July 29, 2015
Yesterday, authorities of the Gadhimai Temple in southern Nepal (Bara District) announced that it will ban a centuries-old Hindu tradition of mass animal slaughter that attracts hundreds of thousands of worshippers to its festival, held once every five years.
According to The Hindu, millions of people participate in the 300--year-old festival, with 80% of them from the Indian states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Attending the festival in Nepal circumvents the ban on animal sacrifice in their own states.
It is estimated that more than 500,000 buffalo, goats, chickens and other animals were decapitated at Gadhimai in 2009. In November 2014, the date of the latest festival, the numbers fell significantly do to an international outcry by animal rights activist. Still, some 2.5 million worshippers sacrificed an estimated 200,000 animals last November.
Hindu devotees believe that by sacrificing animals to the goddess Gadhimai, they will secure health and happiness for the next five years.
The temple’s decision – that no slaughter will be allowed during the 2019 festival – followed rigorous negotiations and campaigning by Animal Welfare Network Nepal and Humane Society International/India (HSI). The protest became global.
In a press statement, Gauri Maulekhi, a key activist campaigning to ban the slaughter said, “This is a tremendous victory for compassion that will save the lives of countless animals. HSI/India was heartbroken to witness the bloodshed at Gadhimai, and we've worked hard to help secure this ban on future sacrifice."
According to legend, the tradition began centuries ago when Bhagwan Chaudhary, a feudal landlord, was imprisoned in Makwanpur. He saw the goddess in a dream in which Gadhimai told him that that all his problems would be solved if he built her a temple and made a blood sacrifice to her. Immediately upon his release from prison he took counsel from the local village healer. A light appeared in an earthenware jar, and the gory sacrifice began.
"It has been a long effort... we took a firm stand and it has finally worked," said Manoj Gautam, president of Animal Nepal Welfare Network. "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," Gautam told AFP.
The temple trust Chairman, Shri Ram Chandra Shah, said in a statement, "Our concern has been this: How do we convince the people, so desperate for the favor of Gadhimai, that there is another way? How do we bring them on our journey? Thankfully, the dedicated efforts of the Animal Welfare Network Nepal (and Humane Society International) has shown us the path and provided the motivation to make this transformation a reality."