Thousands of animals are being slaughtered as sacrifices for Hindu goddess Gadhimai at the Gadhimai festival that began yesterday.
The festival started in the early hours of yesterday morning after a priest killed a goat, rat, chicken, pig and pigeon and then offered blood from his own body.
The tradition dates back to a priest who was told about 250 years ago in a dream that spilled blood would encourage Gadhimai, the Hindu goddess of power, to free him from prison. Hindu devotees believe that the animal sacrifices will make the gods happy and fulfill their wishes.
Rights activists from across the world have tried to stop the gruesome mass slaughter of animals at festival. In 2009, at the height of the festival, around 500,000 buffaloes, goats, pigeons and other animals were killed. After much protest, some 200,000 animals were killed during the last festival, in 2014.
It has been estimated that yesterday alone over 30,000 animals were sacrificed at the premises of Gadhimai Temple. This year, the authorities took an extra step and have barred journalists and the public from taking photos or videos of the slaughter.
Five years ago, after vocal protests from animal rights activists, numerous reports in the media had said that the Gadhimai Temple had banned all animal sacrifice.
Moreover, in August 2016 a division bench of justices Ishwori Prasad Khatiwada and Anil Kumar Sinha had directed the government to form a special committee and take appropriate measure through it to halt the inhuman act of slaughtering animals at Gadhimai.
However, the Gadhimai Five-yearly Festival Main Committee has said that it will follow the court’s orders and has decided not to kill any pigeons. Millions of pilgrims travel to Gadhimai Temple from across Nepal as well as India to mark the festival.
Since 2009, there has been an increasing pressure on the temple authorities to ban the mass slaughtering of animals. But to no avail. Instead, in anticipation of protests, security has been intensified, with a total of 1,500 security personnel deployed to the area.
In the last few days, reputed news outlets including The Independent, BBC, The Guardian and Aljazeera have written about how the festival is being pushed forward despite an outcry from various sides, and have termed the festival “the world’s largest animal sacrifice ritual”.