Wednesday 20 January 2016 | 0

Nepal: the land of sacrifice

Within Nepal's rich tapestry of cultural traditions, violent rituals have managed to endure despite the disapproval of most of the urban Hindu population.

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Cruel traditions and superstitions

Gadhimai is the goddess of power. For the last 300 years, over 2 million people have gathered every 5 years to either participate in or view the sacrifice of thousands of animals –in 2009 alone, 250,000 were slaughtered and nearly 20,000 buffaloes were beheaded with swords. However, as a result of a collaborative effort between France and Nepal, which stemmed from a partnership between One Voice and AWNN, the number has decreased to 3256 in 2014. Furthermore, temple authorities have announced that as of 2019, Gadhimai will no longer be celebrated with blood letting. This is a huge victory and inspires hope that we can put an end to other cruel traditions that persist in Nepal. For instance, during the Khokana celebration, a five or six month old goat is thrown into a pond by young unarmed men and is skinned alive with their teeth. Although only one animal is killed, these victims endure unimaginable suffering leading up to their deaths. Superstitions also engender animal cruelty. For example, in 2013 the Nepal Football Association (ANFA) sacrificed five animals just to bring good luck for the South Asian championship. This sort of senseless cruelty should be illegal in 21 st century.

Large-scale entertainment

Even though the bloodshed that took place during Gadhimai will soon be a distant memory, other similar rituals endure in temples and even in some public spaces throughout the year. In a discourse largely dominated by the religious authorities, we hope to open a dialogue that incorporates alternatives to violence. All clans, ethnic groups, and sometimes even the government and the army are involved in sacrifices. Once a year, for the Dashain celebration, both civilians and the military kill hundreds of thousands of goats, cows, ducks, and chickens throughout the country. Some rituals, such as the Navadurga dance, require drinking blood directly from the jugular of the animals as their necks are slit. This barbarity extends beyond religious rituals. Animals are also abused for the sake of entertainment in Nepal: polo is still frequently played on the backs of elephants, and snake charmers and bear tamers are easy to come by.

Far-reaching consequences

These mass sacrifices pose significant risks to people. But even more serious are the consequences of trivializing animal cruelty. Studies conducted by the Link indicate that insensitivity towards living beings is normalized from a very young age. Much like the Buddhist scriptures, Hindu texts advocate for compassion towards animals and certainly do not promote animal sacrifices. Instead, these barbaric traditions are perpetuated by those who exploit superstitious beliefs for profit. For a country that endorses democratic, egalitarian, and modern values, it is essential that laws are put into place to outlaw archaic forms of brutality towards animals.

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In the subject

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