Tag Archives: Tihar

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!

What I’ve Been Up To…

I’m sorry my posting spree of October became a relatively quite November. As I mentioned at one point, things became pretty busy. Here’s what’s been happening in the American-Nepali Household:

-November meant Tihar celebrations leading into an international educators conference, leading into International Education Week programming, leading into good bye parties and dinners for AS and N, leading into Thanksgiving celebrations (and lots of “on the road traveling” to see family)…

-December meant preparing for the international student council’s biggest event of the year the International Dinner, and now that the dinner is finished, prepping for Christmas, writing out my long list of Christmas cards, and organizing our annual Christmas party in “the household.”

P and I have also been doing a lot of apartment cleaning/rearranging since the departure of our friends. It was a little challenging to completely “settle in” when we first moved to our new place since we didn’t use certain sections of the apartment. Not to mention (frustratingly) there were a lot of small things around the apartment that were broken by previous tenants, that P and I didn’t have time or patience to fix before (don’t get me started on the landlady who lives thousands of miles away and is not interested in fixing these “small” inconveniencies.). I actually spent a good deal of Sunday afternoon on a ladder 12 feet up in the air  replacing venetian blinds and fixing the pulley systems to get them to open and close properly (perhaps working at an engineering college is starting to rub off on me?) Now that the weather is getting cold, being able to close the blinds and keep out the evening draft will  be important!

Lastly, I’ve also been working on wedding stuff—I found a dress for the American ceremony (hurray!), we finally locked in the Nepali ceremony site (another hurray!), and my sister printed “Save the Date” magnets that she designed for us that I am hoping to get out soon (which will be a “hurray!” once they are distributed). I’ve also been working on a website so that invitees can have more information about venues, times, dates, places to stay, etc. I’m hoping to have two pages that explain some of the cultural elements of the “white wedding” and the “red wedding” and for some reason have hit a bit of a wall—I’m not really sure what to include. Perhaps if I have time later today I’ll try to draft something and put it up here for some suggestions. I don’t want to overload people with information, but being an international educator I find the dual ceremonies a “teachable moment” and I want my friends and family to learn more about the traditions involved.

So that’s where I am these days. What are you up to? Any holiday/festivals coming up in your households? Do you have suggestions on what to write for Nepali or American wedding traditions?

Sel Roti SUCCESS!!

To read about the original challenge, click HERE.

Excuse me while I do a little happy dance….

I’m thrilled to report that the sel rotis were a success! Certainly there is a learning curve, and they aren’t perfect, but for a first timer, I think they are impressive and I’m very very happy.

But I have to admit that I was really nervous. I was worried that my confidence would make me look foolish if it didn’t work. Before trying my first sel roti frying I literally took a deep breath and thought, “Yikes! Here goes nothing”… but it worked out perfectly fine!

So my naak is quite thulo today ;) I wanted to show the process in pictures… for the recipe click HERE.

Main ingredient... rice!

Soak the rice over night

Drain rice in the morning

Other ingredients... rice, ghee (I substituted ghee for butter because I was told it would have a better taste), banana, sugar, water, rice flour is pictured and suggested, but I didn't use...

Everything in the blender...

I added ground cardamom seeds to enhance flavor... just a pinch

Fluff batter and then let sit (covered) for 30-60 minutes to "rest"

Make sure the oil is the right temperature... about 350 degrees F

Very first attempt. A little pathetic looking BUT the batter stayed together and it was almost in a circular shape! Not bad for attempt number one!!

First few attempts were... er... not great... there was a bit of a learning curve... my first one crumbled, pictured in top right hand corner :(

Looking better...

Woohoo!!

Team work with AS!

These are a bit on the "too crispy" side, but they taste great!

N's mom helped to make sure the batter was well mixed, she verified the correct consistency.

and AS was certainly the best roti maker in the house...

Right side-- the "learning curve" pile, left side-- "we are starting to get it right" pile

Taking it out of the oil

How the magic happens...

I'm pouring sel batter into the oil

Don't let anyone tell you it's too hard... it CAN be done! It just takes practice :)

Sel rotis turned out so well... I think we are going to try round 2 tomorrow!! Hurray!!

Sel Roti Prep

Team Nepal is trying to psych me out on the sel roti plan!

Tonight (Nov 4th) at dinner I was told not to get my hopes high, and that I should only try with “a little bit” of batter in case it doesn’t work well, then we can leave a small offering to god for Lakshmi puja and not worry because at least I tried. I keep being told “It’s hard! Really!” which I’m sure is true, but it only makes me stubbornly want to do it even more.

So I spent part of the evening tracking down sel roti videos on youtube and comparing the recipe I plan to use with other recipes I’ve seen online. P even called home to get advice from him mom. This sel roti plan is intense!

So the Sel Roti recipe I plan to practice with is from my Nepali Cookbook (pg 122):

3 cups white rice
1 medium very ripe banana
1 cup sugar, or to taste
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup rice flour, or as needed
4 to 5 cups vegetable oil

In a large bowl, soak rice in water overnight. Drain rice and place in a blender or food processor with banana, sugar, and butter and process, adding up to 1 1/4 cup of water to make a semi-thick puree with no grainy bits. You may have to do this in two batches. Transfer batter to a mixing bowl and beat with a fork until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel and set aside to rest for 20-25 mins.

When the batter is well-rested, mix it again. The consistency should be similar to heavy cream. If it seems too thick, gradually add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water; if it feels too thin, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of rice flour and mix well.

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat until it reaches 350 to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Test for readiness by placing a small drop of the batter into the hot oil. If it bubbles and rises to the surface immediately, it is ready. Pour about 1/4 cup batter into the oil slowly making a large circle (pour the batter from a cup or a pastry bag with a medium-size opening). Stretch and move the batter using a wooden spoon or chopstick to create a round shape. As the sel puffs and rises, push it into the oil with the back of a spoon until it is light golden brown. Flip and fry the second side until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain it on paper towels. Repeat until finished with the batter.

Hopefully by the end I’ll have nice rotis!

Some of the videos that helped me visualize the process (since I’ve never seen it done in person)…

Traditional method with your hand… (only for the seasoned veterans)…

Plastic bottle method (with a little “Resham Firiri” in the background)…

Using a metal bowl to help keep the rotis round shape… (cheating method?)

Using a cup to add batter, and timing (skip ahead to 2:28 and watch until 3:57 it gives you a good idea of how long to cook them, the rest of the video is random and not helpful)…

And finally two Nepali women with a cooking show segment. They mostly talk in Nepali with subtitles, but it gives you a good idea as well…

My rice is soaking, and I’m ready for action.

Tune in later to see how it goes…

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!

Bhai Tikka in Pictures

“Bhai Tikka” marks the final day of Tihar. I believe you could literally translate the holiday as bhai (brother) tikka (blessing); it is a day where sisters celebrate their brothers to ensure their long life and to thank them for the love and protection they give. As part of the festivities lots of good food is prepared for the brothers, and their sisters give them packages of sweets and nuts. There is a special puja, with a seven colored tikka and flower garlands. In return the sisters receive gifts or money from their brothers, and the whole ceremony acts as a strengthening and renewal of the brother-sister relationship.

A Tibetan dipection of Yama

A Tibetan depiction of Yama (Yamaraj)

I had a less detailed “origin story” for Bhai Tikka here before, but a friend sent me a good link, with a nice explanation: “Legend holds that when the Kirati King Bali Hang fell mortally ill, his sister Jamuna looked after him and guarded him. When Yamaraj, the God of Death, came for Bali Hang’s soul, Jamuna pleaded to wait until she finished worshipping her brother; that is, until Panchami (Bhai Tika). She then conducted a long and elaborate ceremony for her brother, and performed the same for Yamaraj. She also put forth some conditions: that Yamaraj should not take Bali Hang until the tika, which she had smeared on his forehead, fades away; until the water sprinkled on her brother dries; and until the makhmali flowers wilt. Over the years Yamaraj sent his messengers to inspect the flowers, and when the next Bhai Tika puja arrived Yamaraj admitted that he had lost Bali Hang’s soul to his pious sister and granted him long life.”

The article goes on to explain the individual elements of the ritual: “To begin

The elephant-headed god Ganesh-- one of the most famous images in Hindu iconography

The elephant-headed god Ganesh-- one of the most famous figures in Hindu iconography

the ceremony, the sister draws three mandaps or boundaries at a designated place. The mandaps are made for Lord Ganesh, Janmaraj (the God of Birth), and Yamaraj. The sister then performs the puja of the deities after which the brother is requested to sit on the mat for the tika ceremony. Special offerings are placed in front of him. While intoning a protective spell, the sister pours a circle of oil and holy water from a copper pitcher around his body as a boundary over which death and evil spirits cannot pass. Then, kneeling before him, she worships him with the offerings of flowers, nuts, fruits, and rice amidst flaming wicks and incense. She then breaks walnuts before applying the actual tika. The most important act is applying the special bhai tika—called saat rangi tika (seven colored tika), consisting of the colors of the rainbow. This is applied on top of a white base on the brother’s forehead. Creating the tika begins… [when the sister] applies the tika base (made from rice paste). The seven colors are dabbed on top of the base with her fingers… [or with a little stick.] Then, a flower garland is put around brother’s neck as the sister prays for his long life, happiness and continued prosperity.”

This year AS organized a small gathering for people who wanted to participate in Bhai Tikka. Usually one would tikka their “own” (biological) brothers as well as male cousins (cousin-brothers). AS’s “own” brother and cousin-brother live nearby, but for many their “own” sisters and brothers are far away. Being the tight-knit community that we are, long lasting friendships can grow into a brotherly/sisterly relationship anyway, and so we expanded the definition of “sister” and “brother” for this event.

We didn’t have garlands, but we made do with what we did have. Below are some pictures of the event:

The "puja platter"...with the seven different colors for the tikka

The "puja thaal"...with seven different colors for the tikka

AS rubs oil on P's head

AS rubs oil on P's head with a banana leaf

AS sprinkles water three times in a clockwise motion around P's head

AS sprinkles water three times in a clockwise motion around P's head

"Old Neighbor" puts tikka on P as other "sisters" get ready to put tikka

"Old Neighbor" puts tikka on P as other "sisters" get ready to put tikka

"Sisters" do an aarti for P's long life...

"Sisters" do an aarti for P's long life...

Two "brothers" with colorful tikkas

Two "brothers" with colorful tikkas

"Sisters" and "brothers"

"Sisters" and "brothers" post-tikka