Animal sacrifice in Hindu ceremonies
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A Himalayan tradition
Animal sacrifice is an age-old tradition in the annual religious ceremonies of Hindus in many Himalayan regions in Jammu, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, through the Kingdom (later Republic) of Nepal, all the way to the plains ofAssam.
During the 1900s, due to ‘Sanskritisation,’ some Hindu communities in these regions began to view animal sacrifice as a primitive tradition not compatible with the vegetarian ethos of Hindu ceremonies in the plains.
In some places animal sacrifice was banned by modern, 20th century maharajas, in some by socal reformers and in some by judicial courts.
After the HP court's ban on animal sacrifice at all places of religious worship on September 1, 2014, Himachal's famed “assembly of gods“ was held, wherein “deities“ were said to have refused to accept the court ban on animal sacrifice. However, the court prevailed and peaceful implementation of the order was ensured.
Barring a few isolated instances, animal sacrifices were replaced by offering coconuts in temples.
In stark contrast to the Jallikattu uprising in Tamil Nadu [in 2017], people of Himachal Pradesh complied with the court order banning animal sacrifice in places of religious worship despite having reservations on the issue.There were no large-scale agitations as those who opposed the move took legal recourse instead.
“In Himachal too, people are not ready to part with the age-old tradition of sacrificing animals to their deities, but they fear holding protest demonstrations like in Tamil Nadu . We thus took the legal route to address our issue,“ said Dot Ram Thakur, president of Kullu Devi Devta Kardar Sangh.
Thakur along with Kullu royal Maheshwar Singh, moved the court against the order.
Mata Tripureswari temple: HC ban in 2019
The Tripura high court ordered a complete ban on animal sacrifice in Hindu temples which would stop the state government from providing a goat for sacrifice every day — a 500-year-old tradition — in Mata Tripureswari temple, a famous ‘shakti peeth’.
The state government had cited terms and conditions of the merger pact with the Indian dominion which prescribed that the state government would worship Mata Tripureswari and deities in other temples in the traditional way. “Since such practice (animal sacrifice) was followed prior to Independence... and animal sacrifice is an integral part of worship, it’s continued and can’t be stopped,” the state argued in HC.
Judge: No religion requires killing
It had also faulted a PIL petition by advocate Subhas Bhattacharjee for confining the plea for ban on animal sacrifice in Hindu temples and “not laid any challenge to the practice of animal sacrifice by the Muslim community during the festival of Bakri Eid”. The state had alleged that the petition was meant only to hurt Hindu sentiment and presumably by politically motivated anti-Hindu elements with a view to disturb public order.
In its 72-page judgment, a bench of Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice Arindam Lodh said, “The role of government in regular activities of Tripureswari temple as other temples is limited, and aiding the temple with funds to sacrifice one goat each day from government money does not fall within the ambit of secular activity as provided under Article 25(2)(a) of the Constitution.
“It is the duty of the state to bring changes by eradicating all ill practices to bring reforms in society. Instead of participating in such practices, the state should enact a law banning slaughter of animals at temples as it runs against public order, morality and health.”
Writing the judgment for the bench, Justice Karol said, “Unless it being essential, sacrifice of an animal for religion cannot be considered to be a moral act. All religions call for compassion and no religion requires killing. Sacrifice of animal in the temple with which we are concerned is seriously morally wrong, for it is an act of illegally taking away of life.”
He added, “No person including the state shall be allowed to sacrifice any animal/bird within the precincts of any one of the temples of state of Tripura.”
However, the HC said devotees could still offer an animal to a temple without it being slaughtered.
Goddess Aradhya Devi, Bunkhal village, Pauri
Mass animal sacrifice in Uttarakhand village
Law takes a backseat when it comes to religious sentimentality in India. In a grave violation of law, more than 31 male buffaloes and 135 goats were sacrificed in a temple premises to appease Goddess Aradhya Devi allegedly by her devotees during a day-long annual fair at Bunkhal village in Pauri district.
Police sources said although the practice of mass animal sacrifice was a cognizable offence under Prevention of Cruelty Act, it had been going on for several years right under the nose of senior Uttarakhand administrative and police authorities including Pauri District Magistrate (DM) Dilip Jawalkar and SP Pushpak Jyoti in Dehradun and Pauri.
Police sources said senior administrative and police authorities decided to put a check on mass animal sacrifice at the Bunkhal temple after members from different animal lovers' organizations and groups who find the practice "inhuman, brutal and cruel" raised their voices.
The people of Uttarakhand said they were shocked to see that despite their crusade against this age-old practice of mass animal sacrifice, the Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank government had not bothered to impose a blanket ban on this inhuman practice. Instead the government offered an excuse that "the practice of mass animal sacrifice had been handed down from centuries ago and was a part of religious rituals and so it was not possible to check it to by force."
Residents of nearby villages including Chorikhal in Pauri district, told TOI that as per this practice, the animals are first taken to nearby Chorikhal village where vermilion is applied on their foreheads. Then they are taken to Bunkhal temple for "sacrifice." They are slaughtered one by one, with sharp-edged weapons -mini and huge daggers (Khunkhri and Farsa) -by the villagers while offering their special prayers to the goddess.
Pauri DM Jawalkar and SP Jyoti said they had taken more than 12 goats and 23 buffaloes into their custody which were being taken for sacrifice and lodged FIR against all those responsible for mass animal sacrifice.
The officials said they had yet to identify and ascertain the exact number of persons involved in mass animal sacrifice.
"They all will be named in FIR lodged in the police station for breach of peace under section 151 of CRPC and under prevention of cruelty act as soon they are identified", the officers said.
Animal sacrifice in Hindu ceremonies