WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT
Hundreds of thousands of animals set to be slaughtered during two-day religious festival in Nepal
The Hindu festival is held every five years in honour of Gadhimai, the goddess of power
Festivities kicked off on Friday morning with the mass-slaughter of 5,000-6,000 buffalo in a field
The last time the festival was held, in 2009, more than 250,000 animals were killed, according to PETA
More than 250,000 animals are being lined up for slaughter as Nepal embarks on a two-day religious festival where buffalo, birds and goats are sacrificed to appease a Hindu goddess.
Millions of Hindus flock to the ceremony, which is held every five years at the temple of Gadhimai, the goddess of power, in Bariyarpur, Nepal, near the Indian border.
The last time the festival was held, in 2009, more than 250,000 animals were killed, according to animal rights organisation PETA, who is campaigning to put a stop to the practice.
The festival is ‘kicked off’ with the ritual slaughter of five thousand buffalo in a field near the temple, after which two days of ritual animal slaughter takes place.
Animal rights activists such as PETA are campaigning to halt the mass animal-slaughter, but despite their efforts, the organisers of the festival has promised that this year will be the biggest yet.
About 2.5 million devotees have turned out for the festival, according to local government official Yogendra Prasad Dulal, who said it was ‘impossible to estimate’ the total number of animals sacrificed so far.
More than 80 per cent of Nepal’s 27 million people are Hindus, but unlike most of their counterparts in neighbouring India, they frequently sacrifice animals to appease deities during festivals.
Authorities deployed hundreds of police personnel to make sure there were no clashes between activists and the devotees.
‘It is a ritual connected with people’s faith,’ said Yogendra Dulal, an assistant administrator of the Bara district, where the temple is located. ‘We can’t hurt their sentiments and ban the practice.’
Worshippers believe the animal sacrifice, meant to appease Gadhimai, the Hindu goddess of power, brings them luck and prosperity.
The ritual began at dawn with a ceremonial ‘pancha bali’ or the sacrifice of five animals, comprising a rat, a goat, a rooster, a pig and a pigeon.
Although cows are considered sacred by Hindu’s, the thousands of animals seen slaughtered in these pictures are buffalo.
About 6,000 buffaloes were held in an open-air pen prior to being beheaded by butchers using swords and large curved knives. Thousands of goats and chickens will also be sacrificed before the festival ends on Saturday, temple officials said.
The heads of the sacrificed animals will be buried in a huge pit while the animal hides and skin will be sold to traders who have contracted to buy them.
‘It is not proper to kill animals in the name of religion,’ Uttam Kafle, of rights group Animal Nepal, told Reuters by telephone from the site.
‘We are trying to convince the people that they can worship at the shrine peacefully and without being cruel to animals.’
India’s Supreme Court recently asked the government to stop the illegal movement of animals into Nepal for the ceremony