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Nepal: The festival of sacrifices

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From Reuters blog

Cherrila Bhutia

Research Scholar at Sikkim Central University

Located amidst the lap of the Himalayas, Nepal is filled with vibrant culture and tradition which has stayed rooted within the place and its people since time immemorial. So enigmatic is the place that it attracts tourists from all across the globe to witness its mystic charm. Furthermore, Nepal had a distinct identity of being the only Hindu nation in the world until 2007 after which it was declared as a secular country under the Maoist rule.

The religious practices in Nepal however continue to be brutal as it might have been in the bygone years. To be specific, the ritual of animal sacrifice is prevalent in the country. There have been attempts to bring down this brutal practice few of which have been successful. For instance, the popular Gadhimai festival in Nepal held every five years is a sacrificial ceremony orchestrated at the Gadhimai Temple of Bariyarpur, Southern Nepal which is adjacent to the Indian state of Bihar. The ceremony was mainly celebrated by the madhesis in Nepal and Biharis. The event involves large scale sacrificial slaughter of animals which include pigs, goats, water buffaloes, chickens, mice and pigeons. The ceremony was held with the sole purpose to please Gadhimai – The goddess of power, for a better life.

The last ceremony to conduct these sacrifices was in 2009. It was estimated that 500,000 animals were approximately sacrificed during the festival. The Temple Trust of Nepal in 2015 however announced to cancel all future animal sacrifice at the festival – a 300 year old practice, thus choosing kindness over bloodshed in the name of tradition. The decision to end this practice was the consequence of protestors campaigning from all over the world.

However, Gadhimai festival is just one of the many events where animal sacrifice is practiced. Every year during the Dashain Festival (September – October) on Kalratri, 54 buffaloes and 54 goats are sacrificed by the Government and another 108 buffaloes by the Nepal Army at the Taleju temple in Bhaktapur alone. Another festival that practices animal sacrifice is the Khokana Festival celebrated in August every year where a goat is thrown in a pond and killed by a group of men biting and tearing it apart while it’s still alive.

These festivals witness some of the most prominent animal sacrifice practices in Nepal where thousands of locals flock to see the rituals being performed. Apart from these festivals, animal sacrifice is practiced for every minute reason such as; a better life, a baby, and to get rid of any illness. One will be surprised to see the amount of bloodshed carried out in the temples in the name of god.

Times are changing and along with it the people too. The educated youth in Nepal are playing a vital role in changing the religious beliefs of the older generations thus paving a way for the betterment of the country. The practices of animal sacrifice may not have completely stopped, but it definitely has decreased in margins. With campaigners contributing from across the globe, this brutal practice will hopefully come to an end someday.

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