There are five days in the Hindu festival of lights called Diwali, or Tihar, as it is known by Nepalese locals. Each day celebrates a different animal, and November 10th, the second day of the festival, honors dogs. They are decorated and given a feast fit for royalty – even street dogs!
Diwali is celebrated with bonfires, candles, fairy lights, diyas (traditional earthen lamps), and rangolis (traditional floor art). Friends and families gather together, sharing their joy, food, and gifts with one another.
The first day, Kaag Tihar (Kwah Pujā), is dedicated to corvids – crows and ravens. Their cawing represents grief and sadness. Sweets are left on rooftops for them to fend off this despair. On the third day, Gai Tihar, cows are venerated with garlands and the best grass, because they signify wealth and prosperity. Houses are cleaned and adorned with marigolds and chrysanthemums. There are other celebrations on the fourth and fifth days for oxen and for sisters to thank their brothers for the protection they provide.
But the second day, Kukur Tihar (Khichā Pujā) is set aside for dogs, who are believed to be messengers of the Lord Yamaraj, the god of death. Yamaraj is said to have two dogs – Shyam and Sadal – who guard the entrance to hell. There is a very special relationship between people and dogs, as they were one of the first domesticated animals, so they are decorated with garlands and tika (marks on the forehead), which makes each of them sacred and empowers them to bless all those they encounter on this day. They are treated to heaps of scrumptious food. Pets and street dogs alike are blessed and pampered throughout the day.