Photos: Mass slaughter of animals at Nepal’s Gadhimai Mela despite outcry

Pools of blood dotted the muddy ground at Bariyarpur in Nepal on Tuesday as what is thought to be the world's biggest animal sacrifice swung into action. The festival, renowned for its large number of animal sacrifices, is held every five years at the Gadhimai Temple where devotees from Nepal and bordering India sacrifice buffaloes, goats and birds while offering prayers to Gadhimai, the goddess of power. Efforts from activists and officials were expected to cut the death toll from the 200,000 butchered at the last Gadhimai Festival five years ago, but thousands of creatures were still set to be killed over the two days.

UPDATED ON DEC 05, 2019 10:01 AM IST 14 Photos
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Devotees raise their sacrificial blades as the sacrificial ceremony of the “Gadhimai Mela” festival begins at Bariyarpur, Nepal. The five-yearly festival, believed to be the world’s biggest animal sacrifice at one place, began on Tuesday in the presence of a huge number of pilgrims from India, amid protests by animal activists. Though the month-long festival started on November 17, the main sacrifice days were on December 3 and 4. (Navesh Chitrakar / REUTERS)

Devotees raise their sacrificial blades as the sacrificial ceremony of the “Gadhimai Mela” festival begins at Bariyarpur, Nepal. The five-yearly festival, believed to be the world’s biggest animal sacrifice at one place, began on Tuesday in the presence of a huge number of pilgrims from India, amid protests by animal activists. Though the month-long festival started on November 17, the main sacrifice days were on December 3 and 4. (Navesh Chitrakar / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON DEC 05, 2019 10:01 AM IST
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Tens of thousands of people have poured in from different parts of Nepal and India to take part in the festival to honour a Hindu goddess. The sacrifice formally began with the slaughtering of five different animals -- rat, goat, pigeon, chicken and pig -- at the main temple of Gadhimai, about 160 km south of Kathmandu. A local shaman then offered blood from five points of his body. (Prakash Mathema / AFP)

Tens of thousands of people have poured in from different parts of Nepal and India to take part in the festival to honour a Hindu goddess. The sacrifice formally began with the slaughtering of five different animals -- rat, goat, pigeon, chicken and pig -- at the main temple of Gadhimai, about 160 km south of Kathmandu. A local shaman then offered blood from five points of his body. (Prakash Mathema / AFP)

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Devotees look on as they travel with a goat. According to legend, the first sacrifices here were conducted several centuries ago when goddess Gadhimai appeared to a prisoner in a dream and told him to offer blood and establish her temple. When he awoke, his shackles had fallen open and he was able to leave the prison and build the temple, where he sacrificed animals to give thanks, so the legend goes. (Prakash Mathema / AFP)

Devotees look on as they travel with a goat. According to legend, the first sacrifices here were conducted several centuries ago when goddess Gadhimai appeared to a prisoner in a dream and told him to offer blood and establish her temple. When he awoke, his shackles had fallen open and he was able to leave the prison and build the temple, where he sacrificed animals to give thanks, so the legend goes. (Prakash Mathema / AFP)

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A blacksmith sharpens a blade ahead of the ceremony. The mass sacrifice is said to be the cruellest form of animal slaughtering in public religious places, according to the International Organisation for Animal Protection (IOAP). Millions of animals are hijacked in a ground with few peoples carrying blunt blades and chase them to slit and behead with several attempts leading to slow and hard death, it said. (Navesh Chitrakar / REUTERS)

A blacksmith sharpens a blade ahead of the ceremony. The mass sacrifice is said to be the cruellest form of animal slaughtering in public religious places, according to the International Organisation for Animal Protection (IOAP). Millions of animals are hijacked in a ground with few peoples carrying blunt blades and chase them to slit and behead with several attempts leading to slow and hard death, it said. (Navesh Chitrakar / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON DEC 05, 2019 10:01 AM IST
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More than 5 million pilgrims are expected to arrive at Gadhimai during the month-long festival. Animal rights activists, civil society groups and vegan groups have been campaigning for the past couple of months to stop the bloodshed. Despite efforts to stop the massive killing of animals, Nepalese authorities express helplessness in stopping the age-old, faith-based tradition. (Prakash Mathema / AFP)

More than 5 million pilgrims are expected to arrive at Gadhimai during the month-long festival. Animal rights activists, civil society groups and vegan groups have been campaigning for the past couple of months to stop the bloodshed. Despite efforts to stop the massive killing of animals, Nepalese authorities express helplessness in stopping the age-old, faith-based tradition. (Prakash Mathema / AFP)

UPDATED ON DEC 05, 2019 10:01 AM IST
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Devotees offer prayers as they arrive in Bariyarpur. In August 2016, the Nepalese Supreme Court, in response to a petition, issued an order to the government to stop animal sacrifices at Gadhimai fair. This time temple authorities banned the sacrifice of pigeons only in symbolic honour of the verdict as the bird is a sign of peace, said the Gadhimai Festival Main Committee. (Navesh Chitrakar / REUTERS)

Devotees offer prayers as they arrive in Bariyarpur. In August 2016, the Nepalese Supreme Court, in response to a petition, issued an order to the government to stop animal sacrifices at Gadhimai fair. This time temple authorities banned the sacrifice of pigeons only in symbolic honour of the verdict as the bird is a sign of peace, said the Gadhimai Festival Main Committee. (Navesh Chitrakar / REUTERS)

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Buffaloes are kept inside an enclosure awaiting sacrifice. The slaughter house spreading across 1,45,000 square feet in the premises of Gadhimai temple currently houses 5,000 buffalos and more than 50,000 animals are estimated to be slaughtered in the two-day sacrifice, according to an animal rights activist. (Navesh Chitrakar / REUTERS)

Buffaloes are kept inside an enclosure awaiting sacrifice. The slaughter house spreading across 1,45,000 square feet in the premises of Gadhimai temple currently houses 5,000 buffalos and more than 50,000 animals are estimated to be slaughtered in the two-day sacrifice, according to an animal rights activist. (Navesh Chitrakar / REUTERS)

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A girl waits for customers as she sells flutes at the Gadhimai Mela. “We didn’t ask the people to bring animals for slaughter,” said Ramchandra Sah Teli, chair of Gadhimai Temple Management Committee. “They came on their own. It’s an age-old tradition that they adhere to and it is what makes the festival so popular,” he explained. (Navesh Chitrakar / REUTERS)

A girl waits for customers as she sells flutes at the Gadhimai Mela. “We didn’t ask the people to bring animals for slaughter,” said Ramchandra Sah Teli, chair of Gadhimai Temple Management Committee. “They came on their own. It’s an age-old tradition that they adhere to and it is what makes the festival so popular,” he explained. (Navesh Chitrakar / REUTERS)

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Devotees perform a ritual near the sacrifice enclosure. However, animal rights activist Sneha Shrestha, chairperson of Federation of Animal Welfare Nepal (FAWN), said, “The security personnel deployed by the government and the temple authorities have been encouraging the animal sacrifice despite the Supreme Court’s order.” They are not doing anything to discourage animal sacrifice, she pointed out. (Prakash Mathema / AFP)

Devotees perform a ritual near the sacrifice enclosure. However, animal rights activist Sneha Shrestha, chairperson of Federation of Animal Welfare Nepal (FAWN), said, “The security personnel deployed by the government and the temple authorities have been encouraging the animal sacrifice despite the Supreme Court’s order.” They are not doing anything to discourage animal sacrifice, she pointed out. (Prakash Mathema / AFP)

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A Hindu devotee looks on. “We are very ashamed of what happened today,” said Shrestha, who has been actively involved in treating sick animals in Gadhimai. Many animal rights activists like Shrestha are spending a month there campaigning against the sacrifice. “We don’t have an act for animal welfare in Nepal... The gods won’t be happy if innocent animals are killed,” Shrestha said. (Prakash Mathema / AFP)

A Hindu devotee looks on. “We are very ashamed of what happened today,” said Shrestha, who has been actively involved in treating sick animals in Gadhimai. Many animal rights activists like Shrestha are spending a month there campaigning against the sacrifice. “We don’t have an act for animal welfare in Nepal... The gods won’t be happy if innocent animals are killed,” Shrestha said. (Prakash Mathema / AFP)

UPDATED ON DEC 05, 2019 10:01 AM IST
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A volunteer controls a crowd using a stick during the ritual. Indian border authorities and volunteers have in recent days seized scores of animals being brought across the frontier by unlicensed traders and pilgrims. While this has failed to stop the flow, officials and animal rights groups say such efforts combined with awareness campaigns have helped decrease the bloodshed. (Navesh Chitrakar / REUTERS)

A volunteer controls a crowd using a stick during the ritual. Indian border authorities and volunteers have in recent days seized scores of animals being brought across the frontier by unlicensed traders and pilgrims. While this has failed to stop the flow, officials and animal rights groups say such efforts combined with awareness campaigns have helped decrease the bloodshed. (Navesh Chitrakar / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON DEC 05, 2019 10:01 AM IST
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Devotees holding knives look on as mantras are sung ahead of sacrificial offerings. After the ceremonial slaughter of the five animals, some 200 butchers with sharpened swords and knives walked into a walled arena bigger than a football field that held several thousand buffalo as excited pilgrims climbed trees and walls to catch a glimpse. (Prakash Mathema / AFP)

Devotees holding knives look on as mantras are sung ahead of sacrificial offerings. After the ceremonial slaughter of the five animals, some 200 butchers with sharpened swords and knives walked into a walled arena bigger than a football field that held several thousand buffalo as excited pilgrims climbed trees and walls to catch a glimpse. (Prakash Mathema / AFP)

UPDATED ON DEC 05, 2019 10:01 AM IST
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A devotee slaughters a buffalo as an offering to the goddess Gadhimai. Hundreds of Indian pilgrims were seen participating in the sacrificing rituals. “I have great respect for goddess Gadhimai. We are happy to provide our offering. It is our choice,” said Bishwanath Kalawar from Motihari in Bihar. (Prakash Mathema / AFP)

A devotee slaughters a buffalo as an offering to the goddess Gadhimai. Hundreds of Indian pilgrims were seen participating in the sacrificing rituals. “I have great respect for goddess Gadhimai. We are happy to provide our offering. It is our choice,” said Bishwanath Kalawar from Motihari in Bihar. (Prakash Mathema / AFP)

UPDATED ON DEC 05, 2019 10:01 AM IST
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Devotees gather near a temple during the festival. Among the bleating goats in the temple area were some devotees who opted not to kill any animals but to free pigeons, like 20-year-old Rabindra Kumar Yadav who came to thank the goddess for his health. “We didn’t sacrifice an animal, we worshipped the goddess with a pair of pigeons instead,” he said, before the lucky birds flapped away to safety. (Prakash Mathema / AFP)

Devotees gather near a temple during the festival. Among the bleating goats in the temple area were some devotees who opted not to kill any animals but to free pigeons, like 20-year-old Rabindra Kumar Yadav who came to thank the goddess for his health. “We didn’t sacrifice an animal, we worshipped the goddess with a pair of pigeons instead,” he said, before the lucky birds flapped away to safety. (Prakash Mathema / AFP)

UPDATED ON DEC 05, 2019 10:01 AM IST

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