The Gadhimal Festival

Why it must never happen Again

 

 


 

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For ideas concerning actions you can take to stop this crime against sentient beings:
Stop the Gadhimai Jatra Festival ever Happening Again

January 18 - New website promoting awareness and action against animal sacrifices in Nepal: STOP ANIMAL SACRIFICE IN NEPAL NOW!
The "Stop Animal Sacrifice Campaign" is a 5-year campaign conducted by the Animal Network Nepal aimed at phasing out animal sacrifice in Nepal and the region.
Please click the link above and help this campaign by taking whatever action you can.

For ease of reading all quotations appear in a purple font

You must not use your God-given body for killing God's creatures, whether they are human, animal or whatever."
Yajur Veda, 12.32 ancient Hindu scripture and part of the Vedas

Goodness is never one with the minds of these two: one who wields a weapon and one who feasts on a creature's flesh.
Tirukural Verse 253 Ancient Hindu ethical scripture

Introduction

I cannot find the words to express my profound sadness that the barbaric Gadhimai Jatra festival took place in the Bara district of Nepal on the 24th and 25th November 2009. It proceeded as planned despite protests and condemnation from all over the world from concerned compassionate individuals and animal rights/welfare organisations.

I cannot understand how this grotesque event has previously escaped the notice of such organisations or any other concerned persons, including myself. Prior to the notification in my e-mail on 20th November 2009 from The International Humane society I had not heard of such a festival, a word that sadly seems rather misplaced with it‘s implication of a joyous celebration, there was certainly nothing joyous about the brutal slaughter of as many as 500,000 gentle creatures despite the inclusion of a Ferris wheel, Robot fortune tellers and stalls selling snacks. Odd isn't it and cowardly that these people only abuse, slay and torture gentle creatures rather than lions or tigers. Not of course that I condone brutality to any creature, it is just that I am reminded of a quotation from Plutarch the ancient Greek philosopher :
“You call serpents and panthers and lions savage, but you yourselves , by your own foul slaughter, leave them no room to outdo you in cruelty; for their slaughter is their living, yours is a mere appetizer.

It is certainly not lions and wolves that we eat out of self defence; on the contrary, we ignore these and slaughter harmless, tame creatures without stings or teeth to harm us, creatures that, I swear, Nature appears to have produced for the sake of their beauty and grace


I have never been to Nepal but have always had an interest in the culture, religions and traditions of this country along with other Himalayan countries such as Tibet and Bhutan. Nepal is predominately Hindu but was the birthplace of Siddhartha Gautama, Buddha. Both Hindus and Buddhists are generally considered to refrain from harming any creature and adherents of these faiths mostly adopt a vegetarian diet and way of life. Many people in the west who have an interest in eastern spirituality visit Nepal because of its spiritual significance. Others go to trek through the mountains and foot hills and to visit places of religious or historical interest. Nepal is a  land of of highly diverse and rich geography, culture, religion and history, it is a place of stunning beauty; towering mountains, (eight of the world's ten highest mountains, including the highest, Mount Everest), rushing rivers, yaks, stupas and sherpas. Contrasting weather from the arctic cold of the mountains to the humid heat of the Indian plain, it an exotic destination with few comparisons.

For both visitors and perspective visitors and indeed armchair travellers such as myself, these proceedings have come as a considerable shock, for the image of Nepal has been transformed and many will never view this country in quite the same way ever again. Even if you have never been to Nepal or know much about its culture and traditions the mass sacrifice of thousands of animals may still come as a significant jolt, as it is not easy to envision that such an anarchism of a bygone barbarous age takes place in the modern world and, in the case of Gadhimai festival, has done so for two hundred and sixty years. Although of course animal sacrifice, as I will discuss later, has been a part of most religions in times past.

In all of the Travel books I have read over the years I have never come across even a mention of such a dreadful tradition. An heinous crime against living beings. What is perhaps so shocking is that this inhumane act of grotesque cruelty takes place in the name of religion, at least it appears that way. However behind the facade of religious belief an insidious evil drives, exploits and distorts ancient beliefs. This evil comes in the form of the exploitation of superstitious dread, an innate fear that all human beings have to some extent. This inherent fear is promoted and encouraged by greedy priests to engender fear into the hearts of extremely poor people, despised as untouchables, to take from them what little they possess.
 


Goat sellers at the Gadhimai Jarta, these poor creatures were among the 200,000 goats brutally slaughtered.

Never kill any animals even for the purpose of sacrifice. Non-violence is the greatest of all religions.

Swami Sahajanand, Divine Life Society

 Contents:

About the Gadhimai festival

What Happens at the Gadhimai Festival

What has the Gadhimai festival got to do with Hinduism

Beliefs of Hinduism Concerning Vegetarianism

What Hindu scriptures say about vegetarianism

The importance of Animals in Hinduism

Is Animal Sacrifice a Part of Hinduism

Origins of the Gadhimai Festival

What Gandhi said About Animal Sacrifce

The Gadhimai slaughter must end


Animals like this peaceful trusting creature were massacred in a two day festival of barbaric carnage.

I hold that, the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to the protection by man from the cruelty of man.
Mahatma Gandhi

 

About the Gadhimai Festival

In the name of primeval superstitious beliefs huge amounts of money are extorted from people who have so little. It is estimated that as much as two million Euros was made from killing the animals, which were given freely by these poor people who paid an exorbitant price to purchase the animals to offer as sacrifices. Than further money was accrued when the savaged brutalised remains of these unfortunate creatures were sold by religious leaders to meat and hide companies. Many people will spend up to two months wages to buy an animal for sacrifice, after being told by these unscrupulous priests that they must appease the Goddess if they wish to avoid bad luck, or conversely to receive good fortune, relief from ill health and suchlike.

Other than greed, profiteering  and exploitation why? What is the reason behind such appalling brutality to such gentle creatures.

The sacrifice is meant to placate Gadhimai an Hindu Goddess of power. As you will read further on animal sacrifice is totally out of keeping with the teachings and beliefs of Hinduism. Most of the adherents of this cult travelled long distances to take part, about 60 percent of those who attended came from neighbouring India were such practices (animal sacrifice) are not permitted. They come for many reasons most of which are superstitious in nature, or at least appear so from the perspective of the modern world where most of us have consigned such backward thinking to the past.  Here are some comments made by devotees concerning their motivation to attend the festival.

The comments below reflect the superstitious mentality more associated with a bygone age.

"It is not an easy task to kill the animals but once I entered the slaughtering field with my sword I felt blessed with some kind of divine power and that kept me going" "I slaughtered around 20 buffalo in 2004. This time I managed to behead about 70. I wish the sacrifice has not ended." "You need a lot of courage to kill the animals,"  "It is a privilege to be the part of the culture that has continued for centuries and it would be immoral to go against tradition."
Kabir Jung Rana Nepalese bank clerk

"We are overwhelmed by the number of devotees and sacrifices made to the goddess despite criticism. We are happy that the tradition has continued,"
Chief priest of the temple Mangal Chaudhary Tharu

"Gadhimai has been kind enough for me to have a good life and I take this slaughter as a way of saying 'thank you'," "I make money by killing animals normally but at the festival I do it for spiritual satisfaction. It is the least that I could do for the goddess and I didn't want to miss this opportunity."
Munna Bahadur Khadgi, a professional butcher who killled 200 buffalo

For 31-year-old Abhimanyu Rana, the slaughtering was in keeping with the family's religious belief and practice.

"When I was young I had seen my dad and grandpa slaughtering animals. I am proud that I am continuing the family history," "I was not scared at all because I was doing it for Gadhimai. I don't feel guilty because I know I was making the goddess happy."
Abhimanyu Rana local restaurant.

Comments by all the above devotees are quoted in the Google Article : Nepalese butchers laud mass animal sacrifice
By Deepesh Shrestha *1)

"This is a divine power center," "When people wish for a son, a job, good health or anything else come true, they make an offering to the Gadhimai goddess."
Mangal Chaudhary, the head priest of the Gadhimai temple

"This is a matter of people's religion and belief,"
Chief district officer Tara Nath Gautam, the highest-ranking government official in Bara.

Mangal Chaudhary and Tara Nath Gautam quoted in CNN World report Ritual animal slaughter begins in Nepal

"It is the traditional way," "If we want anything, and we come here with an offering to the goddess, within five years all our dreams will be fulfilled." Manoj Shah Nepali driver

"The goddess needs blood," "Then that person can make his wishes come true."

Chandan Dev Chaudhary high priest

Manoj Shah and Chandan Dev Chaudhary were quoted in the Guardian article: Hindu sacrifice of 250,000 animals begins, by Olivia Lang in Bariyapur *2)

"If anyone has a problem, then I will cut the throat of an animal in the temple and that person's problem will be solved."

Chandan Dev Chaudhury

It is difficult to associate such comments with our modern age of scientific and technological advancement, it is like taking a trip in a time machine to some dark primeval epoch. 

What Happens at the Gadhimai Festival    

Put simply, blood thirsty sadistic carnage, as more than 250,000 animals are mutilated and beheaded in this horrific massacre, it is probably the world's largest mass public slaughter in the name of religion. The Gadhimai massacre is certainly the world's most shocking example of animal cruelty, but lets not forget that factory farming and the slaughter of about 1,5 billion animals each year runs a close second, if not in number it most certainly does in barbarity, when tiny male chicks are put through a grinder alive, or chickens arrive at the scolding tank fully conscious to be scolded alive after being improperly stunned or cows hung upside down to have their throats cut having also not been rendered unconscious.

A herd of Water Buffalo awaiting slaughter, there is no mercy for these gentle creatures at the hands of the 250 of drunken men licensed to massacre them in the name of religion.

One is dearest to God who has no enemies among the living beings, who is nonviolent to all creatures.

Bhagavad Gita

The 2009 festival which began at dawn accompanied by an eerie swirling mist was opened with the sacrifice in the main temple of two rats, two pigeons, a pig, a lamb and a rooster while spectators chanted "Long live Gadhimai" Like some performance of macabre entertainment people jostled one another for a better view.

During the stage of the gruesome proceeding called the  “panchhbali,” or five offerings, the throats of five kinds of animals are slit with a knife, buffalo, goats, pigs, roosters and rats, this death is deliberately protracted, it is slow and agonising for these creatures, according to the belief of this gross and obscene tradition the Goddess prefers it that way.  Their throats are slit with a knife, these animals suffer a slow violent and extremely painful death while the priests sprinkle the blood across the image of the goddess and its surroundings.

If you think that was horrific enough there was more hideous brutality to come, as after this violent and barbaric ritual it was the turn of the buffalo who suffer the most unimaginable pain.   Drunken men, about 250 local men who are given licenses, enter the enclosure swinging their swords( traditional khukuri knives) hacking way at the defenceless animals. These sadistic individuals target the hind legs first to bring the animals down before hacking away the necks, as many as twenty five times to kill a large buffalo. These animals take so long to die that these men literally cut them apart. It appears there is some kind of competition and payment is made according to the number of animals killed and these men brandishing knives and swords compete with one another to kill the most animals. Spectators queue to watch the cruel massacre of these helpless creatures, each paying 20 Nepali rupees to do so.


             Bloody slaughter of 20,000 buffalo

Ahimsa is not causing pain to any living being at any time through the actions of one's mind, speech or body.
Sandilya Upanishad

 

Can you imagine 20,000 of these placid harmless creatures hacked to death whilst thousands of men, women and children look on with callous disregard, jostling one another for a better view. It turns my stomach, the mere thought of such a vile atrocity, how any sane person can witness such an event and not feel compassion or become emotionally scarred for life is beyond my comprehension. It is truly heart breaking.  I cannot imagine the effect this has on the thousands of children who came with their parents. Such appalling cruelty is beyond may imagination. What kind of person inflicts such cruelty on other living beings or exposes their children to scenes of horrific violence. It is dreadful to think that such people walk the earth, that they too are human and we share the same air, the same planet.

Here is how the guardian newspaper described the shocking scene:

In the main event, 250 appointed residents with traditional kukri knives began their task of decapitating more than 10,000 buffalo in a dusty enclosure guarded by high walls and armed police.

Frightened calves galloped around in vain as the men, wearing red bandanas and armbands, pursued them and chopped off their heads. Banned from entering the animal pen, hundreds of visitors scrambled up the three-metre walls to catch a glimpse of the carnage.
Hindu sacrifice of 250,000 animals begins, by Olivia Lang in Bariyapur *3)

Other killings were carried out by any one who wanted to do so in a three kilometre radius of the Gadhimai temple, where Individual devotees killed the remaining  buffalo, an estimated 20,00 in total, and an unknown number of other animals such as sheep, rats, chickens, pigeons, pigs, goats after paying  Rs 25. Anyone could come simply to watch after also paying the same fee.

Many of the animals arrived at the festival after spending two days with no food or water. During the massacre the animals were not tethered and knives were not sharpened, and often nothing more than a kitchen knife is used . Herded into one place the animals witness the killings of other animals prior to their turn and baby animals saw their mothers killed.

This poor pig  was killed using a simple blunt  household knife. (Photograph Animal Nepal)

He who permits the slaughter of an animal, he who kills it, he who cuts it up, he who buys or sells meat, he who cooks it, he who serves it up, and he who eats it, are all slayers. There is no greater sinner than that man who seeks to increase the bulk of his own flesh by the flesh of other beings

Manusmriti,(lawsof Manu): Hindu scripture
 

 

According to the campaigners, the festival is promoted as a "spectacle" and a cultural event that enriches Nepalese culture.

"The truth is that Gadhimai legitimises violence against the innocent. The priests make the devotees believe that their wish will only come true when offering an expensive buffalo, goat or other kind of animal," Manoj Gautam

Many of the butchers and onlookers were actually laughing during it all. One butcher, Ramlal Mahato, is quoted as saying: "The more animals I kill, the more satisfied I feel. I am helping an ancient tradition to survive."

Here is an eye witness account by Manoj Gautam

The animals were not provided with any water and food in the days before the sacrifice. Many young animals had in fact already died from stress, exhaustion and dehydration before the killings started. Their bodies were left among the live animals.

Everyone could kill anything, with whatever knife or sword. Many animals died an unbearable slow and violent death because the butcher was inexperienced and the knives were not sharpened properly. Thousands of buffaloes were standing in an enclosure when butchers holding swords started hacking randomly at the animals. Some heads could be severed in one cut; in other cases it took the butchers a long time to kill the buffalo.

No one was holding the animals – many tried to escape. Baby buffaloes were bleating and searching for their mothers. Soon they were walking around in a pool of blood. They were hunted down by the butchers. Needless to say, not a single animal survived the blood bath.

After witnessing the suffering inflicted on these gentle, loyal animals, I feel deeply upset and ashamed of the people of my country involved in the whole event.’
Manoj Gautam, member of a youth initiative  Roots & Shoots , which had been campaigning for the prevention of the slaughter. Above quotations are from
Animals Asia article :
Mass animal sacrifices at Nepal's Gadhimai Festival

Most incongruous concerning the irrationality of these superstitious beliefs is the idea that the flesh of these brutally murdered sentient beings is considered blessed, the consumption of which is believed to protect the individual from evil! Surely no same person can consider that this vile act is in itself not evil

It is difficult for civilised people to even begin to imagine the carnage and sadistic brutally or the shocking indifference to the pain of other living beings that was displayed at the festival. Here are the deplorable statistics of the number of animals sacrificed.

Day one 20,000 water buffaloes are brutally slaughtered. Day two countless thousands of goats, chickens, ducks and other animals were massacred. It is estimated that 100,000 to 200,000 goats alone were sacrificed. Some estimates have between 250,000 and 500,OOO thousand as the sum total of animals slaughtered. The exact number may never be known.

Having well considered the origin of flesh-foods, and the cruelty of fettering and slaying corporeal beings, let man entirely abstain from eating flesh.
Manusmriti 5.49 Hindu sacred text

What Has the Gadhimai Festival Got to do With Hinduism?

We bow to all beings with great reverence in the thought and knowledge that God enters into them through fractioning Himself as living creatures.
Mahabharata

In one word, nothing!

It has indeed shocked many people around the world that such a barbaric anachronism is a part of Hinduism. Unfortunately this is a misconception which will inevitably result from this festival. In reality this debase tradition has nothing to do with mainstream modern Hinduism. To understand this it is important to realise that Hinduism is not one religion as such, there is no leading authority, it was not founded by any one person neither are its doctrines or teachings  based upon those of any one individual. Neither can the origins of Hinduism be traced back to any particular period in history although it is about 5,000 years old making it the most ancient living religion. The word Hindu is derived from the name given by Muslims to the people who settled on the banks of the river Sindhu in Northern India, these people had in fact a huge variety of religious beliefs and there is no one single Hindu religion; Hinduism is not confined to a single set of beliefs and there are many different schools of thought.

The oldest Sacred texts are the Vedas. Although seemingly polytheistic Hinduism has a concept of the supreme Spirit, God (Brahman) above the many divine manifestations including a triad of prominent gods:  Brahma, the creator, Vishnu, the preserver, and Shiva, the destroyer. There are however many thousands of lesser deities some common and wide spread such as Krishna, Hanuman, Lakshmi, and Mahādevī, while others are more obscure and localised, thus Hindu belief and ritual can vary greatly even between villages.

I will attempt to explain Hinduism concerning its teachings regarding our treatment of other species. I will intersperse quotations from Hindu scripture which explain the importance of treating animals with compassion in keeping with Hindu beliefs and in keeping with the principle of ahimsa ( non violence) and the law of karma.

By not killing any living being, one becomes fit for salvation."
Manusmriti, 6.60

Central to Hinduism is the belief in reincarnation, rebirth, and Karma, the law of cause and effect, the process whereby the good or bad deeds performed in the present determine the quality of life both in the here and now and future incarnations (rebirths). The principle or code of conduct called ahimsa, which means the avoidance of harm or causing harm to include harm to any animal also plays a significant role in all the religions that originated in ancient India to include Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.

The purchaser of flesh performs himsa (violence) by his wealth; he who eats flesh does so by enjoying its taste; the killer does himsa by actually tying and killing the animal. Thus, there are three forms of killing. He who brings flesh or sends for it, he who cuts of the limbs of an animal, and he who purchases, sells, or cooks flesh and eats it-all of these are to be considered meat-eaters."
Mahabharata, Anu. 115:40

Most Hindus are vegetarian  and most certainly no Hindu will eat beef. Cows are regarded as sacred, the killing of cows is banned in India.  In Vedic sacred text the cow is a symbol of the divine bounty of the earth and the scriptures prohibit the slaughter of cows. Keep in mind that here in the west we often refer to both gender as cows instead of cattle which is correct. Here I will use the word cattle to mean both cows and bulls and I assume that when the term sacred cow is used it means both bulls and cows.  Both water buffalo and cattle belong to the same biological subfamily classification of Bovine and are in appearance and behaviour very similar. It therefore seems utterly incongruous to slaughter water Buffalo. But we must keep in mind that the slaughter of any animal goes against the principle of ahimsa.

Ahimsa is not causing pain to any living being at any time through the actions of one's mind, speech or body.
Sandilya Upanishad

As you will read further down sacrifice has been a part of most religions and has generally been set aside as human beings progressed to more civilised behaviours. And this is the case with Hinduism. From what I understand there are a number of villages and other communities that appear to live in a bubble of existence that has not been effected by the progress of modern thinking and these people continue to practice anachronisms that have probably either been introduced into Hinduism by misinterpretation as Anil Bhanot points out in this article in the Guardian*4) Or such rituals have been deliberately introduced to meet the self serving agendas of corrupt priests or simply those sick individuals who appear to derive some pleasure from cruelty. This has been the case in most religions. There is an example for instance of modern day animal sacrifice in the Christian Church in certain South African Catholic churches*5) You have to look at the overall beliefs of any religion, and generally speaking animal sacrifice is not a part of present day Hinduism and most Hindus are vegetarian.   Also again we need to keep in mind the overlying rule of Ahimsa (refraining from injuring - physically, mentally or emotionally - anyone or any living creature) ; if an Hindu wishes to follow this code of conduct he naturally adopts a vegetarian diet.

Beliefs of Hinduism Concerning Vegetarianism

For India's ancient thinkers, life is seen as the very stuff of the Divine, an emanation of the Source and part of a cosmic continuum. They further hold that each life form, even water and trees, possesses consciousness and energy. Nonviolence, ahimsa, the primary basis of vegetarianism, has long been central to the religious traditions of India-especially Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. Religion in India has consistently upheld the sanctity of life, whether human, animal or, in the case of the Jains, elemental.
Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami from the article : How to Win an Argument with a Meat Eater. More about this article further down.

The Majority of Hindus are vegetarian.  Vegetarianism, Shakahara in sanskrit, has been for thousands of years a principle of morality, health and environmental ethics. Muslim and Christian sway radically influenced and eroded this ideal. It is interesting to note that Gandhi himself at one point during his youth was persuaded by a friend to briefly experiment with a diet of meat. His friend was able to persuaded him that eating meat would make him stronger. Gandhi's friend like many of his fellows erroneously attributed the British power to dominate India as the result of regularly eating meat, Gandhi of course in a very short time reverted to vegetarianism 

The major sects of the Hindu religion hold vegetarianism as an ideal for several reasons, probably the most important of which is in order to comply with the principle of Ahimsa and also to attain spiritual development.  Vegetarianism is an obvious requirement in order to live in accordance with the principle of ahimsa, which has been explained earlier. Concerning Spiritual development it is believed that vegetarian food enhances spiritual progress while conversely meat is a detriment. For this reason it is important that all Hindu priests and religious leaders are vegetarian. Vegetarian sects in Hinduism consider the avoidance of meat as an application of wisdom.  In addition it is considered that the consumption of meat is physically unhealthy. Moreover Hindus believe that those who eat meat absorb the vibration of the fear of death, the pain and despair of the slaughtered animal. It is believed that these mental states seep into the subconscious and will need to be confronted in the future. In addition the consumption of meat, and also eggs, absorbs the vibration of the animal's instinctive nature into our own nervous systems and amplifies are own lower nature which is prone to a terrible fear of death, anxiety, anger, suspicion, jealously, confusion  and other negative behaviours and mind states. In other words Hindus believe that meat effects our consciousness, our emotions and behaviours. if we expect to develop a higher state of consciousness, live in a state of peace, happiness and engender love for all beings we cannot eat flesh which will introduce into our bodies the negative attributes of animals.  Basically Vegetarians live in higher consciousness and meat-eaters abide in lower consciousness. Finally Hindus should be vegetarian and practice non violence to any living being because this way of life is advocated in the Vedas and other Hindu sacred text.

What Hindu scriptures say about vegetarianism and the treatment of animals

The consumption of meat for pleasure is prohibited in Hindu scripture as it is the result only of human selfish desire and cravings to satisfy the palette and to make money from providing and cooking meat. The implication from the following passage is that eating meat will accrue negative karma both now and in the next life

He who injures harmless creatures from a wish to give himself pleasure, never finds happiness in this life or the next.
Manu-samhita 5.45

There are numerous admonitions against the consumption of meat in the Vedas.

The Vedas, a sanskrit word meaning knowledge, as already mentioned are sacred texts that originated in ancient India and are the oldest scriptures of Hinduism. Although the original Vedic system is now different from modern day Hinduism,  with regard to the importance of a vegetarian diet both harmoniously agree.  As previously mentioned according to the Vedas and other Hindu scripture the attainment of spiritual knowledge and development begins with vegetarianism.

In the Vedas, the Vedic king Maharaja Pariksit, said
"only the animal killer cannot relish the message of the Absolute Truth."

In the Bhagavad-gita, (sacred texts and part of the Vedes designated by the Vedic scriptures themselves as the most important and essential revelations), are considered the word of God (Brahman), in the manifestation of Lord Krishna. It is the most well known of the Vedas. Again it is important to note that Hindus believe that all gods are avatars or manifestations of Brahman, the supreme being.

According to the  Bhagavad-gita all food should be offered as a sacrifice to God

"…all that you do, all that you eat, all that you offer and give away, as well as all austerities that you may perform, should be done as an offering unto Me."
Bhagavad-gita 9.27

The type of food that should be offered is also specified . Note no meat is mentioned
"If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit or water, I will accept it."
Bhagavad-gita. 9.26

Non-injury, truthfulness, freedom from theft, lust, anger, and greed, and an effort to do what is agreeable and beneficial to all creatures - this is the common duty of all castes.
Srimad-Bhagavatam: sacred book of India, It is a collection of literature concerning devotion to the incarnations of Lord Vishnu.

Those who are ignorant of real dharma and, though wicked and haughty, account themselves virtuous, kill animals without any feeling of remorse or fear of punishment. Further, in their next lives, such sinful persons will be eaten by the same creatures they have killed in this world.
Shrimad Bhagavatam

We bow to all beings with great reverence in the thought and knowledge that God enters into them through fractioning Himself as living creatures.

Mahabharata: A Sanskirt epic of ancient India

He who desires to augment his own flesh by eating the flesh of other creatures lives in misery in whatever species he may take his birth.
Mahabharata,

One should never do that to another which one regards as injurious to one's own self. This, in brief, is the rule of dharma. Yielding to desire and acting differently, one becomes guilty of adharma.
Mahabharata

Those high souled persons who desire beauty, faultlessness of limbs, long life, mental & physical strength and memory should abstain from any acts of injury.

Mahabharata
 

One who partakes of human flesh, the flesh of a horse or of another animal, and deprives others of milk by slaughtering cows, O King, if such a fiend does not desist by other means, then you should not hesitate to cut off his head.
Rig Veda Samhita

Those noble souls who practice meditation and other yogic ways, who are ever careful about all beings, who protect all animals, are the ones who are actually serious about spiritual practices.

Atharva Veda Samhita
 

You must not use your God-given body for killing God's creatures, whether they are human, animal or whatever.
Yajur Veda, 12.32 third of the four canonical texts of Hinduism, the Vedas, contains mantras

It is stated in the Manusmriti, also called the laws of Manu, that one should abstain from eating all kinds of meat because it leads to killing which in turn results in karmic bondage, the continual cycle of birth and rebirth. The  Manusmriti is an ancient sanskrit text composed in poetic meter, and the most important work of the Dharmaśāstra textual tradition of Hinduism which pertains to both religious and legal duty. According to Hindu tradition, the Manusmriti records the words of Brahma

By not killing any living being, one becomes fit for salvation."
Manusmriti, 6.60)

The Tirukural.

Regarded as the world's greatest ethical scripture The Tirukural written in Tamil is an ancient Hindu text, written about 2100 years ago. The Tirukural is a classic of couplets, composed by Tiruvalluvar an Indian sage, it give us an insight into the lofty ethics and wisdom of ancient Indiana.

Below are quotations from the Tirkural admonishing against the eating of meat and causing harm to any creature:

Verse 251 How can he practice true compassion Who eats the flesh of an animal to fatten his own flesh?
 
Verse 252 Riches cannot be found in the hands of the thriftless, Nor can compassion be found in the hearts of those who eat meat.
 
Verse 253 Goodness is never one with the minds of these two: One who wields a weapon ad one who feasts on a creatures' flesh.

Verse 254 If you ask, "What is kindness and what is unkind?" It is not killing and killing. Thus, eating flesh is never virtuous.

Verse 255 Life is perpetuated by not eating meat. The clenched jaws of hell hold those who do.

Verse 256 If the world did not purchase and consume meat, There would be none to slaughter and offer meat for sale.

Verse 257 When a man realizes that meat is the butchered flesh Of another creature, he must abstain from eating it.

Verse 258 Perceptive souls who have abandoned passion Will not feed on flesh abandoned by life.

Verse 259 Greater then a thousand ghee offerings consumed in sacrificial fires Do not do sacrifice and consume any living creature.

Verse 260 All that lives will press palms together in prayerful adoration Of those who refuse to slaughter and savor meat.

Verse 312 It is the principle of the pure in heart never to injure others, even when they themselves have been hatefully injured. What is virtuous conduct? It is never destroying life, for killing leads to every other sin.

Verse 321 What is virtuous conduct? It is never destroying life, For killing leads to every other sin.

Verse 322 Of all the virtues summed by ancient sages the foremost are these: To partake of food one has shared and to protect all living creatures.

Verse 324 What is the good way? It is the path that reflects on how it may avoid killing any living creature. Refrain from taking precious life from any living being, even to save your own life.

Verse 328 By sacrifice of life some gain great wealth and good, But sagacious men scorn such gains.

Verse 327 Refrain from taking precious life from any living being, Even to save your own life.

Verse 329 Those whose trade is killing creatures are deemed defiled By men who know the defiling nature of being mean.

The Importance of Animals in Hinduism

Frequently mentioned in Hindu myths and legends, animals have an important status in Hinduism. Ancient sages, holy men, have long recognised the spirituality in all living species. Vedic texts even describe them as incarnations of God, Brahman, as divinities and incarnations of Vishnu or siva, Lord Vishnu first incarnated as a bear than a tortoise followed by a fish. Animals are the vehicles of the gods which they use to achieve their tasks, each god/goddess has a vehicle each of which symbolises animal energies, qualities and skilful attributes which either need to be enhanced or sublimated in human nature with the help of the divinities. Animals adorn temples in the form of decorative art and architecture and also inside as objects of veneration.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Angi God of fire:Vehicle a ram

 

 

 

 

According to Vedic teachings animals are considered capable of attaining exalted states of spirituality! It is believed that spirituality is not limited to human beings and the body is only a temporary abode for the eternal soul. It is taught in the Vedas that the soul at the time of death transmigrates from body to body, until it finally achieves human form, from were the soul is able to reason and  seek the truth and obtain the state of Moksha, enlightenment, and cease the cycle of birth and rebirth. Therefore in a way there is no difference between a human being and an animal because all humans were once animals and all animals will become humans.

Charging elephants which symbolise strength and stability are depicted on the lowest frieze of Halebidu Temple

 

 

 

All beings are spiritually equal and all are believed to be manifestations of God as limited beings called Jivas, and possess souls. There are many types of jiva, plants and humans, even micrograms are types of jiva. Jivas though have limitations of consciousness and capacity. In Hinduism animals are not inferior beings and are manifestations of God but on a lower level of evolution than humans. This is a complex subject, for more information please click:
The Significance of Animals in Hinduism and Hindu Ceremonies Legend has it that animals were able to communicate and the gods communicated with them while human begins needed to develop psychic ability to do so. It is believed that animals loiter nearby spiritual adepts in order to learn from them.

Is Animal Sacrifice a Part of Hinduism

Well apparently yes, at least it appears that way in limited circumstances as is the case with all religions. However,  I personally believe that animal sacrifices were perversions either by design or by accident, the result of the misinterpretation of scripture, as mentioned earlier, and in the past this took place during the ancient Aryan Vedic period, but things slowly changed and vegetarianism grew in prevalence in India due to the influences of both Buddhism and Jainism. The founders of these religions advocated the principle of ahimsa. The Brahman priests, who used to exploit the people and advocated animal sacrifices as offerings in the name of religion, also began to preach Vegetarianism since it gained much popularity in India. Nonetheless there remain today instances of animal sacrifice as is the case with the Gadhimai festival were unscrupulous priests continue to pry upon the fears of vulnerable people and continue to promote animal sacrifice as a means of appeasing, usually an obscure deity. Such events as the Gadhimai festival and other instances of animal sacrifice are the result of greed on the part of the priests and organisers and ignorance on the part of those who participate.

Below is the introduction from an article by Stephen Knapp, Vegetarianism: Recommended in Vedic Scripture. The article explains quite clearly what the Vedas advocate concerning the eating of meat, animal sacrifice and other aspects of our relationship with animals. Please take the time to clink the link at the end of the passage below and read this excellent article:

Many times there seems to be some confusion or lack of clarity on whether the Vedic path condones or condemns the eating of meat. Often times I hear Indians and followers of the Vedic path explain that meat eating is all right, that the Vedic shastras do not condemn it. Of course, in this day and age meat eating includes and supports the whole meat industry, which is the systematic slaughter of thousands of animals on a daily basis. But if we actually research the Vedic texts we will find that there are numerous references in the various portions of the Vedic literature which explain in no uncertain terms the karmic dangers of meat-eating and unnecessary animal slaughter. These indicate that meat eating should be given up for one’s spiritual and even material progress. This means that the Vedic conclusions that some people present for meat-eating are not accurate, and that they have never studied their own religious books very thoroughly. This is something that is important to understand, so let us take a look...
Vegetarianism Recommended in Vedic Scripture by Stephen Knapp

How to Win an Argument with a Meat Eater by Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami
is another excellent scource of comprehensive information concerning "The Hindu Virtue of Vegetarianism" a short extract of which appears below.

Scriptures Against Killing and Meat-Eating
Hindu scripture speaks clearly and forcefully on non killing and vegetarianism. In the ancient Rig Veda, we read: "O vegetable, be succulent, wholesome, strengthening; and thus, body, be fully grown." The Yajur Veda summarily dictates: "Do not injure the beings living on the earth, in the air and in the water." The beautiful Tirukural, a widely-read 2,000-year-old masterpiece of ethics, speaks of conscience: "When a man realizes that meat is the butchered flesh of another creature, he must abstain from eating it." The Manu Samhita advises: "Having well considered the origin of flesh and the cruelty of fettering and slaying of corporeal beings, let one entirely abstain from eating flesh." In the yoga-infused verses of the Tirumantiram, warning is given of how meat-eating holds the mind in gross, adharmic states: "The ignoble ones who eat flesh, death's agents bind them fast and push them quick into the fiery jaws of hell (Naraka, lower consciousness)." The roots of non injury non killing and nonconsumption of meat are found in the Vedas, agamas, Upanishads, Dharma Shastras, Tirumurai, Yoga Sutras and dozens of other sacred texts of Hinduism. Here is a select collection.


Vedas and agamas, Hinduism's Revealed Scriptures
LET YOUR AIMS BE COMMON, and your hearts be of one accord, and all of you be of one mind, so you may live well together. Rig Veda Samhita 10.191

Protect both our species, two-legged and four-legged. Both food and water for their needs supply. May they with us increase in stature and strength. Save us from hurt all our days, O Powers! Rig Veda Samhita 10.37.11. VE, 319

One who partakes of human flesh, the flesh of a horse or of another animal, and deprives others of milk by slaughtering cows, O King, if such a fiend does not desist by other means, then you should not hesitate to cut off his head. Rig Veda Samhita, 10.87.16, FS 90

Peaceful be the earth, peaceful the ether, peaceful heaven, peaceful the waters, peaceful the herbs, peaceful the trees. May all Gods bring me peace. May there be peace through these invocations of peace. With these invocations of peace which appease everything, I render peaceful whatever here is terrible, whatever here is cruel, whatever here is sinful. Let it become auspicious, let everything be beneficial to us. Atharva Veda Samhita 10. 191. 4


Those noble souls who practice meditation and other yogic ways, who are ever careful about all beings, who protect all animals, are the ones who are actually serious about spiritual practices. Atharva Veda Samhita 19.48.5. FS, 90

It is well worth reading the entire article where you will find more scriptural references concerning ethical behaviours toward animals and the importance of a vegetarian diet from the perspective not only of ethics but the related issues of health, the environment and the cruelty of factory farming

Himalayan Academy Publications

The overwhelming evidence from scripture is that the barbaric practice of animal sacrifice was not a part of Hinduism and most certainly in modern times is a prohibited act, and not in keeping with a religion, which as you can see from its ancient scriptures, is against the harming of any living being.

So why are we faced with this barbaric atrocity which it seems has little to do with Hinduism

Origin of Gadhimai Festival
The Gadhimai festival has its origins in the 18th century with a feudal landlord Bhagwan Chaudhary and a village healer adept in the Hindu occult, Dukha Kachadiya. Bhagwan Chaudhary was imprisoned at Makwanpur fort prison 260 years ago. While imprisoned he dreamed a dream that his problems would be solved if he made a blood sacrifice to Gadhimai, in other words if he sacrificed an animal. After leaving prison Chaudhary took advice from Kachadiya. According to tradition at the time of Chaudhary’s sacrifice a light appeared in an earthenware jar and from than onwards the grotesquely cruel sacrifice has continued every five years for the last 260 years. For two and a half centuries living breathing beings have been brutally slain because someone had a dream which was foolishly misinterpreted. To day approximately one million people flock to the festival hoping for healing, or good fortune or conversely to avoid bad luck by attending bringing with them an animal, and so the massacre continues and will do so until commonsense and compassion prevails.

The whole concept is so utterly abhorrent and beyond comprehension or tolerance, even with the best of intentions no sane person can accept religious belief of this nature, it goes again reason and the ideal of religion as a force for good. The practice of this blood bath of obscene cruelty and barbarism is in  complete contrast with the ethical principle of ahimsa which means non-violence, a code of ethics upon which Gandhi based his opposition to British oppression. The principle of ahimsa is an important precept of the religions that originated in ancient India namely Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.  It is unfortunate but obvious that superstitious practices have entered into Hinduism an otherwise positive religion based upon spiritual concepts that enlighten and enhance the human experience rather than debase and degrade it as is the case with the introduction of this obscenity, which arises from a depraved cult which should have faded into obscurity a long time ago. Sadly this is one of several superstitious practices which taint an otherwise wise and profound religion, such practices need to be reassessed and challenged for the cruel aberrations that they are and not allowed to take place. There are other festivals, although this is the largest, and there are daily sacrifices in temples in Nepal, and if you visit one of these temples you are likely to find yourself stepping over pools of blood. 

All religions have had these debase aberrations sometime in their history and indeed many continue to give credence to them today and Nepal is not the only country to allow animal sacrifice in the name of religion. Here in the UK religious sacrifice is permitted albeit it nothing like the extent to which it happens in Nepal. Right now  Viva!  are campaigning against the abuse of animals whose throats are slit whilst they are conscious. During the time of St Francis lambs were sacrificed to symbolise the sacrifice of Jesus as the lamb of God. Lambs were also sacrificed in the Judaic tradition to commemorate the Passover, also other animals including thousands upon thousands of bulls, and goats for the various sacrifices to God, which during the feast of Pesach (Passover) were regularly sacrificed in the temple in Jerusalem.  Most religions have abandoned these more primitive aspects as they are now recognised for the debasement that they of course are. However it should be noted that the American Thanksgiving celebration and The Christian festival of Christmas, a commemoration of the birth of Christ, is celebrated by the slaughter of millions of turkeys.  Although not a public ritualistic sacrifice as such there are similar undertones of animal sacrifice albeit undertaken unconsciously by those who consume these animals to celebrate these holidays. Seemingly the slaughter of millions of these sentient beings has become part of the Christmas tradition for reasons few would be able to explain and which few ever question . A barbarous way to celebrate the birth of a man whom Christians believe to be the son of God and a man of peace.

Animal sacrifice or any of its vestiges has no place in any modern day religion. The question needs to be raised why a god, gods or goddesses would wish to have animals sacrificed to appease them or to acquire a cure for illness or good fortune. How can anyone believe that such a being would have the compassion to grant them their wishes.

The thinking [person] must oppose all cruel customs no matter how deeply rooted in tradition and surrounded by a halo. When we have a choice, we must avoid bringing torment and injury into the life of another...
Albert Schweitzer
 

The excuse that this blood bath should take place because of tradition is of course nonsensical. If the Aztecs' civilisation for example still survived would we condone or allow human sacrifice, which was than a common practice, because of tradition? Of course not. And neither should we allow such a heinous and barbaric festival to take place that includes such barbarous cruelty towards other beings who suffer as much fear and pain as human beings.

In modern times as in days gone by such superstition has been capitalised upon by greedy unscrupulous people preying on the superstitious fears that are innate in most people and also the desperation to find a cure for illness or other infirmity. The situation is rather reminiscent of the account in the Christian tradition of Christ chasing the money changers from the temple, who were there to sell animals for sacrifice.

What Gandhi said About Animal Sacrifice
Here is what  Gandhi said about animal sacrifice when he witnessed the sacrifice of sheep as he passed the temple of Kali in the early 1900s during a stay in Calcutta:

During these days I walked up and down the streets of Calcutta. I went to most places on foot. I met Justice Mitter and Sir Gurdas Banerji, whose help I wanted in my work in South Africa. And about this time I met Raja Sir Pyarimohan Mukarji. Kalicharan Banerji had spoken to me about the Kali temple, which I was eager to see, especially as I had read about it in books. So I went there one day, Justice Mitter's house was in the same locality, and I therefore went to the temple on the same day that I visited him. On the way I saw a stream of sheep going to be sacrificed to kali. Rows of beggars lined the lane leading to the temple. There were religious mendicants too, and even in those days I was sternly opposed to giving alms to sturdy beggars. A crowd of them pursued me. One of such men was found seated on a verandah. He stopped me, and accosted me: 'Whither are you going, my boy?' I replied to him. He asked my companion



         Mohandas K. Gandhi
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was the pre-eminent political and spiritual leader of India during the Indian independence movement.

and me to sit down, which we did. I asked him: 'Do you regard this sacrifice as religion?' 'Who would regard killing of animals as religion?' 'Then, why don't you preach against it?' 'That's not my business. Our business is to worship God.' 'But could you not find any other place in which to worship God?' 'All places are equally good for us. The people are like a flock of sheep, following where leaders lead them. It is no business of us sadhus.' We did not prolong the discussion but passed on to the temple. We were greeted by rivers of blood. I could not bear to stand there. I was exasperated and restless. I have never forgotten that sight. That very evening I had an invitation to dinner at a party of Bengali friends. There I spoke to a friend about this cruel form of worship. He said: 'The sheep don't feel anything. The noise and the drum- beating there deaden all sensation of pain.' I could not swallow this. I told him that, if the sheep had speech, they would tell a different tale. I felt that the cruel custom ought to be stopped. I thought of the story of Buddha, but I also saw that the task was beyond my capacity. I hold today the opinion as I held then. To my mind the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a human being. I should be unwilling to take the life of a lamb for the sake of the human body. I hold that, the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it s to protection by man from the cruelty of man. But he who has not qualified himself for such service is unable to afford to it any protection. I must go through more self-purification and sacrifice before I can hope to save these lambs from this unholy sacrifice. Today I think I must die pining for this self-purification and sacrifice. It is my constant prayer that there may be born on earth some great spirit, man or woman, fired with divine pity, who will deliver us from this heinous sin, save the lives of the innocent creatures, and purify the temple. How is it that Bengal with all its knowledge, intelligence, sacrifice, and emotion tolerates this slaughter?

The Story of My Experiments with Truth

This Gadhimai Slaughter Must End

Despite floods of international protest this festival took place and the final stamp of approval was the presence of senior ministers and government officials, Deputy-prime minister Bijay Kumar Gacchedhar, tourism minister Sharat Singh Bhandari and state-minister Kalawati Dusadh and others, who visited the site and even participated by offering their prayers to the Goddess. Moreover the Nepalese government donated  £36,500 to build an "abattoir" to confine the animals for the barbaric blood bath. But this was not a place for humane slaughter, there is no system for the humane killing of these animals, not that in my opinion there is such a thing as humane slaughter and there is most certainly nothing humane about death. The purpose of this "abattoir" was supposedly to avoid pollution and disease but no doubt to retain Bhojpuri votes. The Bhojpuri people, are close-knit ethnic community devoted to the worship of Gadhimai who live in the region where the festival takes place

The Gadhimai festival is the largest of its kind and its very public display of unbridled brutality has caught the attention of caring people the world over, but we should not forget the barbaric killing of millions of animals daily in factory farms. Our whole attitude to the other animals with how we share this planet needs to be looked at in light of more modern thinking instead of the outdated idiocy of by gone days. Nowadays most progressive religions should  promote the well being  of all animals, recognise their right to life, their need to be free from fear, pain and suffering and exploitation at the hand of man. There are no gods/goddesses, messiahs or another other divine beings who require you to harm other creatures and if there is a heaven and a benevolent God/Goddess he or she and heaven must weep at the barbarity of the Gadhimai festival and the massacre every day of sentient begins in factory farms to appease the fickle appetites of human beings who do not need to eat meat, who are not biologically designed to eat meat; they have never been and moreover never will be.

It will be along time if ever that when I hear the mention of Nepal I will not think of this cruel festival, an image that replaces the previous one I had of a country with pleasant people, spectacular scenery and the birthplace of Buddha a man of peace who advocated non violence to all beings

Shame on Nepal, you bring your culture into disgrace and you discredit an ancient religion all in the name of greed, superstitious dread and ignorance. Shame on western countries with their factory farms, their barbaric slaughter houses, their institutions of heinous cruelty in the name of medical science towards helpless creatures.  Shame on human beings for allowing this the holocaust of animals.

Our grandchildren will ask us one day: Where were you during the Holocaust of the animals? What did you do against these horrifying crimes? We won't be able to offer the same excuse for the second time, that we didn't know."
Dr. Helmut Kaplan\

Please note the above comment is of course a generalisation; many Nepalese condemn the Gadhimai festival in the same as many people in western countries condemn factory farming and other forms of animals cruelty.

Here on this Website:

For ideas concerning actions you can take to stop this crime against sentient beings:
Stop the Gadhimai Jatra Festival ever Happening Again

For ideas concerning actions you may take to stop other forms of cruelty towards animals:
Useful Links Action you can Take

External Links

The Goddess Needs Blood
 

The Gadhimai sacrifice is grotesque | Anil Bhanot | Comment is free | guardian

Stop the World's Largest Animal Sacrifice: Campaigners ‘deeply disturbed’ by G

A campaign to stop the Gadhimai festival

 

"Gadhimai festival, held every five years, is the largest animal sacrifice in the world. Hundreds and thousands of animals are mercilessly killed in the name of religion. The bloodbath must stop because it is cruel, inhumane and dangerous to health."

Photograph Credits:
Halebidu Temple on Flickr - Photo Sharing! creative commons license: Creative Commons — Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic

The photograph used for the banner at the top of the page and the pig being killed are from
animalNEPAL.org

References

1) AFP: Nepalese butchers laud mass animal sacrifice

2)Hindu sacrifice of 250,000 animals begins | World news | guardian.co.uk

3) Hindu sacrifice of 250,000 animals begins | World news | guardian.co.uk

4) The Gadhimai sacrifice is grotesque | Anil Bhanot | Comment is free | guardian

5) Andrew Linzey, Animal Theology — Animal Sacrifices

Other information used in this article was gleaned from the following sources:

International Vegetarian Union (IVU)Vegetarian News - Hinduism and Vegetarianism

Vegetarianism - Why Hindus Don't Eat Meat

The Significance of Animals in Hinduism and Hindu Ceremonies

ANIMALS ASIA

 

Important please note:

I am not an animal expert of any kind just your average person who loves animals, all animals, and feels deeply about the plight of many of our fellow creatures. Neither am I a writer, or any other expert. Therefore please keep in mind that the information included in this website has been researched to the best of my ability and any misinformation is quite by accident but of course possible.

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