Nepal’s Gadhimai festival draws animal blood and millions of visitors

The Gadhimai festival in Nepal happens once every 5 years, and is as entrenched in centuries old history as it is in animal cruelty.

Nepal, the land of serene beauty and birth place of Buddha who taught non-violence to the world, is getting ready for the world’s biggest animal sacrifice festival to be held on November 2014.

This centuries-old festival is observed once every five years at the premises of Gadhimai temple of Bariyapur village, Bara district for 15 days. The sacrifice is done to conciliate Gadhimai, Goddess of power. Millions of people from different parts of Nepal and India gather for this religious event.

Preparation for the festival begins one year before the event. Devotees strongly believe that Goddess Gadhimai fulfills the wishes of the people in return for the pledge they make of offering sacrifices of animals and birds to the Goddess. So, aficionados visit Bariyapur to meet their pledges made to the Goddess once in every five year.

This massacre begins when the lamp ignites on its own. Once the lamp is lit spontaneously, the priests show the lamp to the gathering. This lamp is considered as an indication from Gadhimai for her thirst for blood or she has signalled for the animal sacrifice. First, all the weapons which are used in the animal sacrifice are worshipped. This is followed by the animal sacrifice.

The sacrifice commences by offering five different animals (Panchabali): pigs, buffaloes, goats, roosters, and rats. Male domestic Asian water buffaloes (Bubalus bubalis) (locally called “PaaDa”) are the most preferred animals to offer to Goddess. Several other animals like male goats (Boka), chickens (Murgha), Pigeons (Parewa), Ducks (Batakh), and some rats (Moos) are also killed sacrificed in the name of offering to Gadhimai.

This vicious event dates back to 260 years, when Bhagwan Chaudhary, the feudal landlord was imprisoned in Makwanpur fort. He dreamt that all his worries would be solved if he makes a blood sacrifice to Gadhimai, goddess of power. Immediately after his release, he approached local village healer whose descendant, Dukha Kachadiya, started the ritual with drops of his own blood from five parts of his body.

The random killing of the animals is done around Gadhimai temple within the radius of 3 km. Anyone can watch or participate in the animal killing after paying Rs. 25/-. Anyone can also slay an animal with a sword or knife.

Sometimes the killers first cut the buffalo’s hind legs and when the animal lies on the ground, beheading is done.  Inexperienced butchers and blunt knives take 20 to 25 attempts to kill a big buffalo, which results in the slow and painful death of the animal. The heads of the buffaloes are either buried in nearby pits or left as it is. The body can be taken by anyone who consumes it. The skin of the sacrificed buffaloes is taken by the festival management committee, which is then sold into leather industry. Following this is the sacrifice of other animals and birds by making a slit at their throat.

The animals which are offered to Gadhimai are not treated well. Most of the animals are not provided with water and food for two to three days before sacrifice. These animals are transported to Gadhimai temple in abysmal conditions. The animals witness the killing of the countless others before they are slaughtered themselves. Mother animals are slaughtered infront of their offsprings. A large number of animals die due to dehydration, stress and exhaustion.

This worst carnage turns the entire area into a marshy land of blood, and the heads of the animals are beleaguered everywhere represents the suffering inflicted on these animals, leading to the fulfillment of wishes by the goddess. It is said that around 2,50,000 farm animals were slaughtered in 2009, and witnessed by more than 5 million people.

Despite worldwide protests and campaigns against this custom, arrangements are being made for this hideous festival in Nepal. The Indian Government has issued a new directive against the animal transport across the Nepal border during the Gadhimai festival, as more than 70% of devotees are from neighbouring states in India, where animal sacrifice is banned.

As quoted in Buddha Despada 54, “All beings tremble before danger, all fear death. When a man considers this, he does not kill or cause to kill.” When man experiences the fear of death there might be no animal sacrifice to fulfil his desires. Every human being should understand that animals also feel pain, and they have equal right to live. Life is dear to all. It is possible to save the life of these innocent animals when man stops being selfish, and realizes that sacrificing animals is not a short cut to get what he desires. Hope that day comes soon and there won’t be any wrath in Gadhimai festival.

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