Do Hindu scriptures hate Dogs?

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Even this is my vow steadily pursued, that I never give up a person who is terrified, nor one who is devoted to me, nor one who seeks my protection, saying that he is destitute, nor one who is afflicted, nor one who has come to me, nor one who is weak in protecting oneself, nor one who is solicitous of life. I shall never give such one till my own life comes to an end.

Do Hindu scriptures detest dogs? I am often perplexed by the attitude of “orthodox” Hindus, and particularly the Brahmans and their priestly class, against dogs. They call it “unclean”, “bad omen” and what not. But what they definitely don’t know is the fact that their “holiest” of scriptures too revere the “man’s best friend”. Here’s this story is from Mahabharatha‘s “Mahaprasthanika Parva” which will prove my point beyond doubt.

Translated as “Book of Great Journey” – Mahaprasthanika Parva is the shortest among the eighteen books that constitute the world’s greatest epic – Mahabharatha. This section narrates how five Pandava brothers and their wife – Draupadi – resolved to retire from the world for earning merit and how they set out on their last journey, accompanied by a dog.

Resolved to retire from the world to heaven, Pandavas installed Parikshit – son of their slain son Abhimanyu – on the throne. They then began proceeding to the north towards Himavat (The personification of Himalayas). Crossing the Himavat, they beheld a vast desert of sand. They then saw the mighty mountain Meru, the foremost of all high-peaked mountains and began approaching it.

One by one, as they approached, they began to began grasping for breath. Eventually only Yudhisthira could make it to the top where he was approached by Shakra in a celestial chariot to fly him to Swarga (heaven). He was welcomed there by Shakra; but Yudhisthira refused to come without his wife and five brothers. But Shakra confirmed their presence in heaven in the subtle form.

Assured of righteous place for his wife and brothers, Yudhisthira then turned to his pet dog. “O lord of Past and the Present, this dog is exceedingly devoted to me. He should be permitted to enter the Swarga. My heart is full of compassion for him.” But Shakra advised Yudhisthira to cast off the dog and said there won’t be any cruelty in it.

“As a person who has sought to live righteously, it is exceeding difficult for me to perpetrate an act of unrighteousness. I do not desire that union with prosperity for which I have to cast off one who is devoted to me.” the wise King declared.

I do not desire that union with prosperity for which I have to cast off one who is devoted to me.

Yudhisthra then heard from Indra the ruler of the Swarga (heaven), who said “There is no place in Heaven for person with dogs. Besides, the deities called Krodhavasas take away all the merits of such persons. You must abandon this dog and there’d be no demerit in it.”

Yudhisthira replied “It has been said that the abandonment of one that is devoted is infinitely sinful. It is equal to the sin that one incurs by slaying a Brahmana. Hence, O great Indra, I shall not abandon this dog from desire of my happiness. Even this is my vow steadily pursued, that I never give up a person who is terrified, nor one who is devoted to me, nor one who seeks my protection, saying that he is destitute, nor one who is afflicted, nor one who has come to me, nor one who is weak in protecting oneself, nor one who is solicitous of life. I shall never give such one till my own life comes to an end.”

India replied “You have renounced everything. Haven’t you? Then why don’t you renounce this dog too?”

Yudhisthira replied “This is well known in all the worlds that there is neither friendship nor enmity with those who are dead. When my brothers and Krishna died, I was unable to revive them. Hence it was that I abandoned them. I did not, however, abandon them as long as they were alive. To frighten one who has sought protection, the slaying of a woman, the theft of what belongs to a Brahmana, and injuring a friend, each of these four, O Indra, I think is equal to the abandonment of one who is devoted.”

Eventually, the Devas had to give in to the wisdom of Yudhisthira and let the dog enter Swarga – the world of eternal bliss.

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