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The 'killing fields' of Gadhimai

world Updated: Nov 26, 2009 01:01 IST
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Do buffaloes jump like headless chickens once their heads are severed?

Well, they don’t. They just fall on the ground as jets of blood rush out with their last remaining breaths. But the scene is as gory if not gorier.

I am not fainthearted. I have seen scenes of ruthless murders by ‘criminal tribes’ and witnessed dozens of ‘sleeping bodies’ after lives were snuffed out from them at a New Delhi movie hall and many more.

But nothing could have prepared my strong eyes to what I witnessed at the Gadhimai Mela in Nepal.

Nearly 300 authorised slaughterers — some in high ‘sprits’ — swinging khukhris, machetes and scimitars sacrificing nearly 25,000 buffaloes right in front of my eyes in less than two hours on a foggy Tuesday morning.

I was aware that it would happen. But it was not until a tipsy slaughterer struck down a young calf in one swing of his khukhri barely 10 feet away from me that I fled to escape getting covered with blood.

And as I remained rooted in the bamboo barricade made inside the walled enclosure where the animals were kept, the killings continued. The presence of a large posse of photo-journalists from across the globe made the slaughterers try the perfect swing for the cameras.

The smell of raw blood was nauseating and as I saw my peers clicking, I missed my new digital camera. For the record, it was taken by an enterprising devotee to the fair (without my permission).

Another braveheart had snatched my gold chain minutes earlier when I was paying my respects to Goddess Gadhimai. Maybe I should have offered a pumpkin or bitter gourd to the goddess to escape such personal sacrifices in the line of duty.

Since I was breathing easily now, I also remembered the ‘near death’ experience courtesy a mini-stampede in the midst of a million strong sea of humanity while I was trying to make my way to the temple in dense fog.

Shouts of Jai Ghadhimai Ki brought me back to my senses. In the meantime, the slaughterers had completed nearly half of their task. It took them 30 minutes more to complete the day’s job.

Since people are authorised to offer sacrifice within a five-kilometre radius of the temple, hundreds of goats were slaughtered on open fields.

Similar scenes were witnessed on Wednesday, but it was the turn of goats, roosters, pigeons — some say nearly 500,000 were killed to fulfill the wishes of millions of devotees.

As I made my way back, random thoughts like how much money will the temple committee earn by selling the buffalo skins and meat to highest bidders and what happened to the animal lovers who did their duty by writing letters to the government cluttered my mind.

The blaring of loudspeakers with mothers screaming for their lost sons and the rising dust from millions of feet added to the surreal experience. And again for the record, headless chickens do jump around. I saw them at Gadhimai Mela.