The five-day festival of lights and animals, Yama Panchak or Tihar, began on Friday with day one dedicated to the crow. The second day of the festival is traditionally known as the “Day of Dogs” or “Kukur Tihar”, which was celebrated on Saturday. In Nepal, dogs are worshipped as the messengers of Yama, the God of death, as well as the guardians.

On the day, dogs are adorned with flowers, and vermillion tika (mark on forehead) and offered food as part of the “Kukur Tihar” ceremony. The dogs are worshipped early in the morning for their devotion and sincerity towards their owners. A similar ceremony was observed at Sneha’s Care, a private animal shelter that hosts more than 160 canines, some with permanent injuries, on Saturday.

Sneha Shrestha, the proprietor of the animal shelter, came up with the idea of rescuing and treating the helpless dogs, left on the roadside after her own pet was poisoned to death.

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Shrestha said her pet dog was poisoned to death by a neighbour. “The name of my dog was Jara. After the death of my dog, I went into depression, stopped having food, even liquids. I also performed the 13-day ritual, followed for humans, after my dog’s death, for which I was mocked by society. It is my pet dog who inspired me to host these animals and some dogs have found a new life at this animal shelter,” she said, adding dogs and their roles are mentioned in various Hindu religious books.

In the Rigveda, one of the Vedas in Hindu religion, Samara, the mother of dogs assists Indra, the ruler of heaven, in retrieving stolen cattle. The Mahabharat has a plot of Yudhisthira’s refusal to enter heaven without his devoted dog, which represents Dharma and the path of righteousness.

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