The mythical canines!
Man’s association with dogs dates back to centuries. The ubiquitous dog has been considered man’s best friend for as long as this universe existed. So, have our Gods also felt the canine love? Sure, here’s more on our legendary canines!
Pooches in Hindu mythology
Animals have played a significant role in Hindu mythology. Almost all Gods and Goddesses worshipped by the Hindus have been associated with some animals or the other. Lord Ganesha has the mouse as his vehicle, Lord Yama is seen riding a buffalo, Lord Vishnu flies on Garuda, the eagle, Lord Shiva has a snake wound around his neck, while a peacock carries Lord Subramanyan and Goddess Kali has the royal tiger to take her around. And here’s more about the Gods and their canines:
Lord Shiva’s various incarnations: Bhairava is Shiva’s fierce manifestation, who is accompanied by a dog. Feeding and taking care of dogs is another way of showing devotion to Lord Bhairava. So, devout Hindus on a pilgrimage to Kasi (Benares) visit the temple of Kalabhairava without fail and they believe that the best way to seek His divine blessings is to feed sweetmeats to 11 dogs every Saturday.
Another incarnation of Lord Shiva in other parts of India known as Khandoba, also had the same attributes. Legend has it that Khandoba rode on a dog. Deities such as Rudra and Virabhadra, both incarnations of Lord Shiva, were associated with dogs, and a soubriquet describing Rudra characterizes him as ‘shvapati’ or ‘master of the dog’.
Lord Dattatreya: Lord Dattatreya has four dogs, considered to symbolize the four Vedas – Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Atharva Veda and Sama Veda. They follow the Lord as “hounds of heaven -and watchdogs of truth” and are owned by Datta, the greatest hunter for the souls of men.
Yama: Who doesn’t know Yama, the God of Death, who had two ferocious dogs, the offspring of Samara, which guarded the herds of Indra, the king of gods? These dogs reportedly wander among men as messengers of Yama. They also guard the roads leading up to His abode.
Yudhishtira: The last part of the Mahabharata narrates the story of Yudhisthira, the eldest of the Pandava brothers, during his journey to heaven. At the peak of Mount Meru, Yudhisthira met Indra, who refused to admit Yudhisthira to heaven because he insisted on bringing along a stray dog, which according to Indra, was an unholy creature not worthy of a place in heaven.
This dog had been a faithful companion to Yudhisthira throughout his long journey on earth. When Indra questioned, “You can leave your brothers behind, not arranging proper cremations for them…and you refuse to leave behind a stray dog?” Yudhisthira replied, “Draupadi and my brothers chose to leave me, and it is not I who left them.” Saying thus, he refused to go to heaven unless the dog was allowed entry by the sentry. At that moment the dog changed its form into God Dharma, Yudhisthira’s father, who was only testing his son.
Kunnathurpadi Sree Muthappan temple: Have you ever heard of a temple where two majestic dogs guard the royal deity? Yes, I am referring to the Kunnathurpadi Sree Muthappan temple in Kerala’s Kannur district. Dogs are considered sacred at this temple and one can see plenty of dogs roaming inside and around the temple. Devotees feed these dogs and the camaraderie between man and his best friend is very much in evidence here. Bronze temple dogs guard the sanctum sanctorum of the temple, which is a concrete structure with tiered roofs that is supported by pillars and decorated with elephants. Even today, the glorious legend of the dog is carried forward by the devout, who care for the animal and feed it religiously at least to cleanse their sins and guarantee a berth in heaven, if not for the love of dogs.
Shirdi Sai Baba – a dog lover too: Anyone who has visited the holy shrine of Shirdi will not miss the divine sight of scores of stray dogs roaming freely within the temple premises unmindful of the lakhs of devotees milling around them. It is believed that Sai Baba loved dogs immensely.
Thus, dogs have a sacred place in our hearts and lives and when they are associated with our Gods, they are divine!