— Shashwat DC
Every five years, a macabre and gruesome ritual takes place in the in the Bariyapur village in Nepal. In the name of the local goddess, Gadhimai, there is a month long festival that takes place where animals are sacrificed. And it is not just a few goats, buffaloes or chickens, but thousands and thousands of them. The sheer number of animal sacrifice has earned the Gadhimai festival the sobriquet of being the biggest ever animal slaughter exercise on the planet. The last time this festival took place in 2009, it was estimated as to some 500,000 animals were killed in a matter of days.
If the sheer numbers were overwhelming, the way the animals are sacrificed is completely abhorable and inhuman by any standards. A few hundred men armed with curved swords (kukris) will roam around the herd, and keep beheading the animals in the most gory of fashion (Here’s a link to a Youtube video, but it is not for the faint-hearted). Hindu devotees from India and Nepal gather at the village and offer animals to appropriate the goddess, or thank her for mercies. In the process, the village turns into a large abattoir, where thousands of buffaloes, pigs, goats, pigeons, rabbits and chickens are killed.
There have been numerous protests against the event, a lot of animal activists and NGOs have raised voice against this brutal killing. Even international celebs like Bridgette Bardot and Joanna Lumley have pleaded with the Nepalese government to stop the massacre. In fact, recently India’s Supreme Court directed the government to enforce a ban on illegal entry of animals to Nepal especially for the Gadhimai Mela. On the cyberspace there are lot of groups and individuals have raised voices on Facebook & Twitter, there are online petitions being floated asking for a ban on the killings. But considering that this festival is shrouded in religious hues, there has been no movement to abet it. Also, beyond the religious dogma, the festival is also big business. The meat, bones and hides of the animals sacrificed are sold off to companies in India and Nepal. Thanks to the huge rush of people and the boost to the economy, the local hotel and people are hence unwilling for the festival to stop.
And now, after a gap of 5 years, the mass-maiming-festival is back again. On Friday the killings resumed and will do so for the month. In the morning the temple’s head priest performed the Saptabali ritual by sacrificing seven animals namely, mice, pigeon, rooster, duck, pig and of course water buffalo. Apparently, the festival has its roots in the ancient past, when a prisoner was visited by the goddess in a dream and promised liberty in return for offering. These animals are thus sacrificed in hope and in admiration.
The world over animals are ritually sacrificed in festivals be it the turkeys in Thanksgiving, or goats during Eid, but nothing matches the sheer scale and size of this mass-killing. Traditionally, Hindus and Hinduism is associated with being conscious and concerned about flora & fauna, and this festival is a big stigma on that reputation.
There is no option but for this barbarous and outrageous festival to stop. No sane society or people can condone such brutality, be it for whatsoever reasons. People across race, religion and region need to unite against this archaic barbarity. Somehow, if goddess Gadhimai could speak, even she would strongly raise her voice against this festival. No goddess will be happy in a sea of blood of innocent animals. No one would.