In Nepal, different aspects of nature are worshipped along with gods and deities. One of such parts of nature highly valued in Nepal is animals. There are many festivals dedicated to the worship of different animals, birds and insects.
They are worshipped either as vahana (the vehicle) of any god or goddess or as the reincarnation/avatar of gods and goddesses. Plus, the support they add to making people’s lives easier is also valued.
Here, let’s find out which animals are worshipped in Nepal, when, and why:
Hindus in Nepal worship dogs on Kukur Tihar, the second day of Tihar, or the festivals of light, Tihar. Kukur Tihar is one of many renditions of the Nepali Hindus worshipping animals. The dog is considered the vahana (vehicle) of the Hindu deity Bhairava. Dogs, be it pet dogs or stray dogs, are worshipped on this day. They are offered tika, garlands, and food on this day.
The cow is considered the most sacred animal by Hindus as its entire body is believed to represent 330 million Hindu gods and goddesses. The cow is worshipped daily in most Nepali agricultural households that follow Hinduism and rear cows. However, cows are particularly worshipped on Gai Tihar, the third day of Tihar, by offering them garlands and tika and feeding them delicacies like malpua, fruits, and so on. The cow is regarded as the reincarnation of the goddess of wealth, Laxmi.
On the fourth day of Tihar, Goru Tihar, a day dedicated to goru (ox), oxen are worshipped. An ox is the vehicle of Lord Shiva and is called Nandi. Like cows and dogs, oxen are fed with delicious offerings and are worshipped by putting tika on their forehead and marigold garlands around their neck.
The festival of lights, Tihar, begins with worshipping crows. Crows are believed to be the messengers of Yamaraj, the god of death, therefore devotees hope to appease Yamaraj and ward off grief and death by worshipping crows. On the day of Kaag Tihar, devotees offer a little bit of every dish cooked for lunch to the crows before they have the meal and place the offering on the rooftop or on the streets. They also offer grains and seeds.
On the day of Shrawan Shukla Paksha Panchami, the fifth day of the waning moon in the lunar month of Shrawan, falls Naag Panchami, a festival dedicated to snake gods, naag. Devotees mount the picture of Naags on the top of the doorways with cow dung, put tika, dubo, rice grains, and offer milk and fruits believing that this will guard them against the bites of snakes, scorpions, and other poisonous animals and calamities like storms, fire, and lightning.
On the full moon day of Shrawan, on the day of Janai Purnima, some Newars of Kathmandu worship frogs as a part of a ritual in the month of Gun:laa. They offer frog rice while worshipping them.
On the full moon day in the month of Chaitra (March-April) falls Hanuman Jayanti, a day to worship Hanuman, popularly known as the monkey god. This day is celebrated by offering vermilion or red cloth to Hanuman, the faithful servant of Lord Ram as per the Mahabharat. The festival that marks the birthday of Hanuman is celebrated in India also.