Gadhimai Mela, Bariyapur

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Gadhimai: the deity
Gadhimai: the temple

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Gadhimai: the temple
Gadhimai: the animal sacrifice. Wall Street Journal

Nepal devotees sacrifice thousands of animals in Hindu ritual Reuters | Nov 28, 2014

A small village in Nepal is set to make the largest animal sacrifice in the world Annie Gowen, The Washington Post

Think-Differently-About-Sheep

The origin of the Gadhi Mai sacrifice Merritt Clifton, Animals24-7

Animal sacrifice in Nepal goes on despite protests Vijay Singh,TNN | Nov 30, 2014 The Times of India

India ban hits Nepal's mass animal sacrifice AFP

Location

Region: Central Region

Province: Narayani Zone

Latitude in decimal degrees: 27.06039

Longitude in decimal degrees: 84.86439

Latitude in degrees, minutes, and seconds: 27° 4' 37" North

Longitude in degrees, minutes, and seconds: 84° 52' 52" East

Altitude above msl: 89 m, 291.99 ft

The fair

A month –long fair is held in the month of Mangsir (November / December) once in every five years to worship the goddess. During this fair the devotees first take a holy dip in the sacred pond and offer homage to the goddess with animal sacrifices.

The mela (fair) is held at the Gandhimai temple near the border with India. Tens of thousands of people flock to the ceremony. About 500,000 animals are killed during the event, rights group Humane Society International estimates. In 2014 it was held in the last week of November. According to Annie Gowen, The Washington Post more than 1 million people attended in 2014.

Activists think there was a drop in attendance in the 2014 festival over the one in 2009, when an estimated 5 million people attended. A prominent activist believes that border control efforts and public awareness campaigns in Nepal and India may have been having some effect.

In 2009, sword-wielding men killed an estimated 250,000 buffalo, sheep, goats and chickens in a frenzied, two-day period as thousands looked on.

Sword-wielding Hindu devotees from Nepal as well as close-by regions of India slaughter thousands of animals and birds in a ritual sacrifice, ignoring calls by animal rights activists to halt what they described as the world's largest such exercise.

More than 80 per cent of Nepal's 27 million people are Hindus, but unlike most of their counterparts in [the plains of] neighbouring India, they frequently sacrifice animals to appease deities during festivals. [Smaller versions of the festival would be held in Himalayan regions like Jammu and even Assam in the 20th century, but were gradually discontinued by the late 1900s as the vegetarian ceremonies of the plains reached India’s northernmost periphery.]

Many of the animals -- most of which are babies -- are brought illegally over the border from India. In 2014 authorities deployed hundreds of police personnel to make sure there were no clashes between activists and the devotees.

In Oct 2014, India’s Supreme Court ordered the government to ensure that no live cattle or buffalo were exported out of India and into Nepal without license, and its Ministry of Home Affairs directed its border patrol to ensure that “the movement of cattle for sacrifice during Gadhimai Mela [Fair] be stopped.”

India’s East Champaran district set up 9 checkposts to prevent smuggling of birds, animals for sacrifice in 2014. More than 2,000 animals were seized along the India and Nepal border, and 100 people arrested till two days before the fair.

Faith and the ritual

Gadhimai is the Hindu goddess of power, and it is believed sacrificing an animal in her honor will bring prosperity.

"It is a ritual connected with people's faith," said Yogendra Dulal, an assistant administrator of the Bara district, where the temple is located. "We can't hurt their sentiments and ban the practice." Worshippers believe the animal sacrifice, meant to appease the Hindu goddess of power, brings them luck and prosperity.

Buffaloes are gathered in an enclosure for buffalos awaiting sacrifice on the eve of the sacrificial ceremony for the 'Gadhimai Mela' festival in Bariyapur. (

In 2014, about 5,000 buffaloes were held in an open-air pen prior to being beheaded by butchers using swords and large curved knives.

The ritual begins at dawn with a ceremonial "pancha bali" or the sacrifice of five animals, comprising a rat, a goat, a rooster, a pig and a pigeon. The chief priest of the temple offers prayers and cuts himself for a symbolic offering of human blood before the animals are slaughtered beginning over a two-day period. The 2009 festival which began at dawn accompanied by an eerie swirling mist was opened with the sacrifice in the main temple of two rats, two pigeons, a pig, a lamb and a rooster while spectators chanted "Long live Gadhimai" Like some performance of macabre entertainment people jostled one another for a better view.

During the stage of the gruesome proceeding called the “panchhbali,” or five offerings, the throats of five kinds of animals are slit with a knife, buffalo, goats, pigs, roosters and rats, this death is deliberately protracted, it is slow and agonising for these creatures, according to the belief of this gross and obscene tradition the Goddess prefers it that way. Their throats are slit with a knife, these animals suffer a slow violent and extremely painful death while the priests sprinkle the blood across the image of the goddess and its surroundings.

Thousands of goats and chickens are also sacrificed before the festival ends the next day.

The heads of the sacrificed animals are buried in a huge pit while the animal hides and skin are sold to traders who have contracted to buy them. The Nepalese meat contractor takes the meat and skins, and the skulls of the buffalo are piled in a pit and worshipped.

The Origin of the Gadhimai Festival

The Gadhimai festival has its origins in the 18th century with a feudal landlord Bhagwan Chaudhary and a village healer adept in the Hindu occult, Dukha Kachadiya. Bhagwan Chaudhary was imprisoned at Makwanpur fort prison around A.D. 1750. While imprisoned he dreamed a dream that his problems would be solved if he made a blood sacrifice to Gadhimai, in other words if he sacrificed an animal.

Gadhimai appeared to the prisoner in a dream and asked him to establish a temple to her.

When he awoke, his shackles had fallen open and he was able to leave the prison.

After leaving prison Chaudhary took advice from Kachadiya. He was now able to build the temple, where he sacrificed animals to give thanks.

According to tradition at the time of Chaudhary’s sacrifice a light appeared in an earthenware jar and from than onwards the grotesquely cruel sacrifice has continued every five years since around A.D. 1750.

An alternate history

In The Five-Year Animal Sacrifice: On the trail of the largest animal sacrifice-festival in the world, ECS Nepal writer Ravi M. Singh in September 2013 claimed that the origins of the Gadhi Mai festival go back much farther, and hinted that it was not always so bloody, despite bloody origins.

At the Gadhi Mai temple complex, Singh found, the spot said to have been where Gadhi Mai lived in Bariyarpur is marked by “a big stone used for breaking open coconuts.”

The sacrificial festival history, Singh wrote, “dates back some 900 years to a simple god-fearing and benevolent resident of Bariyarpur named Bhagwan Chaudhary. One day a theft took place at his house, but the thieves were caught red-handed and paid with their lives at the hands of the enraged villagers. Fearing that his fellow villagers would be convicted [of murder], Bhagwan Chaudhary took the blame upon himself and was sent to Nakkhu jail in Kathmandu. One night Gadhi, the goddess of Makwanpur, appeared in his dream and kept appearing on subsequent nights asking him to take her to Bariyarpur and the scene of the crime. The goddess’s occult powers freed Bhagwan Chaudhary from the jailhouse. A pinch of soil from her feet applied to his turban enabled him free passage back to his village.

“In return, Gadhi Mai asked him to sacrifice five humans each year. Bhagwan Chaudhary magnanimously offered his own life, saying he would be unable to perform human sacrifice. Instead, he vowed a quintuple sacrifice every five years. It would include a rat, a pig, a rooster, a goat, and a water buffalo.

“This ritual failed, however, as children and youngsters of Bariyarpur suddenly took ill and started dying. Bhagwan Chaudhary again made an appeal to Gadhi Mai and was directed by the goddess to offer a human sacrifice. The hunt began for a human, but to no avail. Fortunately, a villager from Simri from neighboring Rautahat district came to the rescue and offered to shed five drops of blood from his body as sacrifice, instead of his life. That saved the village from calamity.”

Individual animals of five species are commonly sacrificed together in Nepal, as is a person ritually shedding five drops of blood. Coconuts, however, are sacrificed hundreds of times more often than animals, even at the Dakshin Kali temple near Kathmandu, for six centuries the most prominent sacrificial site in the country. That the place where Gadhi Mai supposedly lived is marked with a coconut stone instead of an altar suggests that coconut sacrifice was historically the primary manner in which she was worshipped.

Animal rights groups oppose

"It is not proper to kill animals in the name of religion," Uttam Kafle, of rights group Animal Nepal, told Reuters. "We are trying to convince the people that they can worship at the shrine peacefully and without being cruel to animals."

“It’s madness, it’s really madness,” said N.G. Jayasimha, director of the Humane Society International of India. “There are no roads, no infrastructure, not a single public bus, no sanitation and no drinking water. There are human faeces everywhere. A number of people have come, and everybody is carrying an animal to be sacrificed.”

The festival remains a public health concern because of human faeces and animal blood.

In other religions

By way of comparison, 46 million turkeys are eaten each Thanksgiving, 22 million on Christmas and 19 million turkeys on Easter. In 2011, 736 million pounds of turkey were consumed in the United States. 88% of Americans surveyed by the National Turkey Federation eat turkey on Thanksgiving. Urbanext.Illinois

On Eid uz Zuha [Eid-ul-Azha] in many Muslim countries, families purchase a goat, cow or other domesticated animal from an animal market weeks before the holiday. Children often become attached to the creature stemming from the natural affinity that kids have for animals. However, when the day of Eid-ul-Azha comes, it can be a traumatic and heartbreaking experience for a child – the pet that they had lovingly bonded with is slaughtered with a sharp knife while it is fully conscious and in many cases, the slaughtering takes place on the actual grounds of the family’s home. The meat of the animal is then typically distributed three ways: one-third for oneself, one-third for friends and family and one-third for the poor. Bina Ahmad and Farah Akbar, Goat Milk Blog

Lambs were also sacrificed in the Judaic tradition to commemorate the Passover, also other animals including thousands upon thousands of bulls, and goats for the various sacrifices to God, which during the feast of Pesach (Passover) were regularly sacrificed in the temple in Jerusalem.

The only difference is that several Hindu festivals [Dussehra, Holi] and all fairs are collectively celebrated.

Western pressures—and sanctimoniousness

EU [European Union] urged a ban on animal sacrifice at Gadhimai Temple. British actress Joanna Lumley and French movie legend Brigitte Bardot petitioned Nepal's president to end the "cruel tradition," ignoring higher meat consumption at home, especially on festive occasions.

Meat consumption per person per day in 2007 was 0.34kg (340 grams) in the U.S.; 0.24 kg (240 grams) in Germany and Ireland; and 0.23 kg (230 grams) in Britain and France. [1]

At the Gadhimai Temple in 2009, five million people consumed 250,000 buffalo, sheep, goats and chickens, or an average of 0.05 of an animal (1/20th of an animal) per person. While an average of a buffalo and a chicken is not possible, it works out to around a kilo or two per person: and this meat is then taken by contractors for others to eat.

However, criticism of the slaughter by vegetarians is well taken.

2014: The impact of the protests

Official body counts by the meat contractors on the grounds showed that an estimated 4,000 buffalo and innumerable goats and pigeons were killed. AFP estimated that the devotees slaughtered around 200,000 animals during the 2014 festival.

However, approximately 350,000 animals were killed at the festival in 2009, so the significant (42 per cent) reduction in 2014 was a major accomplishment for animal rights groups. A ban by the Indian Supreme Court on Gadhimai-related animal exports provoked police to patrol the border and stop worshippers from taking buffalo and goats across to the temple. Many devotees were unable to cross the border with animals for sacrifice because of the Indian court order.

The sacrifice is an extremely lucrative enterprise for the temple. Not only do devotees pay the temple for their animals to be sacrificed, but the temple then sells the carcasses for 1600 rupees each to meat contractors, profiting twice from each animal's death.

In 2014, however, the meat company cancelled the contract due to the low animal numbers, so the buffalo carcasses were left rotting in the festival arena and the temple was unable to profit.

2015: Ban on animal sacrifice

The Times of India, Jul 29 2015

Vishwa Mohan

Nepal temple bans animal sacrifice

Move comes after Indian SC barred movement of cattle for Gadhimai Festival

Nepal's Gadhimai temple trust announced a ban on animal sacrifice at the Gadhimai festival, the world's biggest animal sacrifice event held every five years. The trust also urged devotees not to bring animals to the festival, a Hindu religious practice which has been continuing for the last 300 years.

The ban comes in the wake of India's Supreme Court recently prohibiting movement of animals from India to Nepal for the festival. Animal rights activists in India and Nepal had been demanding such a ban for long. Shah said, “For generations, pilgrims have sac rificed animals to the Goddess in the hope of a better life. For every life taken, our heart is heavy . The time has come to transform an old tradition. The time has come to replace kill ing and violence with peaceful worship and celebration.“

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