gadhimai festival – the nepalese slaughter frenzy

Every year thousands of animals are slaughtered by humans across the globe “in the name of gods “ ; for either receiving their blessings or simply for them to have mercy on us. While slaughtering mostly happens in the name of religion and religious beliefs, something which comes across as much tougher to be changed.

Friday 28th November 2014 witnessed world’s largest animal slaughtering event; near about 5000 buffaloes were slaughtered at a go in Nepal for celebrating the “Gadhimai festival”.

The Gadhimai festival is a sacrificial ritual that is held every 5 years at the Gadhimai temple of Bariyarpur, in southern Nepal. It involves sacrificial slaughter of animals including water buffaloes, pigs, goats, chicken, rats, and pigeons – with the goal of pleasing Gadhimai, the goddess of power who would in turn deliver them from evil and bring prosperity. About 5 million people participate in the festival, and 70% of the devotees are people from the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar , attending the festival in Nepal because of a ban on animal sacrifice in their own states.

The festival starts in the month of November and ends somewhere in December with the sacrificial rituals beginning somewhere in the mid of November by the head priest , who sacrifices a white mouse, pigeon or dove ,a goat or a buffalo; and trickles his own blood along with that of any of these animals.

Although the Indian government has asked for ensuring that no animals should be transported or transferred from Indian states of UP and Bihar massive slaughtering that happens during the festival definitely needs a high supply of livestock, which cannot be meant without a supply from the neighbouring countries and therefore it is sceptical to comment whether the animals are still sent from India or not.

If we dig into the number of the slaughter that took place earlier, in 2009 near about 200000 animals and birds had been sacrificed but credits to the strict norms put in by the Indian government and also the global condemnation of the sacrificial ritual, the number of animals being slaughtered has fallen down drastically and we can expect a change in ideologies that may lead to a complete renunciation of such rituals.

The Hindu community may choose to call it a sacrosanct ritual or belief but we cannot deny the fact that it is barbaric. Both animal as well as human sacrifice have been practiced by the Hindu faith believers, however the latter being less popular. Animal sacrifice is associated with the practice of “shaktism” and is strongly rooted in the tribal culture and traditions. Although the religion doesn’t require an individual to practice slaughter or “ Bali “ as we call it in Hindi , the taboos and traditional practices still seem to be prevalent in many parts of the country.

Throughout history, the weak, be it animals or humans themselves; have always been subject to being offered as a sacrificial offering to please the gods. Civilizations across the history have fathered this belief that offering in the form of life, any kind of life, brings happiness and prosperity. The great wars that were fought were nothing less than a mass slaughter; the only difference being that here it was” humans “that got sacrificed for the kings and kingdoms.

I do not really understand if this is a kind of a satiation of the need to establish oneself as the mighty; or it is really some kind of a spiritual / tantric link to reach out the gods; if there are any! However what I do understand is that we are all a creation of this same god for whom we make sacrifices and therefore ideally, he would not demand of a sacrifice of his own creation.

Now, interestingly all the sacrificial offerings get consumed by humans and apparently nothing goes to the blood thirsty god’s! Then what sense does it really make if your god cannot come down on the earth, accept your offering and consume it with you? How can we then even justify the sacrifice and explain ourselves that it has got accepted with the gods or not? How can we establish whether the gods are happy or still grumpy? I’m sure Zeus will not strike a lightening bolt to let us know that, neither will Poseidon storm the seas to reveal his anger!

How do you even know if that is what your god wants? Surely the gods will not visit us in prayers or meditations or dreams and convey the idea of sacrifice, they must have better things to do.

Isn’t it ironical that this very god we claim of having taught us compassion for all that is life demands us of a “ritual murder”? everything that humans do to satisfy their own ego and beliefs has to necessarily get tagged as “ god’s demand” ; we are so use to this super imposed belief that” everything beyond an explanation and which is unjust on humanitarian grounds” comes as an ordinance from the god’s. Burning women during the medieval times, for instance, was demanded by the god’s because women according to the belief were evil “Satan”.

We may blame this completely on the value systems that have been handed down to us by our elder generations; but there are a lot of practices and traditions that have been given up no matter how closely we’ve had hold of them; we have discarded them on grounds of being unjust, barbaric, gruesome, cruel etc, then why not do the same for animal sacrifice? Don’t we take an undue advantage of the fact that we lie at the top of the the pyramid of life ? Don’t we misuse the benefit of the fact that “we can think, speak and express”?

It’s a mockery of life and religion. Sacrificial rituals are nothing but a primitive thought; they are a psychological fear and an urgent need to gain control over the future.

Doesn’t the idea of sacrifice bringing good luck sound too Neolithic? We need to outgrow these taboos. Definitely such acts should be treated with contempt and be subject to punishment; for no-one has the right to claim another’s life “even if it is an animal for that sake.

Ecclesiastical spirit no longer inspires the policy of the world; such acts are only a restoration of the mediaeval order of things, loudly declaring that there is less reconciliation with the modern civilization.

For me it is more of an antagonism between a personal belief and religion and you may completely agree to disagree with me, but the truth still persists; we cannot live our lives in traditional beliefs from our past. We talk of a modern civilisation yet we are boorishly ancient in our practices

Look at the dwindling numbers of wildlife across the globe, look at the way our ecological system is morphing; isn’t it all an aftermath of our activities?

We are a race that has always worshipped the forces of nature and its creations then why have our practices shifted to its sabotage?

We like to interfere with the ways of nature; we forget the fact that she can overpower us, but even a tiger doesn’t kill without a reason.

There’s a meaning to why we have the special gifts “to be able to think and speak, to be able to express; all we need is a deliberate contemplation of the fact and the readiness to use them for the betterment of all that is life.