KATHMANDU — A Hindu festival in which animals are sacrificed to the “goddess of power” in an effort to obtain good fortune concluded this week, with thousands of buffalo beheaded on temple grounds in Nepal. Pigeons, goats, chickens and other animals were also slaughtered during the mass gathering, which is known as one of the “world’s bloodiest.”
The Gadhimai Festival is held every five years at the Temple of Bariyarpur, approximately 100 miles south of the capital city of Kathmandu and near the India-Nepal border. According to reports, between two and four million flock to the event, with 300-500 men bearing khukuris (similar to machetes) ready for the sacrifice.
The practice stems from a purported 900-year-old dream, in which farmer Bhagwan Chaudhary was told by Gadhimai to offer five humans as a sacrifice in exchange for being freed from jail for a crime he did not commit.
“Instead, he vowed an animal pancha bali (a quintuple sacrifice) every five years. It would include a rat, a pig, a rooster, a goat and a water buffalo,” the site ECS Nepal outlines.
Seeing that the sacrifice did not work as youth in the region fell ill, Chaudhary went back to the Hindu goddess and was again instructed to offer up a human, along with the animals.
“The hunt began for a human, but to no avail. Fortunately, a villager from Simri from neighboring Rautahat district came to the rescue and offered to shed five drops of blood from his body — chest, tongue, lower part of eye, thigh and arm — as sacrifice, instead of his life,” the legend states. “That saved the village from calamity.”
The practice has been reflected at the Gadhimai Festival, including this week when the “pancha bali” commenced with an offering of a rat, a pig, a goat and a pigeon — followed by a shaman drawing blood from five points of his body, according to VT.
Water buffalo were also corralled into a walled-in field outside the Temple of Bariyarpur, where an estimated 3,000 to 6,500 were slaughtered with a blow to the neck. The number had been much higher at previous festivals, with approximately 50,000 animals being offered as a sacrifice in 2009 and 30,000 in 2014.
Animal rights activists, such as the Humane Society International, have been the most vocal opponents against the practice, and some thought that the bloodshed might have come to an end as a result of governmental intervention, but others say that no such agreement had been reached.
“Those who are against the festival will continue to protest, and those who wish to worship the goddess will do so,” a woman from Kolhabi told The Guardian. “No one can stop it. Our faith is important and sacrifices validate it.”
“I had four sisters,” another woman told the BBC. “Eight years ago, I made a wish for a brother and the goddess blessed us with him.”
Jesse Boyd of Full Proof Gospel Ministries in North Carolina, who has served as a missionary to Hindus worldwide for more than a decade, told Christian News Network that the Gadhidmai Festival — as well as other similar rituals — present an opportunity to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“[T]hese blood sacrifices hearken back to the same bold truth we declare regularly to the Jewish people we encounter through our ministry: ‘For it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul,’” (Leviticus 17:11),” he explained. “The Creator God does require a blood sacrifice, not to appease Him but to satisfy His righteousness. And the only efficacious blood sacrifice that can satisfy that righteousness is His blood, that of the Messiah.”
“So, while hideous and disturbing, we have always found these sacrifices to prove a great bridge to proclaim the gospel of the shed blood of Jesus Christ,” Boyd continued. “Unlike the gods of Hinduism who want to destroy the people, God loves these people walking in darkness and sacrificed His own Son that their sins might be covered and that they might have the only freedom that matters: spiritual freedom from the curse of sin and divine judgment.”
Boyd said the Gaidhidmai Festival is certainly not the only time that animal sacrifice takes place in the polytheistic Hindu religion as offerings are made on a weekly basis at the Dhaksin Kali Temple, named after the goddess Kali. During the 15-day festival of Dashain, held in October, many flock to temples to sacrifice animals to Kali and/or Durga.
“Maha Asthami is celebrated by sacrificing buffaloes, goats, hens, pigs and ducks at the Kali temples and the blood is offered. The thirsty Kali is offered the blood which symbolizes the celebrations of victory and fertility. People do it across the country,” the site Eco Holidays Nepal outlines.
“The gospel is the answer for what these sacrifices can never provide,” Boyd declared, noting that men are left without spiritual peace, relief and freedom despite all of the superstition and ritual. “It is what these people are seeking, whether they would admit it or not.”
He challenged Christians to get out of their comfort zone and share the good news of Jesus Christ with the Hindus right in their own back yard.
“How many of us have interacted with a South Asian or Indian who owns a local gas station or hotel?” Boyd asked. “Have we taken the time to open up our mouths and share the gospel with a people who would at least acknowledge the importance of shed blood to be free?”
“What an opportunity! I carry Hindi and Nepali tracts and Scripture portions with me everywhere I go and have had numerous opportunities to share about the Messiah, using blood sacrifice and what the Bible says about it as a bridge to do so.”