Tag Archives: Kukur Puja

Kukur Puja 2011

Previous Kukur Pujas: photos from 2010, from 2009

Kukur Puja is one of my favorite Nepali festivals. It is part of the Tihar cluster of events including Kag Puja (crow puja, yesterday), Kukur Puja (dog puja, today), Laxmi Puja and Gai Puja (puja for prosperity and for cow, tomorrow), Thursday is a series of pujas I’m not as familiar with (Goru Puja, Gobhardan Puja, Maha Puja and Nepal Sambat as explained by NepaliAustralian), and lastly Bhai Tikka (brother puja, Friday). In our household we usually only celebrate Kukur and Laxmi puja and Bhai Tikka.

One reason I love Kukur Puja is because I am a big “dog person.” Luckily P is too, or we would probably have a big problem!

My dad had a black lab named Jack when he married my mom and we had him until I was in fourth grade. I always remember him as an older dog, reserved and calm, and he never minded when my sisters and I would bug him, or lay all over him. Even though he was around when I was a kid, he wasn’t really my dog, he was always my dad’s.

When I was seven years old I started begging my parents for a dog of my own. I whined and pleaded in a way only a seven year old could. I remember that Christmas there was an article in the local newspaper where “Santa” was responding to a young girl named “Joleen” who was asking for a pet for Christmas, giving her a checklist of things she had to agree to do before she would be ready to have a pet. My parents told me that Santa was actually writing to me, and had accidently misspelled my name, and I cut that article out of the paper and carried it around with me, showing it to all my relatives that Christmas and explaining—“I can do #1, and #2, and #3…I promise!”

A week or two after Christmas my dad found an advertisement in the newspaper for cocker spaniel puppies, and he took me to the kennel to check them out. There were little black and white puppies scurrying here and there. One of them tried to eat my shoelaces, and I fell in love. I brought him home and named him Blackie (he was all black with a white stripe down his neck).

Blackie was my constant companion until I left home. We used to go trudging through the backwoods together, covered in mud; sledding down the hill in our back yard together, little chunks of snow and ice matting in his curly hair; he even went on jogs with me as a high school cross country runner, although I’m sure mid-summer 6 mile runs were not his favorite. We dressed him up in baby clothes and diapers (my youngest sister was born the same year as Blackie), brought him along on long family trips in the car, and nursed him back to health when he was attacked by a two ferocious dogs that lived down the street.

Having a dog when you are really young probably helps someone to grow up with a soft spot for dogs, and to not be afraid of them. Various people I know tell me that they are scared of dogs, sometimes because they were once bitten or attacked by one. I was also attacked by a dog once—my friend who agreed to take me to the big “eighth grade dance” had two big dogs behind an invisible fence, and my school friend and I rode our bikes over to his house not knowing the dogs were out. As we started walking up the drive way the dogs charged at us, and my friend had the sense to step backwards behind the invisible fence but I didn’t, and instead put my arms up to protect my face. One of the dogs latched on to my left elbow and started biting, leaving a nasty bruise/puncture wound. I had to go to the hospital and get a tetanus shot, but luckily no stiches. And in true 8th grade fashion, I had a dress with no sleeves at the dance so I could show off my battle scars to everyone all night. But luckily I  had a lot of positive exposure to dogs as a baby and small kid, which preempted me from developing any major fears.

After Blackie had to be put to sleep while I was studying abroad in France my freshman year of college, I didn’t have a dog for many years—obviously you couldn’t have one in a dorm room, and when P and I graduated our first few apartment buildings wouldn’t allow pets either. Finally P wore out our second to last landlord, and we were given permission for a “small, quiet, well behaved dog.”

I did a petfinder.com search for cocker spaniels (since that is what I had as a kid, and felt confident I could properly take care of one, “I can do #1, and #2, and #3…I promise!”). I was particularly partial to black dogs, since I had two growing up. Sampson came up on the search results at a rescue in New Hampshire (although they said he is “part cocker spaniel, part retriever” people tell us he looks like all sorts of things, but the key word “cocker spaniel” brought him to us). He was cute, and black, with a white stripe on his neck–like Blackie!—and he was a rescued stray from the streets of Puerto Rico—an intercultural dog! Perfect!

So P and I put in the application, begged our landlord some more, and two and a half years ago Sampson joined our household. Now he is a spoiled little mutt, because P and I nearly treat him like he’s our real baby. He gets momo snacks from P when momos are on the menu, and egg yokes when I’m making waffles, and he already tried a piece of yak cheese when I returned from Nepal.

And every year on Kukur Puja he gets a special tikka, a flower garland made just for him, a new toy, a tasty packet of new treats, and special treatment all day.

So if you have a little pup in your life, feel free to give him some extra love today!

Sampson is the king of sad eyes, even with his happy, easy life in the AmericaNepali household!

Kukur Puja in Photos

P and I are nerds, I’ll admit it. We love our dog like he is a furry child. So it’s fun to use the Nepali holiday “Kukur Puja” or “dog worship” as an excuse to spoil our pup. This is Sampson’s second year of participating in the festival.

Dogs are thought to be the messenger of Yamaraj, god of death, so worshiping your dog is supposed to protect your home from death and bad luck. It also celebrates the connections between dogs and humans.

So here are a few pictures from our early morning puja today…

Getting Sampson to sit to properly to give him a tikka and garland (he was distracted by the other treats I had hidden behind my back)

Giving tikka (he thought it was food, and wanted to lick it!)

Giving Sammu his garland, he was a bit reluctant at first, but after it was on, he was happy to walk around with it. AS said that dogs in Nepal usually tear the garland off straight away.

Puja Aarti

Successfully Kukur Puja-ed

Attracted by the sight of his new treats... a squirrel toy, a package of snaussage treats, and some cheese

Playing with his new squirrel toy

P gives Sampson a snaussage treat...

You can also read about “how to pamper your dog this Tihar” in Republica…

The 2010 Sel Roti Tihar Challenge

Living in our intercultural household means that the fall is filled with lots of holidays… and lots of food. October brings Dashain and Halloween, November and its Tihar and Thanksiving time and December culminates in Christmas and New Years. What’s a girl trying to get in shape for a wedding to do? Take on a Challenge I guess.

Tihar technically starts today (November 3rd) with “Kag Puja” or the worship of crows. People leave sweets for the crows on the roofs of their houses because the cawing of crows symbolizes sadness and grief in Hindu mythology, and offering puja supposedly averts grief and death from your home. I don’t think we have crows, just lots of Canadian Geese at the moment, so I’m not sure if we will be able to do this, but tomorrow is Kukur Puja–worshiping dogs– and with a pup in our house, that’s pretty easy! I’ll happily give our little Sampson a flower garland, tikka, and treat like last year!

After Thursday’s Kukur puja, Friday is Gai (cow) Puja and Lakshmi Puja, Saturday is Maha (Self) Puja, and Sunday is Bhai Tikka (worship of brothers).

I digress, back to the challenge… during Tihar a traditional food to eat is a homemade circular fried bread made out of rice flour called “Sel Roti.” People eat it at other times of year as well, but it is widely eaten during the festival.

S's brother making Sel for Dashain

His pretty Sel Roti, already to eat... one of the "challenges" of making Sel is making the circle of dough in the cooking oil. I should have helped my uncle make doughnuts as a kid to prep for this!

I’ve been saying for months that I wanted to try and make Sel this year, and every time I mention this plan I’m usually told, “Sel is too hard, I don’t think you can do it.” (well… telling me that only makes me want to do it more, of course!)

I’ll counter with, “But I have a recipe I can follow, from my Nepali cookbook…” to which someone would respond, “Oh, but even with a recipe, Sel Roti is too hard, I don’t think you can do it.”

Gosh darn it, don’t tell me what I can and can’t do! At least let me try…

So this Friday I am taking on the 2010 Sel Roti Tihar Challenge. I’ll take photos and document the process… and if I fail, at least I tried, but I’m hoping for some of that homemade circular bread for Bhai Tikka… and the “street cred” that goes along with having achieved a dish considered “too difficult.”

If you have made Sel Roti before, feel free to share your stories or give cooking tips! I can use all the help I can get!

To see how it turned out visit Sel Roti Prep and Sel Roti Success!

Kukur Puja

The past few days have been busy, and will finish off tonight with a celebration of “Bhai Tikka”… no wonder my masters thesis isn’t finished yet! There is something new every week. However, every time I participate in these festivals I learn something new… I swear, it’s educational!

Garlanded "kukurs" in Kathmandu

Garlanded "kukurs" in Kathmandu

Anyway… as part of Tihar (as you guys all now know… what Nepalis call Diwali, the “festival of lights”) there are several days, where each day is “special” for a specific thing. One day it is crows, another day cows, another dogs, then yourself, and finally brothers. As part of the festivities you are suppose to do a special “puja,” or ceremony/prayer, for each thing on their specific day and (I guess the word is) “spoil” them with treats and attention. This is hard… P and I don’t have a bunch of crows and cows wandering around, but this year we were in luck… because in January P and I adopted a dog–a cute little rescue mutt from Puerto Rico. So this year we had a chance to celebrate “Kukur Puja”—kukur meaning “dog” in Nepali.

Our little "kukur" Sampson wiggled a bit and got tikka powder on his face :)

Our little "kukur" Sampson wiggled a bit and got tikka powder on his face :)

Thus Sampson had a special Saturday, filled with treats (especially his favorite- cheese!), puja and lots of love! The holiday essentially celebrates the old adage “dog is man’s best friend” or as Wikipedia so eloquently explained, the holiday “acknowledge[s] the cherished relationship between humans and the oldest ever tamed animal.” It was the first time P and I celebrated, so we invited our friends AS and N over to help. We lit some incense, and made a flower garland for Sampson and gave him a red powder tikka for good measure. I must say, he looked awfully cute (although the flower garland didn’t last long).

C lighting candles in hopes of Lakshmi giving us wealth and prosperty for the next year...

C lighting candles in hopes of Lakshmi giving us wealth and prosperity for the next year...

Other then that, we spent a large part of the weekend driving back and forth to central New York for a Diwali party at a friend’s house. As part of the party we all dressed up South Asian style (of course, I’ll jump at any excuse to do so!) and lit lots of little tea lights to welcome Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. Supposedly, on Lakshmi Puja she visits houses that are clean, adorned with lights and where the people are hardworking (not lazy!) and she brings wealth and good fortune for the upcoming year.

Luckily we finished the dishes and made the bed before running off to the party… because in these tough economic times, who doesn’t need a little Lakshmi in their life? ;)

Tonight is “Bhai Tikka” when “sisters” celebrate their “brothers” and the brothers give their sisters gifts in return. AS is planning a puja and gathering, so I’ll write more about that later.

Phew, between American and Nepali holidays… autumn can be exhausting!