Animal Sacrifices: Love it or Hate it…still our tradition

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I am not a big fan of animal sacrifices (Bali in Nepali), a Nepali culture and tradition, and I absolutely do not support the practice. It’s not because I am of a weak heart, OK may be it is, but the main reason for me to hate this tradition of ours, is that–I simply find it cruel to begin with.

Sure, there are thousands of animals slaughtered everyday to feed the hungry people who find delight in eating protein filled delicious meat delicacies (read: mouthwatering delicious momo, sekuwa, choila and the likes). Slaughter houses don’t allow just anyone to enter its premises and watch the killings for many reasons–one being health hazards involved.

Animal sacrifices, on the other hand, are done in public for all to see, in most cases here in Nepal. I don’t like animal sacrifices, reason number one: it gives me nightmares! Just thinking about it makes me weak in my knees, and reason number two:

The first time I visited Nava Durga Temple in Bhaktapur, I was thoroughly spooked out!

When I entered the deity’s dark room with only a dim light shining from a couple of ‘Diyo’ in front of the main shrine, I was nervous and scared for some unseen reason. Then, came the shock of a lifetime, when I noticed that there was (dried plastic-looking) intestines of a buffalo hanging over the shrine of the goddess where I was supposed bow my head!

My mind swirled with thoughts of “Why is there intestines hanging?” and “How is it possible to do that in a sacred place like this one?” all of which were answered later by my friend who was visiting with me at the time. I tried to calm down and somehow got through giving my bow to the goddess. Then again, it definitely didn’t help to subdue my fear when I came face to face with all the nine masks of the goddess, depicting her different incarnations which were even scarier, especially the eyes, than the offering of intestines itself.

When I finally got out of the room after bowing to all the nine incarnations with a thread in my hand, that was given to me by an old man in the room which had to be worn on my neck, I was in so much of a shock that I even bowed to my own reflection in the mirror while putting the thread on my neck. I realized what I had done only after two ladies in the hallway laughed looking right at me, jarring me back to reality from my fear induced shock. I was so pale for a second there from the shock and red the next from the embarrassment. When I told my friend what had happened she laughed at my face. Though, I got the last laugh when she fell on a slide for children on a separate occasion.

As you know by now that even mere thought of animal sacrifice makes me faint. And this is why I do not dare to watch the killings.

A goat being brutally torn apart while still alive by a group of men in a small pond during the Khokana festival in Lalitpur, Nepal in the name of animal sacrifice.

This is just plain wrong!

With that said, there are many of you who find the rituals fascinating and are curious to know what kind of significance it holds in our culture. The animal sacrifices are done as an offering to appease gods and goddesses who have a fierce reputation. In order to keep them calm in some cases and to prevent natural disasters from happening in the future in other cases, local people make animal sacrifices at the courtyard of the temple. In some instances even blood of those sacrifices are offered to the deity. A certain portion of the sacrifice is put forward at the statue of the deity and the rest of the animal meat is cooked and served among the people in form of a feast or sold to the meat processing companies. Animal sacrifices are done in such a cold and cruel manner that to say its inhumane is polite whereas in reality it is a barbaric show put on for spectacle of the local and to divert their attention from the grave problems facing the community in the ancient times.

These days when I listen to my elders and the priests explain its importance and why it must be done, it’s very difficult for me to bring myself to understand it, even if it is an age old and integral part of Nepali culture and tradition. The same way, they don’t get the idea that it is unimaginably cold-hearted of people to kill helpless creatures in such brutal manner. Before I come to blows with my respected elders or they blow a gasket, I nod along with them that–yes, animal sacrifices are culturally relevant and our proud tradition! Thus, ending the day on a peaceful note at the family gathering.

Thousands of buffaloes brought for slaughter in the name of animal sacrifice during Gadimai Festival in Nepal.

Another example of brutality in the name of faith!

Majority of animal sacrifices are held every year during Dashain festival (in September-October). During this festival, on Kalratri, 54 buffaloes and 54 goats are sacrificed by the government and 108 buffaloes by the Nepal Army at Taleju temple in Bhaktapur alone.

Khokana Festival sees sacrifice of a goat which is thrown in the pond and killed by a group of men by biting and tearing it apart while still alive in August every year.

The largest animal sacrifice in the world happens in Gadimai Festival which takes place once every 5 years in Gadimai Temple located in Bariyapur in Bara district.

These are some of the most prominent animal sacrifice practices present in Nepal where thousands of locals flock to see the rituals being performed. So, those of you who want to see these sacrifices in the city, a part of Nepali culture and tradition, please bring an iron clad stomach and do not be faint of heart.

Personally, I don’t recommend this.

Note to self: You will not be offering any animal sacrifices of any sort EVER!

Animal Sacrifices: Love it or Hate it…still our tradition
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