|Significance||To please goddess Gadhimai|
|Observances||Animal sacrifice at Bariyarpur, Nepal|
|Frequency||every 5 years|
Gadhimai festival is a month-long Hindu festival that is held once every five years at the Gadhimai temple of Bariyarpur, in Bara District, about 100 miles (160 km) south of the capital Kathmandu in southern Nepal. The event involves the world's largest sacrifice of animals – including water buffaloes, pigs, goats, chicken and pigeons – with the goal of pleasing Gadhimai, the goddess of power.
About 5 million people participate in the festival, the majority of whom are Madheshi people from the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar & Terai. Attending the festival in Nepal circumvents the ban on animal sacrifice in their own states. Participants believe that animal sacrifices for the Hindu goddess Gadhimai will end evil and bring prosperity.
A month before the ritual in 2009, the Nepalese government realised there would be a "severe shortage" of goats for the ritual sacrifice, as well as for the consumption of goat meat during the festival. They began a radio campaign urging farmers to sell their animals.
The festival started in the first week of November 2009 and ended in the first week of December (up to makar sankranti), the fair has a custom of animal sacrifice that occurred on November 24 & 25 in the year 2009, with the temple's head priest performing ritual sacrifice called Saptabali which includes the sacrifice of white mice, pigeons, roosters, ducks, swine and male water buffaloes. More than 20,000 buffaloes were sacrificed on the first day. It is estimated that 500,000 animals were killed during the Gadhimai festival of 2009. The ritual killings were performed by more than 200 men in a concrete slaughterhouse near the temple. Three infant children of pilgrims who had come to observe Gadhimai festival died due to the extreme cold. Six people died after drinking adulterated "hooch".
The festival has prompted numerous protests by animal rights activists. In 2009 activists made several attempts to stop the ritual, including Brigitte Bardot and Maneka Gandhi, who wrote to the Nepalese government asking them to stop the killings. A government official commented that they would not "interfere in the centuries-old tradition of the people." Ram Bahadur Bomjon, claimed by some of his supporters to be the reincarnation of the Buddha, said that he would attempt to stop the sacrifice at the festival, preaching non-violence and offering a blessing at the place. His promise prompted the government to send additional forces to prevent any incident.
After the festival, the meat, bones and hides of the sacrificed animals are sold to processing and tannery companies in India and Nepal.
|Wikinews has related news: Ritual sacrifice in Nepal sees 320,000 animals slaughtered to Hindu goddess|
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