The world’s largest animal sacrifice

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Gadhimai festival is held every five years at a Hindu temple in Bariyapur, a rural village in southern Nepal, located about 20km from the Indian border. Hundreds of thousands well wishers visit the temple during the month-long festival to pray to Gadhimai, a Hindu goddess of power. I visited the festival during the busiest days of sacrifice.

At the beginning, it was a peaceful scene of several thousands of water buffaloes walking around a field surrounded by a high brick wall. Then suddenly a couple hundred men, holding long butcher knives, walked in and started beheading the buffaloes – one after another. The headless bodies collapsed down to the ground and blood sprayed out of their necks. It didn’t even take two hours before the field was filled with black corpses. It was a horrific scene what I have never seen before. Water buffaloes are not the only animals to be sacrificed. Pigeons, rats, hens, goats and pigs are also brutally killed to please the goddess. It’s said that over 200,000 animals were sacrificed during the festival by people who believe the power of goddess which can cure an illness or bring a good harvest.

The ritual at the temple is believed to have started in the 18th century. It’s facing increasing criticism in recent years. Despite campaigns held by local and international animal rights organizations to stop the merciless sacrifice, the temple has turned a deaf ear, saying “it’s tradition and we can’t stop it”.  However, many believe that financial profit is a big reason. The event is lucrative, attracting tourists and generating profits from selling the carcasses to meat and hide contractors. Also, for the rural villagers who have nothing to attract outsiders, the festival is something many locals feel proud of.

The number of buffaloes went down by almost half to around 4,000 since the last festival in 2009. It was somewhat of a victory of the tireless efforts of animal welfare organizations whose goal is to completely stop the animal sacrifice.

I don’t know whether it’s possible to have a Gadhimai festival without animal sacrifice but let’s hope that we may see it in the next festival in 2019.




ガディマイ寺院の生贄の伝統は18世紀にはじまったといわれるが、この残酷ともいえる大量殺戮に対して、近年は批判が高まってきた。 生贄の中止を求めて欧米でもデモがひらかれるようになったが、寺院側は「これは伝統。やめることはできない」と、聞く耳をもたない。しかし、伝統だけではなく、経済的利益も大きな理由との声もある。



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