The World’s Largest Sacrifical Festival

No, I’m not talking about Thanksgiving

Image of goddess Gadhimai

The BBC had a series of pictures from supposedly the “world’s largest sacrificial festival,” in honor of Gadhimai, the goddess of power,  in Southern Nepal.

If you want to see the BBC article in its original format please click HERE, otherwise I’ll re-post the article below:

Hundreds of thousands of Hindu devotees have converged on a town in Nepal for a festival which is considered the world’s largest animal sacrifice.

The Gadhimai festival, which happens once every five years, is taking place in Bariyapur in southern Nepal.

Over the next two days more than a quarter of a million animals are expected to be slaughtered for Gadhimai – a goddess of power.

Sacrifice is seen as a way of thanking the deity for good luck, or asking her for fortune and prosperity.

“The goddess needs blood,” says Chandan Dev Chaudhury, a priest at the Gadhimai temple in the centre of the festival site.

“If anyone has a problem, then I will cut the throat of an animal in the temple and that person’s problem will be solved.”

‘Ancient belief’

Many of the worshippers have come from neighbouring India for the two-day festival.

Sixty-year-old Suresh Patak and his family travelled for a day to reach the festival from the Indian state of Bihar.

They have brought a goat to offer to the goddess.

“I have come here to worship Gadhimai. We are dedicated to her,” he says.

“It is our ancient belief.”

Festival organisers estimate more than half a million people are already at the festival site.

Many of them, like Suresh, have brought their own animals to be killed.

Behind high brick walls, thousands of buffalo move silently through the winter fog.

They are the largest animals to be sacrificed, but goats, chickens, pigeons and rats will also be killed.

Police inspector Bikesh Adhikari is one of the officials guarding the buffalo enclosure.

“First of all five buffalo are taken and sacrificed at the temple,” he says.

“The rest are sacrificed here.”

Two hundred and fifty local men have been given licences to slaughter the animals using traditional khukuri knives.

Spectators queue to watch the killing, each paying 20 Nepali rupees (26 cents).

But the scale and method of this sacrifice has angered some Nepalis.

‘Cruel and barbaric’

Outside the temple grounds, a small but vocal group of animal rights activists cracked coconuts in a symbolic temple sacrifice.

It was a last-minute plea to the organisers of the festival to call off the event.

They say that it is cruel and barbaric and that Hindu gods can be appeased by fruit and flower sacrifices.

“We’re just giving out a message, that’s all we can do at this stage,” says protest organiser Pramada Shah.

“We’re not saying stop the Gadhimai festival – everybody’s having a nice time,” she says.

“But let’s have it in a less gory manner is all we’re trying to say.”

Men with their traditional khukuri knives prepare for the slaughter

But it is unlikely the animal sacrifice will stop.

Not only does the Gadhimai festival attract hundreds of thousands of worshippers, it is also big business.

The meat, bones and hides of the animals are sold to companies in India and Nepal.

Local hotels and restaurant owners thrive during the festival period.

And while protesters say they hope to raise awareness about the issue of animal cruelty, this ancient and bloody homage to the goddess Gadhimai looks set to continue.

On a side note, P said that they use a lot of the left over buffalo meat from the festival to make momos.

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14 responses to “The World’s Largest Sacrifical Festival

  1. it’s very shameful. I was hoping all the attention and protests would make a difference this time.

    I find myrepublica’s report on this event very disturbing:

    “The scene was like a battlefield because of the screaming of the men. It was violent and chaotic with the men charging at the more than 15,000 animals with their khukuris and swords and the scared buffaloes starting to run helter-skelter.

    The swordsmen, however, said that they enjoyed the sacrifices. “The more animals I kill, the more satisfied I feel,” Ramlal Mahato said. He added that he has taken to this practice to give continuity to an age-old tradition.”

    (src: http://myrepublica.com/portal/index.php?action=news_details&news_id=12149)

    • I can’t say that I approve of the sacrifices– the thought of it does bother me. But if you think about how many turkeys are killed for Thanksgiving (to give an example) there isn’t that much difference… chopping off the heads of a buffalo and a chicken… and one has a religious and one a secular reason. As long as they are both used for food, that is the important thing.

      I’m still not a big fan of either, but I kind of keep my mouth shut about these things in general nowadays.

      • happinessandsimplicity

        It’s hard to for me, too, to get up on a high horse about this, when I am so aware of the horrific practices of the meat industry in our own country. Some of the methods of slaughtering animals from factory farms and what have you are simply awful (not to mention the treatment of the animals while they are alive, which is arguably even more cruel), but the difference is that it’s done behind closed doors. It’s not a spectator event; it’s kept hidden from the public. At least in Nepal they are open about what they are doing – everyone knows about it. These people aren’t doing something they actually believe is wrong and trying to hide it, they are doing something they believe is right. There’s something to be said for that.
        I don’t agree with it, I think it’s terrible; but like you, I’m never sure where to draw the line on speaking up about these things, so I tend not to make a fuss.

  2. I agree but I am against the gory-ness of the whole sacrifice event at gadhimai. And there is no specific process for the slaughter except for mad men running around to kill.

    • I just assumed it was like the Dashain sacrifices where the buffalo’s horns are tied and the rope attached to a pole so that the neck is pulled straight for a quick blow.

  3. I believe in certain parts of India (Bengal maybe?) they used to have a similar animal sacrifice to Kali Ma, but it was banned and now they use non-living objects instead.

  4. The buddha forbade animal sacrifice 2500 years ago and so most mainstream hindu sects have substituted pumpkins and coconuts for animals

    One key difference I notice is that Nepalese Hindus eat Yak and Buffalo, while Indian Hindus avoid this

    In India, most of the animal sacrifice is done at lower caste Shakti temples run by non-brahmin priests and vegetarian castes avoid these temples

    Kshatriyas , ( warrior caste ) such as Rajputs and Chettris are worshippers of Shakti and animal sacrifice is a very important ritual for them. The rationale I have heard is that the blood shed makes them mentally prepared for warfare

  5. I don’t see anything wrong with animal sacrifice (other than, you know, the fact that people spend time & money on gods that don’t exist. But that’s true for most every religious practice.) From a moral perspective, I can’t see how it’s any worse than the slaughter of animals generally. And it might be better if the sacrifice leads people to have better lives (more mindfulness from religious rituals, a refocusing on behaving morally, etc). *shrug*

  6. “I believe in certain parts of India (Bengal maybe?) they used to have a similar animal sacrifice to Kali Ma, but it was banned and now they use non-living objects instead.”

    I think the Durga pooja sacrifices (balidaan) are still done in Bengal. I have never heard of them being banned, but I know that some modern religious figures discourage the sacrifice in the name of ahimsa.

    Also this Friday/Saturday was Eid al Adha, or also knows as Qurbaani Eid (qurbaan is sacrifice) or Bakra Eid (Eid of the Goat :-) ) to Urduphones…every financially able Muslim family slaughters or pays to have slaughtered a sheep/goat/cow and then shares a portion of the meat among the family and donates the remainder of the meat to the needy. We paid to have a bakra slaughtered and given to the poor in Pakistan.

    As long as the meat is not wasted, I don’t see any issue.

  7. @ LuckyFatima, I agree… as long as the meat is not wasted. I may not want to slaughter a goat myself, but I don’t stop my dad from giving P caribou meat from one of his hunting adventures, or P from eating it if he enjoys it… because that would be kind of ridiculous.

    I usually qualify my statements of being vegetarian by saying, “but not a preachy one.” I think a lot of people kind of roll their eyes and expect to get some moral or ethical lecture when they realize they are eating meat while sitting next to a veg, but long ago I took the stance that I am veg for myself, it is a personal choice and I’ll keep it to myself. Now whether or not to raise kids veg is a different story, I’ll have to write about that debate some other time.

    @ HappinessandSimplicity, I agree, that since this slaughtering is taking place in public verses “behind closed doors” it is easier to get up in arms about it. I don’t really see much difference between slaughtering these buffalos and turkeys for Thanksgiving… but I guess I’m kind of surprised at how some Nepalis I know are a bit disturbed by the festival, even though they have no qualms with meat eating in general.

  8. I usually qualify my statements of being vegetarian by saying, “but not a preachy one.”

    Oh come on, you aren’t a vegetarian because you care about animals, it is only because you hate plants! Come here carrot, let me destroy you! Crunch!!!

  9. Here’s another one I wanted to share:
    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=305041510566

    For the record, I do eat meat.

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