Gadhimai is an important pilgrimage site located in Mahagadhimai municipality in Bara district that is completely dedicated to Gadhimai Devi who is believed to be the manifestation of the Hindu Goddess of Power, Kali mata. The name also essentially signifies the Gadhimai festival conducted at an interval of five years and is regarded as the biggest animal offering site for religious values and traditions in the world. This ritual is specially divided into two days for the distribution of bali of various birds and animals such as pigeons, chickens, goats, buffaloes, pigs, and others.Animals and Birds are slaughtered and offered to the Goddess with a strong superstitious belief that wishes of the devotee will be granted after the sacrifice is made.
The ritual begins at early in the morning with a traditional ceremonial sacrifice of five animals comprising a pigeon, chicken, rat, goat and a pig, which is known as “Pancha-bali” meaning five sacrifices. This two & and a half century long tradition has been followed since time immoral and is connected to the emotions and devotion of people as a result of which, it attracts millions of pilgrims and visitors from all over Nepal as well as from India. Some of the major species preferred by the visitors are local buffalo, goats, chicken, ducks, etc. It is reported that after the completion of this festival the meat, bones and other remaining of birds and animals are sold to commercial companies.
It has been estimated that millions of believers from India & Nepal visit this place and offer the sacrifice to please the Goddess. In 2009 alone, it has been estimated that about 3 lakhs animals were slaughtered throughout this festival. During the festival in 2009, celebrity activists such as Brigitte Bardot & Manita Ghandi made several efforts and attempts to stop the killings of innocent animals in the name of tradition.
Despite of its traditional significance among the local communities, several animal rights groups have conducted protests and events against this festival. Gauri Maulekhi, an Indian national, filed a petition in October 2014 to stop the illicit trafficking of animals from India to Nepal for slaughter as a result of which an order was issued by the Supreme court of India to stop the illegal smuggling of animals across the Nepal India border. After a lot of criticisms and condemnation of this tradition, in July 2015, the Nepalese temple trust announced the end of any future animal sacrifices at the Gadhimai festival.The festival was reported to have taken place in 2019 also, but this time the sacrifice involving goats, rats, chicken, pigs, and pigeons, and the number of animals sacrificed was lower than in previous events and it is believed that the killings on the name of tradition will come to halt.
Article written by: Ujjwal Bhetwal for Land Nepal