|Dog in Scriptures|
Dog In Hindu Scriptures
See also Animals
Dogs have always been associated with Yam, the god of Death. If a big calamity or death is going to happen, dogs will know it well in advance and bark or howl for several days before that event. We read such stories before big earthquakes or tsunamis or volcanic eruptions. Scientists now know the reason for their strange behavior. They are thousand times more sensitive than human beings. They can feel the tremors deep beneath the ground. Their smelling is 3000 times more powerful than humans.
What does the dog represent in Hindu mythology that renders it inauspicious?
In Hindu mythology, the dog is the most inauspicious animal, to be
kept away from wedding altars and holy sites. A howling dog becomes
a harbinger of bad luck. In fact, even the sight of a dog is considered
to bring bad luck.
Why is it so? Dogs are such lovable creatures, obedient and affectionate. Even in the Rig Ved, the role of a dog as a protector, is acknowledged when Indra sends the mother of dogs, Saramaa, in search for his missing cows.
As dogs have associated with death which is why Saramaa's children, the Sarameya, are the companions of Yam, god of death. They are associated not with civilization but with the wilderness which is why they are associated with mendicants, like Dattaatreya. The dog is the mount of Bhairav, the fearsome form of Shiv. A dog is considered so inauspicious that in Mahaabhaarat, Yudhishthir is not allowed to enter heaven with the dog. On the other hand to test Yudhidhthir, Dharm Raaj assumed only the form of a dog.
Some would argue that dogs rummage through garbage which is why they are unclean, which is why they are not allowed to come near temples. But these rational explanations do not provide a satisfactory answer. Literal interpretations are convenient but not correct. Logically speaking, a dog should be the symbol of devotion in Hinduism; yet Hindu worship Hanumaan, the monkey-god, as the perfect devotee. Mythology must never be taken literally; mythology is symbolic. Mythic stories and symbols are a code, a medium through which the ancestors are communicating profound messages. When the dog is considered inauspicious, it means the dog represents a thought that is inauspicious. What is this inauspicious thought?
In Bhaagvat Puraan is the story of Bharat who is a hermit in the forest. He gives up everything but slowly gets attached to a deer. As a result, he is unable to attain Moksh. He is reborn as a deer, trapped once more in the cycle of rebirth. Attachment entraps: This is a key maxim of Hindu philosophy.
Now visualize a dog looking at you with eagerness and affection it adores you and its behavior melts your heart. If you have a pet dog, you will know the dog constantly seeks validation from you. Give it that attention it craves and it will wag its tail, don't give it and it will whine.
Now visualize a hermit surrounded by dogs. Does he surrender to the affection of the dog? Does he, like Bharat getting attached to a deer, get attached to these dogs? If he seeks to break free from the cycle of rebirths, he must transcend the urge to get attached. The dog is the ultimate temptation, because the dog gives its master absolute unconditional love and devotion. Nothing is more tempting, not even the dance of damsels known as Apsaraa. When Dattaatreya, the mendicant, walks with four dogs around him, it indicates his perfect detachment. The dogs follow him but he does not lead them.
The dog is a territorial animal. For the dog, even the master is territory that it will not share. Even when domesticated with all needs fulfilled, the dog needs to mark its territory by raising its legs and spraying its urine. Threaten this territory and the dog will turn on you. This behavior, the ancients realized, is not something to be celebrated in human beings.
Human beings are also territorial. Territory gives us our sense of identity and validation. It is the context that establishes who we are. An industrialist's identity comes form the industries he owns; a bureaucrat's identity comes from the position he holds; a politician's identity comes from the power he holds in the party and the assembly. Any threat to the context that gives him identity, and he will react much in the same way a dog barks.
We feel that if we lose our territory (not just physical but also intellectual and emotional), we will lose our identity. That frightens us. We become dogs wagging tails when territory is reinforced, barking when territory is threatened, whining when territory is unacknowledged. At the root of this dog-like behavior is fear, Bhaya, fear of invalidation.
He who helps us overpower this fear is Bhairav. This form of Shiv terrifies us because it mocks our primal territorial instinct. In temples such as Kaal Bhairav in Delhi and Vaaraanasee, Bhairav is worshipped with alcohol. Alcohol clouds judgment. From a clouded judgment comes this warped understanding that from territory comes identity. The industrialist forgets that even if he clings and fights for his territory, one day Yam, the god of death, and his Sarameya, will take his away from his territory. So it will be with the politician and the bureaucrat and the writer and the artist.
Our material, intellectual and emotional territories that we jealously guard, whose loss makes us insecure, are no different from the bone of a dog. We cling and fight over it, until the day we die. And when we die and our bodies reach the crematorium, we find there an inebriated Bhairav seated on a dog laughing at us for a life wasted in a futile pursuit.
(1) Dog in Ved
(2) Dog in Raamaayan
(3) Dog in Mahaabhaarat - Yudhishthir's Dog
(4) Indra's Dog
(5) Yam Raaj's Dog
(6) Kaal Bhairav's Dog
(7) Bhagavaan Dattaatreya's Dogs
(8) Shankaraachaarya and Dogs
Dog's Reference Elsewhere
Roughly translated - the five indications of a good student are ---
Oldest Dog on the Earth
Some Special Dog in the Modern World
(2) The most famous Tokyo dog Hachiko was raised by a professor at the University of Tokyo. Every day the dog came to Shibuya railway station to receive him. After a year of this strange friendship, Professor H. Ueno died suddenly. He never came to the station, but the dog Hachiko came to the station looking for his master everyday for nine years. The dog died of cancer in 1935. Even before he died, a newspaper story about the dog made it a national celebrity. In 1934, one year before his death, people erected a bronze statue in front of Shibuya Railways station and the dog also took part in the opening ceremony. After his death, his body was stuffed and is kept in the National Museum in Tokyo.
Created by Sushma Gupta on 5/9/09
Updated on 10/03/13