Nepal's animal slaughter festival underway amid world-wide protests

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Kathmandu, Nov 29: In one of the more bizarre and horrendous rituals, the Hindu worshippers in Nepal have started slaughtering thousands of animals for their goddess of power Gadhimai.

This festival, which is celebrated once in every five years, is happening amidst protests from animal-rights activists across the world. During the two-day festival, the devotees kill animals ranging from buffaloes to rats using swords.

Nepal's animal slaughter festival underway amid world-wide protests

The event began in the village of Bariyapur near the Indian border on the midnight of November 27.

According to a Al Jazeera report, the festival began at midnight on Thursday amid tight security, with the ceremonial killing of a goat, rat, chicken, pig and a pigeon. Around 1,200 police personnel guarded the village and the field where sacrifices were taking place.

The legend

The first animal sacrifices in Bariyapur were held several centuries ago. The legend says that one night the goddess Gadhimai appeared to a prisoner in a dream and asked him to build a temple to her. The prisoner, when he woke up from the sleep, found that his shackles had fallen open. He got out of the jail, built the temple and sacrificed animals as a gesture of thanks.

On the first day, the devotees sacrifice only buffaloes, which are kept tied in a large field. Afterwards, they start slaughtering other animals.

Thousands of worshippers arrive in the village from Nepal and India. They spent days sleeping out in the open and offering prayers to the goddess, before they begin the slaughter ceremony.

In 2009, around 300,000 animals were killed during the ceremony. The carcasses of the buffaloes are dumped into a freshly dug pit while the goat and chicken meat is distributed to devotees and villagers.

There is a strong, world-wide campaign to ban this festival. The campaign has been supported by many celebrities too, including British actress Joanna Lumley and French actress Brigitte Bardot. The campaigner have wrote a petition to Nepal's president to end the "cruel tradition".

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