The significance of Animals in the culture of Nepal.

Nepal is a small mountainous country with an area of only 147,181 sq km expanding along the central and eastern Himalaya. The country is 885 km long from east to west and 193 km broad from south to north. Within a horizontal expanse of less than 200 km the altitudinal height of the country in the south-north direction varies from less than 100 m to 8848 m (Mt. Everest).

Animals have played a huge role from the starting of the civilization in this tiny landlocked country. The people were mostly farmers and since we lacked the technology of the heavy-duty agriculture vehicles, the people had to rely on the animals for the support.

Still, at this turn of the century donkeys and yaks are used as mules for the transportation of goods. People ride horses not bikes in the upper areas of the country. Due, to the geographical viewpoint at the middle part of the country buffaloes, is used to farm rather than using the tractor for farming.

farming at Nepal using domesticated animals.

The government has dedicated very much part of the country on preserving wildlife and there is strict law against the involvement of the wildlife trade. Although it is a difficult task the country has somehow preserved and increased the population of some animals otherwise nearly on the verge of extinction.

Unlike our neighbouring country China where mostly every animal is eaten we have poultry farming where the basics are eaten namely chicken, goat, sheep, pigs and somewhere wild boar to name a few. I cannot deny the fact that we Nepalese have an exclusive taste for some wildlife such as deer and even leopards but due to the strict law, it has become somewhat a king’s feast to have them in the dinner plate.

When it comes to religion majority of the religion, they are Hindus and when it comes to Hinduism most of the deity of gods and goddess have their own separate animals as their companion and symbols some of them are:

Brahma- Swan
Brahma, the god of creation, travels all over outer space on a swan, chanting the sacred Hindu scripture the Vedas. The elegant swan is symbolic of intelligence. As per Hindu tradition, it’s a bird which can figuratively sift the pure from the impure, like it sieves milk from water. Sometimes, Brahma is shown riding seven swans..

Durga – Lion
Ishtar, the Mesopotamian goddess of war is seen with a lion. Similarly, Durga, the mother of the universe and the warrior goddess, pierces a spear into the buffalo demon’s heart, while riding a lion. The lion, as we all know, has been nicknamed the King of the Jungle. In Hinduism it’s also considered the supreme of all animals. Also, let’s keep in mind that the goddess rides a tame lion. The lion may also represent gluttony and the craving for sensory pleasures which gives birth to lust. The goddess riding a lion may also symbolize that she has tamed the instincts of greed, lust and gluttony to rise to a spiritual height.

Ganesha–Mouse
Ganesha, the huge elephant-headed god, who is worshipped for wealth and prosperity, mounts on a mouse. This rodent was actually a god named Kroncha in his previous life. He had accidentally stepped on the toes of Saint Vamadeva, who was also worshipped as a god. Stepping on a spiritual being is considered blasphemous in Hinduism. Kroncha desperately begged apology. Vamadeva’s wrath simmered down. Undoing a curse is mythically impossible, but he toned it down by saying that he would become Ganesha’s vehicle.
As per mythologists, the mouse is symbolic of basal desires. Being dark in colour, it is also averse of light or truth. Some feel that the mouse is representative of the egoistic mind, as it can metaphorically gnaw on the virtues of man. Ganesha, by mounting the mouse, thereby symbolically conquers impure desires, spiritual darkness and pride.

Indra–Elephant
Indra, the god of rain and thunderstorms, rides a white elephant called Airavata. This winged elephant was hatched from a cosmic egg. Of the 16 elephants that were born from this egg, Airavata was by far the strongest. This mythical creature sucks water with her trunk and sprinkles it on earth thereby creating rain. He had fathered winged white elephants as well. One day they accidentally interrupted a class conducted by a sage when he was teaching. He put a curse on them which clipped their wings. The white elephants of today are said to be Airavata’s descendents. Airavata besides being Indra’s vahana is believed to, along with his siblings, hold up the eastern hemisphere of the globe.

Kartikeya –-Peacock
Kartikeya, the god of war is seen in pictures as perched on a magnificent peacock. The prevailing myth is that the peacock doesn’t copulate with the peahen. Therefore it is regarded as a chaste bird. As the old wives’ tale goes the peacock is contented with its magnificent plumes but is deeply embarrassed by its unattractive legs. While it joyfully dances under a cloudy sky, when it glances at its legs, it is moved to tears. The peahen sips the tears and conceives. So, the message to all warriors is that they should forgo all sexual desires, if they wish to emerge victorious in war. The scientific truth however is that peacocks do have sexual intercourse.

Lakshmi–Owl
Lakshmi, the goddess of fortune, wealth and prosperity mounts the wise old white owl. Besides wisdom, the bird also symbolizes patience and intelligence. Its white plumes denote spiritual purity. It is also bestowed with the mythical powers of fortune telling. Simultaneously, this owl also serves the practical purposes of a barn owl. In the state of Bengal in India, the annual festival dedicated to the worship of Goddess Lakshmi, is celebrated in late autumn. This is when the farmers have just reaped a rich harvest and have stocked their granaries with food grains. The owl cleanses the granaries of all pests, thereby protecting the grain. The more grain the farmer sells, the wealthier he/ she will become.

Saraswati–Swan
Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge, wisdom, learning, music and arts is seen with a swan. As she is after all Brahma’s consort, it’s not surprising that she has chosen the same bird as the ride.

Shani–Crow/Raven/Vulture
Hindus pray to Lord Shani to ward off influences of evil forces. Just like mischievous magpies have ill repute in the occidental part of the globe because of their thieving tendencies; in India crows too are linked with stealing. By mounting the crow, Shani is said to suppress pilfering habits in people. He is also the god who metes out punishment to those who have abided by evil ways.

Shitala—Donkey
Shitala is prayed to with the hope that she’ll ward off chicken pox, measles and sores. She is believed to ride the streets of villages on a donkey with a broom, sweeping paths free of germs.

Shiva–Bull
Shiva, the destroyer, rides a bull named Nandi. The bull is a strong animal symbolizes virility. Nandi is Shiva’s ardent devotee. He is said to have lived with the god in the heavenly snowy abode of Kailash.

Vishnu–Eagle
Vishnu, the Preserver/Protector mounts an eagle-like creature called Garuda. To save his mother, Garuda flew to the heavens and slayed two snakes to fetch a pot of nectar. Since that day, Garuda developed acrimony with snakes and started feeding on them. The eagle, as we all know, preys on snakes too. Garuda is seen as clutching two snakes and with serpents garlanded around him.

Yama–Male Buffalo
Yama, the lord of death, rides a black buffalo. This celestial beast is said to be strong enough to ferry two armoured gods. Yama is also the god of righteousness, his tough water buffalo is said to be symbolic of upholding justice. Yama, perched on the buffalo roams around the world, searching for souls which are about to exit the earthly abode.

Ayyappa–Tiger
The tiger is the vehicle of God Ayyappa, who happens to be Shiva’s son, conceived of the enchantress Mohini. The baby Ayyappa was forsaken on the river banks and was found by a childless king. Later, the queen had a biological child. She faked an illness which would only be cured by tiger’s milk. She summoned Ayyappa to fetch the milk. The wicked woman secretly hoped that the tiger would kill him. He returned victoriously on a female tiger along with her cubs, carrying a pot full of milk. The royal couple realized that he was a god. The queen pleaded for forgiveness.

So, as we can see almost most of the animals are sacred in a way. Either they are a companion or they are worshipped. Just as an example there is a day once in a year where we worship snakes- called Nagpanchami and there is a day where a dog is worshipped called Kukur Tihar.

So, overall the of the animals in Nepal is much more than it is thought.

Nag pachami festival, happens once a year in Nepal

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