Tihar festival honors dogs, unites campus to community

Students, staff, faculty and others gathered at Bayou Park, on a windy Saturday,  with their canines to celebrate the Tihar Dog Festival which was hosted by the International Students Association and the Nepalese Students Association.

The Tihar festival originates in Nepal, and spans for five days a week. On each day, specific celebrations occur. Kukur (dog) Tihar is celebrated on the second day.

The celebration honors dogs, thanking them for their loyalty, companionship and service throughout history. In Hinduism, dogs are revered as messengers of the god, Yama and incarnations of the god Bhairava.

Dogs are sacred creatures, and are adorned with garlands of marigolds around their necks and tikka on their heads.

During the ULM Tihar Dog Festival, pups and pooches had the opportunity to play with one another and anyone who wished to celebrate them. It was a wholesome, beautiful experience for human and companion alike.

Eliana Battle, a freshman criminal justice major, brought her dog, Elly, a poodle and schnauzer mix, to the festival.

“I think it’s very good for the dogs to get out and be social with other dogs and people. The festival helps bring people together,” Battle said.

Misisipi Bhandari, a Nepalese member of the ISA and NSA at ULM, did henna for the attendees.

“In Hindu culture, Tihar is the festival of light. The main theme of this festival is to remove the darkness from our souls in order to hope for peace and love. We also worship dogs to celebrate the special connection they have with us,” Bhandari explained.

Bhandari also said that humans need nature; we cannot survive on our own. The Tihar festival in Nepal acknowledges our deep connection with the elements in nature as well as honoring specific animals like dogs, crows and cattle.

Tihar takes place annually in Nepal during the months of autumn. This was the first Kukur Tihar festival at ULM to date. The festival received a substantial turnout. The ISA and NSA plan to host more Tihar festivals in the future.

“I am very thankful the international office planned this event. It offers us and the dogs a break from stress. On this day, we honor the dogs by giving them food, tika and garlands to please them. We worship them for their loyalty to humans, and I think we need to keep doing this every year. To us, this is therapy. Right now, I’m at peace.” Sujata Gautam, a Nepalese member of NSA, said.