On October 7th., the goddess Kali demonstrated to a group of fifty devotees how to make sacrifices in a Symbolic Puja at Dakchhinkali Temple.
“I do not need animal blood. I am happy with fruits and vegetables, so please offer me vegetarian sacrifices,” the blue-tongued goddess said, before slashing a pumpkin in half.
The devotees, a gathering of social and animal welfare campaigners, followed the fierce looking goddess Kali – played by actor Durga from Shilpee Theater – by sacrificing kubindos and coconuts, in a ritual that according to the
campaigners has a firm basis in the country’s ancient traditions.
The puja was organized as part of a novel campaign against animal sacrifices that take place during Dasain festival.
The ritual was coordinated by the Animal Welfare Network Nepal (AWNN).
Earlier this year, AWNN launched a 5-year campaign against animal sacrifice and cruel sports. The homegrown movement was born during Gadhimai festival which saw the killing of some 200,000 animals in the span of 24 hours in November 2009. The campaign is supported by a growing number of spiritual and society leaders, including the well known comedian duo MAHA. Quaker Concern for Animals supports it too.
The network is requesting the President, Prime Minister, army and police to cancel state funded animal sacrifices during Dasain. “Nepal is the world’s key implementers of animal sacrifice, a practice that promotes superstition
and violence, drains the poor and prevents Nepal from becoming a truly advanced country. Decapitating a bleating buffalo or goat should not be the symbol of the Nepali civilization,” AWNN urges.
According to the campaigners, animal sacrifices harm society as a whole, as it signals and normalizes insensitivity in children who can become numb to the suffering of living beings. It is also known to influence certain people to
commit violence on other humans. “Now that the armed conflict, has ended Nepal needs peaceful practices that educate the next generation for a harmonious society,” campaign coordinator Santosh Khatiwada says.
AWNN argues that bloodless rituals have a firm foundation in Nepal’s culture: “Rituals that involve cruelty generally are promoted to attract more business. Festivals and pujas need to be a harmonizing, enjoyable experience for all members of the community, including children. Introducing alternative, non-violent forms of sacrifice rituals will re-establish festivals as meaningful, fun and positive experiences.”
AWNN also argues that a vegetarian diet improves people’s health and helps to save the planet. It is believed that 90% of random meat samples in Kathmandu are contaminated with bacteria such as salmonella. As a result, the majority of typhoid cases in city dwellers are caused by infected meat.
On September 26th, at an interaction programme organized by Dalit Awareness National Forum in Kathmandu, speakers discussed the negative aspects of animal sacrifice and the need to abolish it, claiming it had an adverse effect on the Dalit community.
Ganesh Lohar, president of Dalit Awareness National Forum, cited the example of festivals such as the Gadimai Mela and rituals organized at the temples:
“In many rituals, decayed meat is left out for the Dalit people. This system stands as a glaring example of discrimination faced by the Dalit community. Dalit community is also termed as a filthy people because they eat decayed meat.”
Lohar said that the state should declare sacrifice of animals an illegal act and a system of offering fruits should replace it.
Any person found sacrificing animals should be punished according to the law and sacrificing animals in the name of women should be abolished.
He added that Dalit people should not be forced to eat decayed meat and they must be allowed to enter the temples.
Naina Kala Thapa, president of the National Women’s Commission, said that in a world of new technologies and advances, Nepal was still preserving outdated rituals.
~ Thanks to Lucia de Vries of Stop Animal Sacrifice International – www.stopanimalsacrifice.org – and to the broadsheet Gorkhapatra: The Rising Nepal: