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Nepal Will No Longer Host World’s Largest Religious Animal Slaughter

Image: A man takes part in a mass sacrifice of the buffalos near Gadimai Temple at Bara District

A man takes part in a mass sacrifice of the buffaloes near Gadhimai Temple at Bara District, about 300 km (186 miles) south of Kathmandu, Nepal, November 24, 2009. SHRUTI SHRESTHA / Reuters

Nepal will no longer be known as the country that hosts the world’s largest religious slaughter of animals. In a historic move, the centuries old tradition of sacrificing hundreds of thousands of animals for the Hindu Goddess Gadhimai came to an end last week.

The Gadhimai Temple Trust announced their decision to ban all animal sacrifices in upcoming festivals, held every five years at the Gadhimai Temple in the town of Bariyarpur. The next one is scheduled to take place in 2019.

“The time has come to replace killing and violence with peaceful worship and celebration,” said Ram Chandra Shah, Chairman of the Gadhimai Temple in a press release.

Image:
Butchers with butcher knives participate in religious rituals before slaughtering buffaloes during a mass sacrifice ceremony at Gadhimai temple in Bariyapur, about 70 kilometers (43 miles) south of Katmandu, Nepal, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2009. Gemunu Amarasinghe / AP

The declaration is the result of deliberations between the Temple, Animal Welfare Network Nepal and Humane Society International. Millions of Hindu devotees flocked to the festival to offer animal sacrifices to Gadhimai, the Goddess of Power, in the hopes of a better life.

“We'll celebrate Gadhimai in a grander manner without blood,” said Manoj Gautam, President of Animal Welfare Network of Nepal, who has been campaigning against the slaughter for the past six years. “We'll help the Temple make it a real celebration of life.”

"This Gadhimai massacre had to end and finally, it did.”

Surajan Shreshtha, President of Animal Rights Club of Nepal, witnessed the Gadhimai Festival in 2014. His organization captured aerial images of the slaughter that were used in a social media campaign to bring attention to Gadhimai. He says what he saw there was “horrific.”

“We witnessed thousands of goats being sacrificed in front of our eyes,” he said. He says that many animals, particularly the buffaloes, died slowly, received several blows before they were finally decapitated. He left the Festival feeling disheartened by what he saw but more determined to work towards abolishing the bloody spectacle. “I committed that I would do my best to end this festival.”

Image:
A butcher wipes the blood off his knife after slaughtering a buffalo during a mass sacrifice ceremony at Gadhimai temple in Bariyapur, about 70 kilometers (43 miles) south of Katmandu, Nepal, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2009. Gemunu Amarasinghe / AP

Shreshtha is hopeful that the public will support the ban on the religious slaughter. “Sati was also a part of tradition but slowly, it was removed from society,” he says. Sati describes an old Hindu custom in which the widow was burnt to ashes on her dead husband's funeral pyre.

“Just like that, this Gadhimai massacre had to end and finally, it did.”

Legend has it that the Gadhimai slaughter is the product of a dream by a feudal landlord named Bhagwan Chaudhury from over 250 years ago. Imprisoned at fort prison, he dreamed that the Goddess Gadhimai wanted blood in return of his release. Immediately after being set free, he consulted with a local healer to help make his dream a reality.

The direct descendants of Chaudhury and the healer continued to take part in the ritual as of 2014.

Image: Butcher holding his blade stands among sacrificed buffalos inside an enclosed compound during the sacrificial ceremony of the "Gadhimai Mela" festival held in Bariyapur
A butcher holding his blade stands among sacrificed buffaloes inside an enclosed compound during the sacrificial ceremony of the "Gadhimai Mela" festival held in Bariyapur November 28, 2014. NAVESH CHITRAKAR / Reuters

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