Sat, 03 Jun, 2023

Gadhimai Mela: A Festival of Bloodshed

By Anish Thakuri

Do we really need to follow what our predecessors have? Can’t we get rid of all those superstitious activities that are left for us? We believe in our religion and culture, but killing 1000s of animals and saying "Sacrifice" do you think its right to slay animals and take their lives in the name of god?

The story is all about the tradition of slaughtering of the innocent animals in the name of god. "Gadhimai Mela", a Hindu festival which is celebrated once in five years is expected to take place this November 24-25 in the Gadhimai temple of Bara district. Thousands of animals including buffaloes, chickens, pigs, pigeons and rabbits are killed in a period of two days. The primary intent of slaughtering these animals is to honor the goddess Gadhimai, the force of the goddess. It has been believed that pleasing goddess Gadhimai will bring peace and prosperity in the lives of local people.

Around 5 million people take part in this festival.  Most of the devotees come from the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The history of this festival dates back to the early 18th century.  Bhagwan Chaduwary, the feudal landlord was imprisoned in the Makwanapur prison. He dreamed that his entire problem would be resolved if he got blood sacrificed to god Gadhimai. With his release from prison, he took counsel from a local village healer whose descendant had started the ritual with drops of his own blood from five parts of his body. Apparently the light appeared in the pottery jar and then the gory sacrifice began.

On the day of the festival, animals are not given a single drop of water or food. Butchers start killing the animals with whatever they find – knife or sword. Most of the butchers are inexperienced and their weapons are not sharp enough. Barely in one shot, the head falls on the ground. Then they start hacking the animals with their swords until their head is departed from the body. Thousands of buffaloes stand there with waiting their turn. Butcher kills the animals randomly. Many of the animals try to get away from them. Baby buffaloes search for their mothers in that bloody pool. But, they are also knocked down by the butchers. At the end of the day, no animal survives in the bloody puddle. This is how the festival wraps up.

Animal sacrifice is deeply rooted in the traditions of Nepal.  We can see a lot of animal sacrifices made in the temples. We can easily catch the voice of those dying animals whenever we visit the temples. In Nepalese tradition, it is believed that sacrificing that animal will help to fulfill wishes.

Whenever any kinds of uncertainty occurs, people kill the animals in the near temple thinking that this is a shortcut way to eliminate the danger. Mostly in the eastern part of our country, whenever people suffer from any kinds of sickness, they tend to solve it by offering hens and goats to the god rather than taking medications from doctors. Even the well-educated people follow this tradition. Not only that, even our government has taken similar actions. Let me give an example; it was perhaps the incident of 2009. Nepal airlines corporation (NAC) had bought a new airplane and to avoid the likes of accident, Nepal government performed certain religious activities by offering 5 he-goats and 5 hens. This is the most pathetic activity done by the government. How can the head of the state perform such kinds of activities? What message will it send to public?  Does it make any sense? Such type of tradition is antiquated and wasteful. It is time to take a stand and stop.

I have seen in some place that people offer coconut to God rather than animals. Sacrifice itself is gruesome so, it is perhaps the best option to abandon it. We can also replace such traditions by offering fruits / vegetables to the God.

So, the movement of Gadhimai is already gaining a momentum. Many national and international organizations have raised questions against this festival. Many countries have pressurized Nepal government to stop this action. But our government, the only one responsible for the change hasn’t taken any step to overcome it. In fact, it is promoting this massacre by providing a fund of 4 million. I think the festivals like Gadimai which does not have any values and norms is absolutely disgusting. It also breaks the stigma that Hinduism teaches love, kindness and compassion towards mankind, animals and nature.

So, what is your opinion on this matter?