreheads), and plenty of tasty food.

The belief is that dogs are the messengers of Yamaraja, the god of death, and by treating them with special kindness, people keep death appeased. All dogs, from beloved pets to strays, are celebrated for their role in human history.

Dogs aren't the only animals that have their day during Tihar. The first day of the festival involves providing food for crows and ravens, whose plaintive calls symbolize sadness, and on the third day, celebrants place garlands on cows and feed them the best grass available. Cows are sacred and traditionally signify wealth and prosperity in Nepal.

That's not all on Nepal:

  • The Nepalese flag is made of two triangles -- representing religion and the Himalayas -- and is the only national flag not quadrilateral in shape.

  • Nepal Standard Time has a time offset of UTC+05:45 from Coordinated Universal Time. Nepal is the only nation whose time is offset by 15 minutes from an adjacent country (India).

  • Most marriages in Nepal are arranged, with some husbands and wives meeting for the first time at their wedding.

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