Animal Sacrifice

One of the most tragic realities in society today is the existence of rituals involving the murder of animals in the name of religion. What ought to be a force guiding people away from inflicting any pain on other living creatures and making them sensitive, caring individuals respecting other life similar to theirs, is instead used today, as a justification for killing animals. Animal and bird sacrifices therefore continue to exist in India and this does not mean it happens only among the tribal folk.

Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Puducherry are the only governments with a law against the sacrifice of animals and birds. However, in 2002 a news item said that late Shri Vinod Chandra Pande, the then Bihar and Jharkhand Governor had directed the governments of the two states to ban the sacrifice of animals in temples and that such killing was punishable under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.

Good news no doubt, but BWC has not been able to get animal sacrifices stopped under this Act in other states like Maharashtra. Although in 2008 a news item stated that in Washim District of Maharashtra members of the Banjara Dal non-violently protested against their community’s tradition of sacrificing goats and being bound by superstitions.

In 2002 the then Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, Dr J Jayalalitha enforced the Tamil Nadu Animal & Bird Sacrifice Prohibition Act, 1950 calling it a cruel custom. This order banning sacrifice of animals and birds in temples came in the wake of the reported “sacrifice” of 500 buffaloes at a village temple in Tiruchi district and since the CM was particularly keen on stopping animal sacrifices during the Kodai festivals when scores of goats and fowl are killed in Tirunelveli and Tuticorin districts of the state. However, the repeal of the Act a year or so later was, we understand, aimed at wooing Dalits and other communities who sacrifice animals. Sadly, the CM chose to sacrifice animals and birds at the altar of political expediency.


Animal Sacrifices by Muslims, Hindus and Christians


The ritual slaying of a goat on the occasion of Bakri Idd is a socially imposed custom on every Muslim family. Some pay lakhs of rupees for particular goats like the chand ka bakra ones which have white shaped markings resembling the moon. In addition to specially fed and fattened goats, camels also get sacrificed.

It is a common practice for animals like sheep, goats and male buffaloes to be beheaded ritually on auspicious days in and around temples all over India. The temples of the goddess Kali are the slaughter grounds for, again, goats.

The Christian community of coastal India have similar customs to mark their religious occasions.

Whether prescribed by their respective scriptures or not, these customs are a reality that their religions’ followers have to own up and claim responsibility for, whether they be tribal or educated town folk. At the same time, just to appease the electorate, the authorities should not look the other way while animals are unlawfully killed for religious purposes.

BWC strongly objects to any killing of animals in the name of any religion. It feels that we exhibit hypocrisy by demanding human rights for ourselves but denying the elementary right of life to our fellow creatures. Taking the life of a defenceless innocent animal and calling it a sacrifice is surely a demonstration of much undeveloped moral values. Do people really think that the kind and compassionate God is pleased when we take life in His name and feast upon the flesh of the killed animal? (If hundreds of animals have been slaughtered and there is an excess of flesh it is thrown away.)

It matters little if camels, goats or cows are killed for Bakri Idd, or if goats, chicken and buffalo calves are sacrificed in Hindu temples to appease deities such as Samantdada, Manju Bhog, goddesses Hadimba Mata, Ekvira, Kamakhya, Mahalaxmi and Kali, at festivals like the Biroba Jatra, or the captured wild fox, sheep and goat sacrifices take place at Makara Sankranti.


It is brutal killing of animals and birds which can only be stopped by enlightened religious leaders as was done in 1989 when BWC persuaded the Catholic Church to stop the age old barbaric custom of teenage boys biting a piglet to death at Terekol, Goa in celebration of St John’s Baptism.


Political Sanctions and Reasons


Despite protests from animal activists, in 2002 Nepal’s former King Gyanendra offered a number of animals to be sacrificed at Kamakhya temple in Guwahati and then at the Kalighat temple along with traditional Hindu pujas. If the visiting head of a neighbouring state perpetuates this barbaric custom, does it mean that we have to accept it?

When in 2008 the UPA Government won the trust vote in Parliament, 242 goats and 4 buffaloes were “offered for sacrifice” (read “murdered”) at the Kamakhya Temple in Guwahati. The victory resulted in so many innocent animals losing their lives.

To restore former Jharkhand Chief Minister Madhu Koda’s future after being booked under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, in November 2009 his wife resorted to sacrificing 11 goats.

Camels


In November 2005 some BWC members in Kochi found that two camels had been brought to Kochi for feasting on camel meat during Ramzaan Idd. On receiving their complaint the Kochi Corporation banned their slaughter. The owner of the camels approached the Kerala High Court but before the case could conclude one of the camels died due to poor living conditions and an improper diet. The judgement pronounced that the other camel could not be slaughtered on the grounds that there was no provision for slaughtering camels within the corporation limits, no qualified vet to certify its fitness for slaughter or suitability of its meat for human consumption, and no one licensed to slaughter or sell camel meat.

The Karnataka High Court in January 2009 forbid camels to be brought into the state due to climatic conditions being unsuitable for them resulting in several deadly infectious diseases like anthrax which put other animals and humans at risk.

Karnataka is the not the only state where camels are taken for being sacrificed for Bakri Idd. They are walked out of Rajasthan and Gujarat (the desert regions from where they hail) to far flung places in India. There are objections from West Bengal too.

Tourists Hate Witnessing Gory Killing


BWC has drawn the attention of the Ministry of Tourism more than once to the increasing prevalence of animal slaughter in tourist locations and requested a strong directive be issued to curtail it. It was pointed out that whether in butcher shops or as ritual sacrifice in temples, the sights, sounds and smells of animal slaughter are extremely upsetting to the mind of the tourist, more so if from abroad since foreigners on seeing animals’ throats being slit are so shocked they do not hesitate to label our country barbaric. Tourists come to experience a relaxed time, not a time disturbed by the very shocking sights and pitiful sounds of animals being slaughtered or awaiting slaughter. In our appeal letters we added that although we know that butchery of animals is not prohibited, we would like it to be recognised as a moral issue in human society today and so requested that its prevalence not be encouraged. It was therefore especially important to keep tourist places pleasant and beautiful, and free of animal slaughter. Otherwise tourists would prefer staying away from such locations.

Two examples of temples cited in our appeals to the Government (mentioned above) and where BWC has put in efforts to try to stop animal sacrifice are the Hadimba Mata temple and Ekvira Mata Mandir.

Hadimba Mata Temple


Situated in the picturesque bills of Manali, quite close to the centre of town, is the Hadimba Park frequented by scores of tourists who come there to enjoy the greenery. This park, besides having gardens of trees and flower beds to walk through also has a temple dedicated to the deity Hadimba Mata, the wife of the well-known Mahabharata character Bheem.

Sadly, this temple has the disrepute of being a site of animal sacrifice. It has a balivedi (the sacrificial altar, the stone on which the animal is placed to be killed) in a prominent location outside the temple, and its portals are decorated with bones and skulls of animals which, one presumes, are the victims of earlier sacrifices. People come there carrying beheaded hens, blood dripping from their necks, which is smeared over the sacrificial alter. Children watch with fear-filled eyes as bloodied animal bodies are brought there and taken out as prasad after the altar is anointed. There are others who do the actual killing at the altar. Enquiries revealed that hens, goats, and sheep are the animals commonly sacrificed.

Ekvira Mata Mandir


All tourists to the Buddhist caves of Karla, near the popular resort of Lonavala in Maharashtra, have to pass through the Ekvira Mata Mandir built right outside the doorway of the caves. But first, as the visitor leaves the highway to go to the temple, s/he has to pass a row of bloody butcher shops which is obviously undesirable. In the name of Goddess Ekvira, people bring animals and get them butchered in the mutton shops of Vehergaon. Some of the mutton shops are properly constructed, some are open thatched sheds. Most of the animals brought are young kids or lambs. The sight of butchers slitting the throats of such innocent animals in full view of each other and leaving them to die in pools of blood, legs kicking and headless bodies giving involuntary jerks as life ebbs from them, is heart-rending to say the least. The visitor is shocked, left horrified at the insensitivity of devotees and the barbarism of the situation.

This practice shoots up on Sundays and peaks during the Saptami jatra held on the saptami of the Chaitra month. Open slaughter of hundreds of animals takes place at this jatra. The ceremonial sacrifices (“maan”) are given in the presence of the administration’s representative, the Tehsildar (or in his absence, the invited chief guest) at 4 am. The participation of the administration in the jatra sacrifices is especially objectionable: instead of stopping such barbaric – and illegal – practices the administration is found to openly encourage it.

The practice of animal sacrifice is tragic for happening right outside the Buddhist caves of Karla which are a tourist attraction. Ironically, animal sacrifice was one of the social evils that Buddha had fought against in his lifetime. 2,000 years later, it continues to be practised, and that too right outside Buddhist caves.

During the month prior to the scheduled Ekvira Mata Jatra of 2008, BWC teams visited Karla and several villages from which people would be participating but it was difficult to convince the fisher-folk to donate their own blood instead of sacrificing animals. Nevertheless, on the day we asked the Inlacks & Budhrani Hospital from Pune to set up a blood donation camp at the site. BWC was the first to think of and hold such a blood collection drive in India. (Since then few animal activists and organisations have managed to convince some devotees in different parts of India to donate their blood instead of shedding the blood of innocent animals.) A common excuse for not donating blood was that they were under the influence of alcohol. Very few people therefore availed of this facility and donated blood. Thousands of animals were killed that night in the presence of each other, and in the presence of children who were in fact helping the butchers. On seeing goats being killed outside the authorised area, and the Police expressing inability to take action, BWC lodged a complaint at the Lonavala police station.


However, during the 2012 jatra, Beauty Without Cruelty and the Sarvajeev Mangal Pratishthan managed to successfully convince many Ekvira Devi devotees with the help of Marathi pamphlets and corner-meetings, not to buy and kill animals, as a result of which about 70% of animals remained unsold. Simultaneously, the police ensured that the ban on animal slaughter on the hill was implemented to a great extent. Therefore, at the end of the three day jatra it was estimated that 7000 to 8000 chickens and goats must have been saved.

In April 2013 for the jatra, Beauty Without Cruelty and the Sarvajeev Mangal Pratishthan campaigned together again. Weeks in advance letters were sent to numerous politicians asking them for support. The Police were contacted. Huge hoardings were put up and thousands of pamphlets in Marathi were distributed at the site and inserted in local newspapers. At the meeting of the organisers of the jatra which was attended by the trustees and head priest of the Ekvira Devi temple, our representatives were able to considerably convince the persons who mattered. The result of our efforts bore fruit with policemen checking each and every vehicle and not allowing liquor and animals to be taken up the hill. However, as we couldn’t get the authorities to close the butcher shops at the foothill, killing of some chickens and goats did unfortunately take place. Eight major Marathi and Hindi newspapers covered our campaign and praised what we had achieved saying it was unprecedented success because no animal was taken up to the temple and sacrificed there.

The highlight of our 2014 campaign to end animal sacrifice at Ekvira Devi jatra was the chief pujari of the temple saying he dreamt the Devi did not want animals to be sacrificed but this amazing development did not eliminate sacrifices totally. Nevertheless, year-on-year since 2008, our efforts have lessened the number of animals sacrificed. Many more animals would be saved if the butcher shops were to be closed on the days of the jatra and no goats and chickens are sold on and around the hill area. But to achieve this, we need much more understanding and support from the temple authorities and government functionaries. Sarva Jeeva Mangal Pratishthan and Beauty Without Cruelty will therefore continue to try to make them see our point of view.


Gaodevi Mandir in Mumbai


BWC was shocked beyond words to know in 2006 that animal sacrifices in the name of religion took place in metropolitan Mumbai temples: one the Gaodevi Mandir on Amboli Hill and the other a similar Gaodevi temple on Gilbert Hill (Gaodevi is a Marathi term connoting a “village temple” harking back to the time when Mumbai was a congregation of small villages each with a temple of its own) both in isolated locations. As the only authorised place of slaughter in Mumbai is Deonar abattoir, BWC together with local animal welfare organisation representatives approached the Police who agreed to help. Accordingly, on the eve of Dassera at 11.30 pm when 10-12 sheep and goats were found tied outside the Gaodevi Mandir on Amboli Hill along with some cocks awaiting animal sacrifice, the Oshiwara police were informed. At 1 am the inspector on night duty along with his men went to the temple. He reported that to his own surprise, he was able to convince the people at the temple without difficulty, not to engage in animal slaughter there; whether or not the animals were sacrificed elsewhere, we do not know, but hope not.

Fox Ritual and No Sacrifice at Udbur


The brutal ritual of fox sacrifice is prevalent in a number of villages of Karnataka on the occasion of Makar Sankranti. Foxes are illegally trapped, their mouths sewn with needle and thread and presented to the deity and then their lower right ears are amputated and a pack of stray starving dogs made to attack them. Traumatised, mauled, bleeding and dying, the fox is then let loose in the forest. In 1997 Beauty Without Cruelty along with Compassion Unlimited Plus Action was successful in obtaining a Court order thanks to which the cruelty inflicted on the foxes was lessened, but unfortunately nothing could be done to stop the hundreds of sheep and goats which were sacrificed in the temples. However, in 1998, BWC managed to further lessen the suffering inflicted upon the captured fox and succeeded in convincing the inhabitants of the Udbur village against the goat and sheep sacrifice as a result of which not a single animal was killed. Since then they have never sacrificed animals.

A Little More Success


At the Mari Jathra and Thingala Jathra in villages around Tumkur, Karnataka, sacrificial beheading of male buffaloes to appease goddess Maramma takes place at annual fairs. In 1991, Beauty Without Cruelty along with Akhil Karnataka Prani Daya Sangh managed to foil the beheading of about 100 buffaloes by contacting localities, distributing leaflets and giving speeches.

A 120 year old tradition of animal sacrifice finally ended in 2012 thanks to police intervention following persistent efforts of two NGOs over 12 years. Till then, to celebrate the Rajo Sankranti festival, every year hundreds of animals were sacrificed in the name of the Deity Maa Ramchandi at Srirampur and neighbouring villages in Orissa.

Buffaloes were also not sacrificed at the 2012 Kherling Mahadev Mela at Mundneshwar temple in Kaljikhal block, about 45 kms from Pauri Garhwal (Uttarakhand). Although one and two were kept for sacrifice at Guthinda village and Chhota Kherling Mahadev at Barkot they were handed over live to the administration. (Some goats may have been slaughtered but not on the temple premises.) It is commendable that the administration motivated the people of Aswalsuen, Patwalsuen and Maniyarsuen patties against animal sacrifice which resulted in no bloodshed. Apart from their efforts the high cost of buffaloes (Rs 40,000) and cost of rituals spanning a fortnight prior to sacrifice (Rs 25-30,000) played an important role resulting in no animal being sacrificed.


All over India animal activists are trying their utmost by convincing people to stop animals being sacrificed. Ancient practices that begun with few animals being killed have at most places escalated to thousands of lives being sacrificed like at the Poleramma Jatra, Venkatagiri, Andhra Pradesh. In 2012 a strong movement was launched to halt the evil practice.

PAWS informed BWC that there was a good chance if organisations working for animals brought pressure upon the Trustees of the Bhargavram Parshuram temple at Chiplun (a hamlet off the Mumbai-Goa highway, in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra) not to allow goats to be sacrificed Dussera 2012 onwards. Like before, BWC joined forces with Sarvajeev Mangal Pratishtan and appealed in person to the Trustees, including the Collector who was the Chairman of the Trust and was expected to kill the first goat. Our representative visited on Dussera, confirming that no sacrifices took place.

In September 2014, in response to petitions filed by animal activists from PFA, the Himachal Pradesh High Court passed an order prohibiting animal sacrifices during religious ceremonies and festivals both in temples and in buildings adjoining places of worship.


Killing, killing and killing…


The Durajpalli Jatra which occurs every lternate year at the Linganamantalu Swamy temple of the Durajpalli village in Andhra Pradesh is essentially a social event when people come for two days and a night to have a good time. Unfortunately, part of the festivities includes a mass sacrifice of animals followed by selling of hides collected from the carcasses.


After Gudi Padwa, pilgrims visit the Biroba Temple at Aarewadi village, near Sangli, Maharashtra. About 2 lakh sheep and goats over a period of three weeks are sacrificed by them in the hope that their wishes are fulfilled. The irony of this custom is that the god Biroba is depicted as a vegetarian and non-vegetarians are strictly prohibited from entering the temple. Similarly, around this time thousands of goats and fowls are slaughtered to appease Ekvira Devi at Karla Caves near Lonavla in Maharashtra, as detailed above.

Animal activists have been unsuccessful in stopping the ritual Ajabali (animal sacrifice) that occurs at the Bhavani Tulja Mata temple in Tuljapur, Osmanabad district of Maharashtra.

At Chivari in Maharashtra, a fair is held annually on the Tuesday after Maghi Purnima when around seven thousand animals’ necks are twisted and killed in front of Goddess Laxmi. The bloody carcasses of mainly goats are then hung up on trees. On the same day another fair called the Kayar Yatra is also held when after midnight buffaloes are sacrificed. The main attraction of this fair is finding a hidden lamb which is then bitten to death by the finder who hangs its intestine round his neck.

The Kedu Festival of the Kondhs of Orissa involves a kedu (buffalo) anointed with oil and turmeric being tethered to a tree and brutally attacked with sharp instruments to the chant of mantras and beating drums. The animal squeals in agony, eyes bulging but can not flee. There is a mad rush to hack off pieces of its flesh.

During the Sulia Pashubali Utsav over 10,000 animals are sacrificed in the remote villages of Khairaguda and Kumuria in Bolangir District of Orissa.

Buffaloes are killed during the festival in honour of the goddess Manju Bhog at Kanda in Garhwal, Uttar Pradesh. Preparations begin a week earlier when they are bathed and made to run helter-skelter in panic till exhausted. Village youths make them stumble midway. On the day of the sacrifice many die en route as the route is long and steep. The ones that make it to the temple are hacked on their necks till they fall dead.

Hundreds of buffaloes are sacrificed during the Kalinka festival at Bunkhal, a remote temple in Pauri District of Uttarakhand.

At the annual Mailapur village fair, Yadgir district, Karnataka, worshippers throw live lambs (instead of fruit and flowers as are usually showered as offerings) at the palanquin carrying the deity Mailareshwara. In the melee, hundreds of devotees trample/crush the animals ignoring their heart wrenching cries which are barely 15 days to 2 months old. Although the ritual is banned by the administration, lambs are auctioned by them and in 2011 fetched Rs 5.21 lakhs.

To celebrate the Ooru Habba festival, two tribal groups, the Hakkipikki and Iruliga, sacrifice two buffaloes and two goats outside the Bannerghatta National Park. The animals are pierced with a trident and their blood is drunk.

Myoko, the monsoon festival, is celebrated by the Apatanis, a major tribe of Arunachal Pradesh, when a garlanded mithun (a cross between a cow and a buffalo) or deer is sacrificed at the end of the 10-day festival celebrations marked by rituals and merriment.

Pomblang or goat sacrifice is an important part of Nongkrem, a 5-day religious thanksgiving festival in Meghalaya.

In 2012 on day 17 of the Chithirai month of the Tamil calendar, 5,000 baby goats were sacrificed at a temple festival at Poosariyur, near Anthiyur in Tamil Nadu. The blood was drunk by the priests and devotees (particularly childless women in the belief that the deity would make them fertile) and flesh distributed among them – however those who kill the goats aren’t allowed to consume the meat.

At the tribal idol Baba Dongar at Ranapur in Jhabua district of Madhya Pradesh every day around 500 animals are illegally slaughtered by the priests. People promise deities that they will sacrifice a goat, chicken or give a bottle of liquor if their wishes (be they good or bad it doesn’t matter) miraculously come true, and that’s the reason for the unfortunate sacrifices.


Puppies, Owls and Others


Not only in the name of religion, but superstitions also make some people kill animals. For example, a group of five students from Mumbai cut short their holiday at Alibaug to save a puppy about to be sacrificed in a bizarre ritual: the woman thought she would gain wealth by sacrificing the pup.

The sacrifice of nocturnal owls and bats on auspicious occasions, particularly Diwali, seems to be increasing because tantriks are recommending pujas consisting of body-parts of owls, and saying that owls with ear-tuffs have greater magical powers! Blood and feathers of owls are offered as aahuti/oblation in Havan Samagri.

To ward off enemies and ruin them, a crow’s nest is also used as aahuti/oblation in Havans.

In 1998 on the day of Ayudh Pooja of Dassera animal activists who boarded a train going out of Mysore managed to stop a goat being sacrificed en route at an unscheduled stop. The custom was to conduct a pooja involving an animal being sacrificed for the safe passage of the first train out from the railway station.

Nepal: Ritual sacrifices – or murder?


The Gadhimai Mela (fair) is held every five years in Bariyarpur, Bara District, South Nepal, when around 500,000 mainly young buffaloes, goats, ducks, roosters, pigeons, and rats are sacrificed. Hundreds of slaughterers, equipped with swords are employed to slay the animals. Seventy per cent of the visitors to the fair are Madheshi (people of Nepalese origin) living in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.


That’s the reason why in 2009 Beauty Without Cruelty approached the Union Minister of Home Affairs to stop movement of animals across the Indo-Nepali border. With help extended by the Government of India, BWC estimates that 50 percent of animals scheduled to be beheaded, were saved.


BWC had suggested that the number of border police officials should be increased before and during the Mela, and that they should monitor the movement of people and animals. Thus an additional 4,500 officials were deployed, they were alert at outposts and an extra vigil was maintained. Transportation of animals and birds from India to Nepal was considerably stopped and stern action taken against offenders.


Beauty Without Cruelty and Animal Welfare Network Nepal worked together and both approached top officials in the Nepali Government, however, they did not budge from their plans for mass slaughter. People were made to believe that animals were to be sacrificed to appease Goddess Gadhimai.


Prior to its commencement, the organizing committee declared that at least 500,000 creatures would be sacrificed, and despite international protests and appeals they didn’t even try to reduce the killing. On the contrary, they provided Rs 4.5 million funds for the fair which turned out to be a money-spinner for Nepal’s priests, organizers, suppliers and contractors. Moreover, the organizers planned to raise Rs 140 million – with the local village development committees contributing 1,000 animals each so that they could have a slice of the profit.


Although buffalo meat is given away free, the organisers earn by selling hides to contractors. The Indian meat and leather industries are said to be hand-in-glove with the fair organisers.


On the main day at mid-night people gather round a small idol of Goddess Gadhimai placed below a pipal tree while the chief priest begins chanting and anoints the idol with kumkum and flowers. Since this is not enough to awaken the Goddess, a person offers blood from five parts of his body which is said to quicken the process of awakening the Goddess.

 

For the rest of the night every one is tense, frequently looking into a big earthen jar, awaiting a light to spontaneously appear in it because it indicates that the Goddess has been awakened. Possessed by the spirit of the Goddess, a priestess then begins to shudder and shake.

300 to 400 men pick up their swords and walk towards the adjoining field where literally thousands of innocent animals, particularly young male buffalo calves, are imprisoned. 48 hours of gruesome and bloody beheading follows.

This bloodthirsty event is said to date back 260 years or so (not more) when Bhagwan Chaudhary, a feudal landlord who was imprisoned in Makwanpur Fort, dreamt that his problems would be solved if he made a blood sacrifice to Goddess Gadhimai. Upon his release, he approached a village healer whose descendant, Dukha Kachadiya started the ritual with drops of his own blood from five parts of his body. Apparently a light appeared in an earthen jar. But, did the mass animal sacrifice as is now carried out every five years, follow?

Animal activists began creating awareness about the next Gadhimai Mela scheduled to be held this year, soon after the 2009 one got over.

25th and 26th November 2014 will probably be the main days.

BWC has vowed to do all it can to lessen the carnage.


Sri Lanka: Ritual sacrifices banned


In August 2013 a Sri Lankan court stopped the ritual of animal sacrifices at Hindu temples throughout the island following a petition by a Buddhist monk group called the Jathika Bhikku Federation. Any one who wanted to perform animal sacrifice would be required to obtain a butcher’s licence.


Beauty Without Cruelty wishes that animal sacrifice will be banned all over India too. We are hopeful of it being banned in Maharashtra under the anti-black magic and superstition ordinance promulgated in August 2013 following the murder of activist Narendra Dabholkar.

Symbolic Bali


Unfortunately, the much needed reform has not taken place at Kalighat, Kolkata where amidst drum-beating thousands of sheep are sacrificed resulting in unforgettable “rivers of blood” as lamented by Mahatma Gandhi.

Kalighat is where, amidst drum-beating, thousands of sheep are sacrificed. The Durga Pooja/Dassera celebrations include animal sacrifice/bali in several parts of India. Buffaloes, cocks, goats, and sheep are ritually sacrificed in hundreds; their flesh consumed as prasad.

But unlike other Kali temples, animals are not allowed to be sacrificed at the Dakshineshwar temple, near Kolkata.

Symbolic bali is the ritualistic sacrifice of white pumpkin and sugarcane and is gradually becoming more frequent, replacing animal sacrifices, e.g. Sandhi Puja on Ashtami at the Ramakrishna Math and Mission at Belur.

At the Kamakhya Devi Temple near Guwahati in Assam, one of the most venerated Durga/Shakti shrines in India, male animals are sacrificed in thousands. However, for the past few years a select group of tantriks have been gathering at there on Durga Ashtami and sacrificing instead of humans and animals, effigies made of flour – no outsider is allowed to witness the sacrifice.

On Mahashtami Day goats, lambs and cocks are sacrificed at a Durga temple in Sirlo, Orissa. However, it is understood that since 1985 animal sacrifices have been stopped at the Kataka Chandi temple and at the Sarala temple in the area.

Reforms beginning in the 15th and 16th centuries have evolved into symbolic sacrifices but only in some temples of the country: rice, til, coconuts, betel nuts, bananas, sugarcane and white pumpkins have become substitutes for lambs, goats, bulls, and chickens.
Page last updated on 03/09/14