The word soul comes from the Latin Anima. The word animal comes from anima too. Animals carry the soul of the earth in them. They represent Nature and Nature is no loving goddess who forgives transgressions. She is Kali, the unforgiving. You kill , she punishes. She does not do any trades and she demands no innocents as sacrifice.
If we could all understand that , so many things would fall into place. As a friend and neighbour of Nepal , as one who knows and respects her people , I feel I have the right to write this article to beg all of you to abandon the killing of animals at the Gadimai festival later this month.
The Gadimai Mela takes place every five years in Bariyarpur, Bara district and is scheduled for November 24. The word fair should mean something of joy. Something you take your children to. An occasion where you show your family and world love and get love in return.
But the Gadimai Mela looms in front of us like an evil spectre , its blackness enveloping the subcontinent. Who is looking forward to it ? Professional priests who will earn a lot of money from alcohol and dead bodies , cattle traders who are even as I write smuggling animals from India to Nepal to be killed , professional killers and alcohol sellers. The mela is being written about all over the world as evidence of a violent barbaric past and comparisons are being made to the Gurkhas as killers for hire.
The organizers have announced that they are going to aim for a world record – the largest number of killings of animals in one day. How amazing that a nation of such gentle people would want to hold a record like that. 500.000 animals will be killed . The blood will sink into the ground making acres into a bloody marsh in which people will stand , the stink will spread for miles and stay for years, the animals will run and shriek , the clothes of women and children will be splattered with blood…. if there is hell on earth , it will be seen here in all its nakedness. The Goddess Gadimai has not asked to be dishonoured in this way or to be seen as the Goddess of suffering . She will be covered with the feces and urine and blood of scared buffaloes , chicken, goats, sheep, pigs, rats, rabbits,pigeons . In 48 hours , 500,000 animals will be butchered – more than one every second, starting with 100,000 young he buffaloes who are so important to the agricultural economy that their loss will be felt for decades and their death will drive the price of the living ones up by 500%
The first ritual during Gadimai is to worship the weapons which are used in the sacrifice. The priests chant different hymns. Then the killing starts. Each animal killed is supposed to be the sacrificing of anger, desire and stupidity. How is that, I wonder ? It is ludicrous that a little goat or a peaceful buffalo should be made responsible for the ills of an entire community.Thousands of pigeons have their heads severed. Then wild rats, the vehicles of Ganesha the God of Good Luck are killed. Several hundred people carrying swords and axes frantically rush towards the field where more than 7,000 gentle beautiful young buffaloes are kept, crying with fear. Blood flows everywhere. The worshippers anoint themselves with it, even drinking it as it flows out.
This is not even a Nepalese ritual. It was brought from India in the 11th century and does not reflect Nepalese traditions, culture or even history. The priests will of Indian descent, the animals are brought in illegally from India, most of the visitors to the Mela will be Indians stealing across the borders. In fact it is known in Bara as the Indian Mela. How sad that Nepal should do this , when most animal sacrifices in India have been banned and the rest are under siege every year.
This is not a religious mela. The buffaloes and goats are already been kicked and beaten on their way to the border. The deals have been made with the butchers and the trucks have been commissioned to take away the fresh meat and bones. The skins have already been sold to the contractors of Chennai and Kolkata who will turn these “ offerings” into shoes. Contracts have been given to the alcohol sellers ,the flower dealers, the food stalls. The Goddess Gadimai has been degraded into a leather and meat seller. Hiding under the blanket of god-propitiation the Mela is being run by the animal skin/bone/meat sellers
Gadimai is typical of all animal sacrifices which are now propelled by commercial interests. The economics go like this:
In the olden days, the village priest was fed and looked after by the village. The priest made his extra income from the donations offered to the idol in the form of money , flowers and fruit. The offerings have not changed over time but the village no longer supports the priest. To make ends meet, he encourages flower and food shops to be set up near the temples so that the fruit and flowers can be sold back and recycled several times. But these shops function only on festival days so the priest is not assured of a daily income. He then forms an unholy triumvirate with the moneylender and the butcher What happens next?
The priest has a vision on which the devi has said that some calamitous event will take place if animals are not brought to her. This superstition is assiduously spread . The priest is full of stories about villages in which terrible things happened because animals were not sacrificed.
The villagers borrow from the moneylender to buy animals, which are sacrificed. Land, goods or part of the harvest are pledged in exchange for this money. A portion of the animal sacrificed is given to the priest and he sells this to the butcher. The illegal liquor trade benefits as the sacrifice is accompanied by consumption of alcohol next to the temple. If the predicted event does not take place it is because of the sacrifice; if it does, then the sacrifice has been inadequate and the number of animals should be increased.
Very soon this becomes part of village “tradition”. Its comparative recentness is forgotten. The priest and the moneylender encourage this because it increases their revenue. The indebted villager becomes poorer. Studies show that animal sacrifice causes a large percentage of rural bankruptcy. The land finds its way back to the large landowners and the farmer becomes a labourer.
Not only do to economics of the village go awry but it puts power back into the hands of a feudal semi royalty which uses superstition as its weapons. All the sacrifices in India are controlled by the ex-royalty who lead and encourage the killing with the help of their allied moneylenders. During elections, this nexus also influences the voting patterns as the villagers are now in debt. Animal sacrifice is also used to make and strengthen caste divisions creating more social tensions. This sacrifice causes both economic and social damage.
This sacrifice is an attack on women. Male gods are austere, benign ,generous and peaceful. The Goddess is blood-thirsty, violent and cruel and can only be controlled by blood . Women are potentially evil, according to this belief, and must be kept under control. They are frightening, both in appearance and behaviour. This image was created to justify the suppression of women.Surely the mother who procreates and nurtures deserves a better reputation? Supporting animaI sacrifice is supporting both gender inequity and perpetuating myths about the evil that is woman.
Some customs and traditions deserve to die out. Examples abound throughout history: slavery, public executions, witch burning, racism, sati, thuggee, human sacrifice, the segregation of women and Dalits from temples, Chinese foot binding, Roman gladiatorial contests. The human animal is an infinitely adaptable organism. The loss of the customs listed above has not resulted in any harm to humankind. The same can be confidently predicted for the elimination of this terrible animal sacrifice . Sacrifice has nothing to do with Hinduism which is
the kindest gentlest religion possible with its link to all creatures of the
Read this :" Hindu priests butchered dogs in a Kutta cleansing ceremony
performed to remove the vibrations created by the Bali bombing. Their heads
were kept during the yagna ceremony. Balinese Hindus believe today's
ceremony will expel evil from the island." Every Nepalese will find this bizarre – as bizarre as the world finds Gadimai.
In the words of Indian scientist Dr Krishna “ Animal sacrifice is cruel, disgusting and primitive. Bloody sacrifices brutalise the viewer, confusing the distinction between right and wrong. If one man supports animal sacrifice, another will support human sacrifice, the killing of children and women. How can any of these be permitted in a civilised society? All cultures and religions evolve, discarding ugly Practices. Animal sacrifice must be rejected and discarded as a natural evolution of human consciousness “
Religion should be value-based and ennobling. Sacrifice is neither: It is cruel and disgusting. It makes us look small and vicious and illiterate. I have written to your honourable President, Prime Minister and several Ministers – as have hundreds of people across the world. But ultimately the decision will lie with all of you. What kind of image does modern Nepal want to project to the world ?.
The underlying principle of animal sacrifice , in this modern age,is that God should be traded with : you give something and you get something back. However no religion on the world preaches violence or orders the death of any living creature. Even if one were to believe in sacrifice, it would be based on the fact that God would not want the human to perform a random act of murder, but that the human should sacrifice something he loves in return for something that he wants even more. In this case, buying an animal and killing it is a meaningless exercise.