According to local legend, the first animal sacrifices in Bariyapur, Nepal, occurred several centuries ago, when the Hindu goddess Gadhimai appeared to a prisoner in his dreams and asked him to establish a temple dedicated to her. When the prisoner awoke, his shackles had disappeared and he was able to leave the prison and build Gadhimai’s temple, where he sacrificed animals to give thanks to her.
Up until now, Bariyapur has continued to host the world’s largest animal sacrifice festival every five years, in which hundreds of thousands of animals, including chickens, goats and buffalo, were marched to their deaths at the site of Gadhimai’s temple.
“The Gadhimai Temple Trust hereby declares our formal decision to end animal sacrifice. With your help, we can ensure Gadhimai 2019 is free from bloodshed. Moreover, we can ensure Gadhimai 2019 is a momentous celebration of life.”
A statement released by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) described the decision as “a long overdue victory for animals,” while the Humane Society International (HSI) India said, “When shorn of the trappings of tradition and belief, animal sacrifice reveals itself as a brutal anachronistic act that should be anathema within any society that calls itself ethical or progressive.”
“It has been a long effort … we took a firm stand and it has finally worked,” said Manoj Gautam, president of Animal Welfare Network Nepal. “We realize that people have been victimized by superstition so building mass awareness is critical, but I am very hopeful that we will see a bloodless festival in 2019.”
However, Ram Chandra Shah, chairman of the Gadhimai Temple Management and Development Committee, cautioned that some people might continue to sacrifice animals regardless of the ban: “Devout Hindus could be requested not to offer animal sacrifice to the goddess, but they could not be forced not to do so … if people don’t heed, we can’t do anything about it.”
However, temple board member Tripurari Shah is more optimistic that education and outreach efforts amongst their followers will help ensure that the 2019 festival is a bloodless event: “I think what (Ram Chandra) Shah is trying to say is that we have millions of devotees. We have to reach out to them and make them aware.”
Although there may yet be a long way to go in eliminating the practice of animal sacrifice in Nepal and changing people’s hearts, the temple board’s formal commitment to ensuring that “Gadhimai 2019 is a momentous celebration of life” is a huge step in the right direction!
Image Source: BBC