Nepal seeks to stop blood bath at biggest Hindu festivalSeptember 28th, 2011 - 2:49 pm ICT by IANS
Kathmandu, Sep 28 (IANS) As the former Hindu kingdom of Nepal starts observing its biggest Hindu festival from Wednesday, the new government’s austerity measures and a dogged campaign by animal right activists will see a drop in animal and bird sacrifices, a tradition that has been frequently condemned by the outside world.
The 15-day Dashain festival, corresponding to India’s Durga Puja and Dussehra, the worship of Hindu power goddess Durga, sees pools of blood forming in Nepal’s temples as devotees sacrifice buffaloes, goats, chickens and other birds.
Nepal’s deposed king Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah remains at the forefront of those favouring sacrifices with his army-propped regime in 2005-2006 known for elaborate worships for power and the destruction of enemies.
This Dashain, Animal Welfare Network Nepal, a grouping of animal right organisations, led the first “sacrifice” at the Bhadrakali temple in Kathmandu Wednesday when a campaigner, dressed as Kali, the goddess in whose name most of the slaughter is conducted, accepted instead of butchered animals the more benign offering of gourds and fruits.
For several years now, the Network has been asking the pro-sacrifice group to continue with the tradition but “slaughter” pumpkins and gourds instead of hapless birds and animals.
This year, the campaign received a shot in the arm with the new Maoist government announcing it was slashing the state budget allocated in the past for buying sacrificial birds and beasts.
On the eighth night of the festival, major temples in Nepal, including Hanumandhoka in Kathmandu, where the old palace of the former royals is located, witness staggering sacrifices.
Nepal’s official media said on two nights during the festival, old traditions decreed the sacrifice of 54 buffalos and an equal number of goats on each day and the government had to foot the bill.
The state-run Gorkhapatra daily said the chief of the Archaeological Survey of Nepal, Bishnuraj Karki, had said that from this year, with the new government slashing budgets for non-essential expenditure, instead of animals, vegetables would be “sacrificed”.
However, at the old palace in Gorkha district in western Nepal, from where both the deposed royal family as well as the current prime minister, Dr Baburam Bhattarai, come, the state has not been able to stop the much-condemned practice.
It has only reduced the budget from NRS 1.6 million to NRS 900,000, the daily said.
Even if the government agrees to stop the wanton killings, the private trusts that administer many of the temples are not likely to stop the practice. They spend over NRS 10 million every Dashain on animal sacrifices, the daily said.
One of the most appalling images of wanton slaughter emerges from Nepal every five years when the Gadimai Fair is held in southern Nepal, which sees the highest animal and bird sacrifices in the world.
At the last fair in 2009, noted campaigners like French actor Brigitte Bardot and India’s Maneka Gandhi had urged the state to stop the “inhuman practice” but the new government feared to intervene.
Consequently, it was condemned by the outside world with many western tourists saying they would not visit Nepal as a mark of protest.
(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at email@example.com)
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Tags: animal right activists, animal welfare, archaeological survey, austerity measures, bikram, birds and beasts, blood bath, buffaloes, buffalos, durga puja, eighth night, goddess durga, gourds, hindu festival, hindu kingdom, king gyanendra, kingdom of nepal, maoist, shot in the arm, state budget