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.

Animals continue to be sacrificed in Tamil Nadu including in Theni and Dindigul. The 8-day Chithirai festival at Veerapandi village of Theni during May attracts people from Karnataka and Kerala too. In 2015 Police managed to thwart attempts to sacrifice buffaloes at a festival at Madhurakaliamman temple in Thottiyam.

A February 2023 news item stated that animal sacrifice had been prevented at Havanur’s Dyamavva jatra. The Vishwa Prani Kalyana Mandal (VPKM) held rallies and convinced people to stop sacrificing animals like sheep, goats and buffaloes in Havanur village in Haveri district of Karnataka. Instead, in the presence of officials devotees extracted a little blood from a buffalo calf and symbolically offered it to Goddess Dyamavva Devi. The VPKM headed by seer Dayanand Swamiji has been spearheading awareness campaigns for decades to stop animal sacrifices – they estimate 1.5 crore animals are annually sacrificed in Karnataka despite the existence of the Animal Sacrifice Act of 1953 which has not been enforced.

Again, in response to Dayanand Swamiji appeal to prevent animal sacrifice during the Yellamma Devi Jatra Mahotsav in January 2024, the Belagavi DC issued an order prohibiting any kind of sacrifice during the fair at Kokatnur.

Animal Sacrifices by Muslims, Hindus and Christians

The ritual slaying of a goat on the occasion of Bakri Eid 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. However after 2007, in accordance to an order passed by the district administration, kurbani (sacrifice) is not allowed in Musahra, Uttar Pradesh’s Sant Kabir Nagar. Here all the village goats are seized and returned three days after Bakri Eid. But, for Muslim marriage celebrations, many goats get sacrificed in this village. Not far from there, the year-round ban on meat is lifted at Ayodhya and animal sacrifice is allowed on Bakri Eid.

In 2015 the High Court in Mumbai declined to grant a three-day stay on the beef ban for Bakri Eid saying a “drastic interim relief” cannot be granted because the amended law (20 March 2015) contains no provision allowing for such temporary relaxations.

In 2018 the Deonar slaughter house, Mumbai, began issuing licences online to kill animals for Bakri Eid. To prove how ridiculous the system was a couple of advocates obtained licences in fictitious names with place of slaughter as the Mumbai High Court. A case was registered by an NGO against the faulty system and permission being given for killing animals outside a slaughterhouse.

In 2019 in response to a notice of motion filed by the Jiv Maitri Trust against the BMC’s policy of allocating temporary licences to people to kill animals at areas near societies during festivals, just before Bakri Eid the Bombay High Court banned animal slaughter at homes and colonies and the BMC permits issued became invalid. Implementation was however questionable. In 2023 the Jiv Maitri Trust approached the Bombay HC again because the policy on issuing NOCs was being revised and modified from time to time by the BMC. The HC ordered the BMC to set up grievance forums to deal with complaints on illegal animal slaughter during festivals including the upcoming Bakri Eid. A toll free helpline number and dedicated email id should ensure that a specific task force would be available to address issues reported on a 24/7 basis. Meanwhile, just before 2023 Bakri Eid, the Bombay High Court was approached and a special hearing was conducted to prevent animal slaughtering in a residential society of Mumbai. The officers of the BMC with the aid of the Police personnel were directed by the special bench of Justices to take immediate appropriate action to prevent animal sacrifice in the residential complex.

Another organisation asked people to cut cakes with goat caricatures to celebrate Bakri Eid but unfortunately it triggered a row in UP.

Some NGOs in Gujarat have been purchasing goats and keeping in shelters so that they are not sacrificed on Bakri Eid. However, we need to think (more so if bought a couple of months before the sacrifice is due to occur) whether this is the right thing to do because money given to the breeder will obviously be used to expand his trade which means that more animals will be specially bred to be killed.

In 2024 a group of Jains in Delhi dressed up as Muslims and went out to different mandis and bought 124 goats just before Bakri Eid. They were “saved” for an average of Rs 10,000/- each. BWC feels the money earned by the seller must have unfortunately been utilised to buy more goats for sale, so wonders how many were actually saved for sacrifice.

Those who use leather items need to be made aware that these products could very well have been made from skins of animals that were sacrificed for Bakri Eid. It is customary for the skins of all sacrificed animals like goats, sheep, calves, etc. to be donated to madrassas which sell them to leather traders in order to generate money for running their institutions. It has been estimated that 3 crore sheep and goats are sacrificed across India so a very big percentage of leather is from animals thus slaughtered. (Interestingly, just before Bakri Eid 2019, certain prominent Muslim scholars and leaders of some Jamaats appealed to the community to destroy the skins of sacrificed animals and not give them to the madrassas. It was in order to protest against the deliberate move by leather traders to artificially suppress the price of hide a fortnight before the festival. Since 2014 every year the price paid to the madrassas for the skins had been consistently brought down having by then fallen to 10% of the true value.)

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 Eid, 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.

It was not till January 2020 on the commencement of the Karnataka Prevention & Eradication of Inhuman Evil Practices & Black Magic Act, 2017 that “forcing any person to carry on evil practices such as killing of an animal by biting its neck (gavu)…” became illegal.

A relevant quote from the book “Untouchability in Rural India” by Ghanshyam Shah, Harsh Mander, Sukhadeo Thorat, Satish Deshpande Aita Baviskar: “In Andhra Pradesh, animal sacrifice is a polluting task entrusted to Dalits. A humiliating custom, observed in 12% of the surveyed villages in the state, is Gavu Pattadam. In this ghoulish ritual, Dalits are forced to bite the neck of the animal to kill it. The blood of the animal is then mixed with rice and sprinkled all over the village to keep evil spirits at bay.”

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?

Earlier in 2000, the Compassionate Crusaders Trust had sought legal steps against the practice of animal sacrifice at the Kalighat temple which resulted in the 2006 Calcutta High Court verdict that killing should not be conducted in open public view. In effect, sacrifice continued.

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.


In November 2005 some BWC members in Kochi found that two camels had been brought to Kochi for feasting on camel meat during Ramzaan Eid. 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 Eid. 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. And, BWC supported the PIL by People for Cattle in India.

In 2014 after Rajasthan granted state heritage status to the camel, their sacrifice for Bakri Eid automatically stopped within the state. For example, the Tonk royal family discontinued the 150 year tradition.

BWC supported People for Cattle in India’s PIL resulting in the Chennai High Court passing an interim order banning camel slaughter for religious purposes in Tamil Nadu. This was in September 2016 before Bakri Eid. As per media reports no camels were killed in Chennai in 2016; and, in response to an RTI query by PFCI, the Madurai Police said one camel had been sacrificed for which an FIR had been filed and investigations were underway. The previous year about 100 camels had been sacrificed in TN. But in 2017 not a single camel was brought into the state or sacrificed for Bakri Eid.

More than a month before Bakri Eid 2019, BWC approached over 55 persons including the Prime Minister, Chief Minister UP, District Magistrates, Bureaucrats, Police, AWBI and many others to stop the slaughter of camels that occur two days after Bakri Eid in Uttar Pradesh, particularly in Varanasi and Mau. We informed them that as per the Madras High Court judgement it was illegal to slaughter of camels, FSSAI did not allow camels to be killed for meat, moreover, since there was a shortage of camels for the BSF, Rajasthan had banned camels going out of the state for slaughter. We pointed out that due to these important reasons, no permission should be granted for camels to be sacrificed any where in UP, particularly in Varanasi and Mau as had happened earlier. It was incredibly true that a day earlier on getting to know that 5 camels had been kept hidden for sacrifice in Varanasi, the Police located them with the help of drones and they were saved. Another 2 camels were rescued from Jaunpur. And, these 7 were taken over by PETA. Earlier on clear cut directions from the DGP UP the Police rescued 22 camels (including one that was surrendered) via camera drones locating them being traded in Meerut and arranged to also send them back to Rajasthan.

Not a single camel was slaughtered in India for Bakri Eid 2020. BWC wrote to the Prime Minister, and Chief Ministers with copies to all District Magistrates and Police of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala, because in the past camels had either being killed or appeals had been made for their sacrifice in these states. We sent them the landmark Judgement of the Madras High Court and requested them to stop entry, sale and slaughter of camels. Meanwhile, Rajasthan assured us they would stop camels being smuggled out. Since the Border Security Force was short of camels, in 2014 the state had passed laws for their protection. BWC also approached the Animal Welfare Board of India following which a circular was issued by the Secretary to all states’ Chief Secretaries, Director Generals of Police and Animal Husbandry Directors.

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 Sarva Jeeva Mangal Pratishthan (SJMP) 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, SJMP and BWC 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. SJMP and BWC therefore continue to try to make them see our point of view.

On the first day of the 2015 Ekvira Devi jatra, representatives of BWC and SJMP, visited Karla, and while distributing 4,000 leaflets appealed to people not to sacrifice animals. Again this year, the police had been vigilant and did not allow people to take animals and alcohol up to the temple, but 4 chickens and 1 goat were seen being taken up and brought down alive. However, the 3 butcher shops at the foot of the hill were selling to and killing chickens and goats for devotees. Again we hope we will be able to successfully convince the authorities not to allow the butcher shops to operate next year.

Again in April 2016 Beauty Without Cruelty and Sarva Jeeva Mangal Pratishthan tried to stop animal sacrifice during the Ekvira Devi Jatra at Karla. We displayed hoardings, our volunteers distributed 5,000 pamphlets, and the Marathi publications covered our efforts. For the first time during the public function to honour the palkis, it was announced by the Temple’s Managing Trustee that no killing of animals would be permitted on the hill. But, on that day about ten devotees were seen individually taking chickens and one goat up to the temple and bringing them down alive. They were then presumably killed. We therefore wish the butcher shops would not be allowed to operate at the foot of the hill. Nevertheless, due to our awareness campaigns the number of animals killed lessens each year.

Every year we kept writing to the authorities but the butcher shops were not closed. We wrote in 2020 also but soon after due to the spread of Corona Virus the government stopped the annual Jatra from being held at Karla.

Shree Yedumata temple

Similarly, at the Shree Yedumata temple in Pimpledari village, taluka Akole, Ahmednagar district, during the jatra about 1,500 goats get sacrificed. On 14 March 2015 SJMP and BWC people, together with local social workers approached the officials of the Gram Panchayat of the village, Prant Adhikari and Tehsildar of Akole. Later we got to know that since some people of the Bhil community wanted animals to be sacrificed, a meeting had been called on 31 March at the Tehsidkar’s office. It was attended by representatives of Ahmednagar SPCA and BWC, but it was not possible to convince the devotees and unfortunately the animal sacrifices as scheduled took place during 2 to 5 April 2015.

Bonalu Festival and other Animal Sacrifices

BWC was shocked to know from Earth Quotient South India that for Telangana’s Bonalu Festival (an annual event) which began in 2021 on 11 July and is celebrated on every Sunday of Telegu Ashada masam in various cities and villages of the state, including Hyderabad and Secunderabad, under the pretext of religion it is unfortunate that sheep, goats, fowl and their young are literally bitten to death by humans.

BWC therefore wrote to the Chief Minister, Telangana with copy to the Director General of Police saying that the poor creature is held aloft and passed from man to man who bites off a bit of its flesh which is not only absolutely barbaric, but illegal. We therefore requested that orders be issued across the state to ensure that no animals or birds are thus made to suffer or be killed.

Earth Quotient South India also sent BWC videos of other events involving animal barbaric sacrifices in Telangana, like a man dancing with a live goat in his mouth in Madhapur, Hyderabad city. The men dress a Potharaju with a typical garb and a whip. They tear out strips of flesh from the goat’s throat until the animal dies. They are professional goat murderers who are hired for festivals all over Telangana. The events take place with mandatory police permission and under police supervision. They refuse to file FIRs. The Jagital police have even seized phones and beat up activists. When forced they file bogus FIRs so that they can be closed at their convenience.

Buffalo sacrifices are also common. Some times 30 to 40 buffalos are sacrificed on the same day in front of hundreds of villagers. The feet and heads are buried at the sacrifice site as part of the ritual.

Villages in Telangana have their own bi or tri annual calendars for burying bulls and male buffaloes alive which is another form of animal sacrifice.

Vadakkampatti Muniyandi temple in Thirumangalam, Tamil Nadu

Over 200 goats and 120 cocks were slaughtered for the Thirumangalam biryani festival held in connection with the festival of the diety of the Vadakkampatti Muniyandi temple in Thirumangalam. It seems to be an annual event with the involvement of the non-vegetarian Muniyandi Vilas hotel and about 10,000 persons consuming the biryani.

On being informed about the event, in January 2021 BWC wrote to the District Collector Madurai stating that it was illegal for animals to be killed for food any where other than in abattoirs and requested that action be taken against the organisers.

Mandirs 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.

In 2015 the 150-year old Jivdani Goddess temple atop a hill in Virar ensured that no animals and birds would be sacrificed during Navratri. Having failed to totally discourage animal sacrifice for the past few years, the temple authorities installed 93 closed circuit television cameras along the temple route.

However, in view of goats being slaughtered at very many temples in Maharashtra just before the month of Shravan began, and the meat being distributed as prasad, in 2017 a letter from the Animal Welfare Board of India got the Pune Police to agree to stop animal sacrifice at temples.

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.

The forest department refused to give permission for people to hunt and drive foxes or jackals into the Arulmigu Meenakshi Sundareshhwar Temple at Madurai on 3 September 2014 as part of the ritual for Nariyai Pariyakkuthal. (As per legend, a pack of foxes turned into a fine breed of horses, and in the night became foxes and let us a deafening howl because Manickavasagar, one of the 4 Saivite savants of the 9th century used the money meant for buying horses to construct a temple at Avudaiyar Koil, known as Thiruperunthurai in Pudukottai district.)

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 Odisha.

In 2020, the Odisha High Court had ordered a ban on animal sacrifice during Chatar Yatra. (Unfortunately the Supreme Court stayed the HC order which meant there was no legal restriction on anima sacrifice.) The HC had observed “God is the creator of the universe. He has created the human beings, animals, birds and all the species on this earth. The animals and birds breathe like us. They have also a right to live in harmony with human beings and the nature. Like the parents cannot tolerate to see the blood of their children, deity cannot be pleased by sacrificing the animals.” Since 13 platoons of police were deployed in Kalahandi and prohibitory orders imposed to avoid assembling of devotees (in the wake of COVID-19) for Chatar festival in the Kalahandi district, the killing animals and birds in propitiating Goddess Manikeswari passed off without much bloodshed in October 2020. Every year the idol of Goddess Manikeswari is taken to Jena Khal on the outskirts of the town and after performance of secret rituals, the deity returns to her abode. The return journey is Chatar Yatra in which lakhs of devotees from Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and West Bengal participate with every family sacrificing an animal or bird.

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.

In 2019, 350 residents of two villages in Chamoli district, Uttarakhand decided to give up animal sacrifice and also abstain from eating meat for a year after the local deity ordained them to do so. Earlier the High Court had banned animal sacrifice in the open but the practise was going on.

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. Yet in July 2015, some superstitious persons of Rangareddy district of Andhra Pradesh sacrificed a goat for the success of the film Bahubali.

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, Beauty Without Cruelty joined forces with Sarva Jeeva Mangal Pratishthan 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. Thus no animal sacrifice took place during the week-long Dussera festival in Kullu. The two-judge bench stated “No person shall perform or offer to perform or serve, assist or participate or offer to serve any sacrifice of animal in any place of religious worship, ceremony, yagnas… including all land and buildings near places of religious worship forthwith. Sacrifice causes immense pain and suffering to innocent animals.”

Soon after, a group of Jains managed to halt via a stay order of the High Court, the proposed slaughter of 12,000 bullocks in Mumbai’s Deonar abattoir for three days around Bakri Eid. Similarly, animal activists forcefully objected to permissions granted for setting up temporary slaughter sites.

For 5 years the Vishwa Prani Kalyan Mandal (VPKM) had being trying to save as many thousands of sheep, goats and hens being sacrificed during the Bhagwan Ranganathaswamy Chikka Jatra at B R Hills and the Siddhappaji Jatra at Chikkalur. They were successful in January 2016 because in response to a writ petition filed by Dayanand Swamiji, President of VPKM, the Karnataka High court order stated “the respondents are directed to adhere to the provisions of the Karnataka Prevention of animal Sacrifice Act, 1959. It shall be the duty of the State Government to secure compliance of the provisions of the said Act strictly.” Significantly, a 26 member team of VPKM supported by many institutions and individuals, worked tireless in different areas of Chamrajanagar, Mandya and Mysuru districts to create awareness among people through the Ahimsa Prani Daya Sandesh Yatra.

In May 2023 the Kerala High Court held that appropriate action under the Kerala Animals and Birds Sacrifices Prohibition Act ought to be taken and stated “unhealthy, unscientific & deleterious practices to be prevented, even if done in name of religion”. This was in response to a petition filed about illegal animal sacrifice carried out by a person conducting poojas and rituals in his building throughout the day, accompanied by the ringing of bells, blowing of conch, and the shrieks and cries of animals and birds that were being slaughtered – the animals’ blood flew on to the road and carcasses were strewn all over the place.

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 Odisha 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 Odisha.

In August 2022 after a 2-year Covid-induced hiatus, around 200 animals including 100 goats, were sacrificed to please the goddess of Ma Jagulei temple in Kendrapada’s Garadapur village in Odisha. The animals are taken to the temple, vermillion applied to their foreheads and garlanded, before wedging their necks between wooden poles and being beheaded on a sacrificial altar.

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.

The mithun is important to every one in Arunachal Pradesh because the number of mithuns owned by a man determines his wealth and prestige and they continue to be used as currency in some villages. The Adi tribesmen sacrifice them on their major festivals, Solung, Mopun and Aran. Upon death, the skulls of all the mithuns sacrificed during a man’s life time, are buried with him.

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.

Just before Bakri Eid 2014, a number of advertisements hawking goats appeared on the OLX website. Bookings were taken against their photos, termed “commodities”. Prices ranged from Rs 4000/- to Rs 1,50,000/- per animal.

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.

Animal Sacrifices in the Indian Army

2010 onwards Beauty Without Cruelty has periodically written to various Defence authorities appealing to put an end to animal sacrifices that occur in the Indian Army.

Animal sacrifice is routinely practiced in some regiments and is strangely linked to the morale and valour of fighting soldiers. While discussing this aspect with some retired soldiers, BWC had learnt that the tradition is borrowed from customs and rituals followed by troops in their native villages and that the officers did not want to meddle with the beliefs of soldiers who thought that animal sacrifices would please their deities and would bring good luck to the unit and regiment.

BWC pointed out that the Indian Army was a nationalist force and derived its authenticity from an Act of Indian Parliament and the Constitution of India. The mindset and practices in the Indian Army should therefore be in sync with the national ethos and current social and cultural values. The Constitution of India in its preamble itself suggests that we should move toward a more humane society and it specifically states that cruelty to animals should be checked. Animal sacrifice is a despicable and retrograde ritual belonging to the dark ages and it does not behove a modern and progressive national Army of India to indulge in it almost officially.

In some regiments like Gorkha, Garhwal and Kumaon the ritual of mass animal massacre is organized with great pomp and show where even women and children of the units are ceremonially seated to watch the mass gruesome killing of hapless and defenceless innocent animals. Blood letting men are let loose on “safely” tied animals and that there are rewards for the “bravest” men who slit maximum number of throats of poor, bleating goats and innocent buffaloes. The man who kills the most is in fact feted and is a termed a hero. In such ceremonies, the animals are beheaded, cut open, skinned and cut to pieces in public view and the warm raw flesh of such animals which were living few minutes before is offered as prasad.

BWC also got to know that there is stream of thought in the Army that this practice of killing animals is required to inculcate bravery in battle. Nothing could be further from truth. Killing defenceless animals does not inculcate bravery, but inculcates cruelty which a modern soldier can surely do without. Animal sacrifices are a barbaric custom as it involves taking the lives of poor creatures which can cause no harm to the killers. Bravery means offering one’s life while fighting against a superior enemy. So cruelty, which a soldier inculcates by killing a small goat has absolutely no relation to the bravery required from a soldier who has to face and hold ground against ten bayonets of cold steel charging at him.

If killing animals could make great and brave soldiers, all butchers would have had a lien on recruitment in the defence forces. We all know that this is not the case, and being a soldier who is ready to sacrifice his life for the nation has nothing in common with a man who gleefully raises a sword in front of a cheering crowd and beheads a terrified goat, all the while sure that the goat can do no harm to him or even run away since it is tethered.

Coming to the religious significance of such sacrifices, they are officially banned in most states of India and are considered socially retrograde. Instead of educating our Jawans on modern lines and inculcating a liberal mindset, the Indian Army officers are unfortunately taking advantage of the blatantly questionable belief of simple soldiers.

Why would a Goddess who is said to give life to all creatures on earth be pleased and want the killing of a small kid at Her altar? Even the Jawans would understand this simple logic of reverence for innocent lives if explained to them.

BWC hopes the Indian Army will get rid of dark medieval and retrograde practice of animal sacrifice which shows it in a bad light. Stopping such practices will only bring good luck to the Indian Army and the Goddess of mercy will shower her blessings upon the nation. Our soldiers will become braver and humane – killing animals does not make anyone brave. The soldiers of 3 JAT who killed more than three hundred meat-eating Pathans of the Baluch Regiment in one night and captured Dograi in 1965 had never ever killed a fly and were pure vegetarians.

In 2015 Maneka Gandhi (Union Minister and animal rights activist) strongly spoke up against animal sacrifice in the Indian Army and demanded it be stopped. She stated that Uttarakhand had banned animal sacrifice even for the Army and the regiments stationed there had stopped the practice, so why not elsewhere? She added, the Gurkha brigade in the British Army, a throwback to its Indian days, ended the practice of sacrificing male buffaloes in all its units stationed in Hong Kong and Brunei way back in 1973; and the Gurkha brigade of Nepal allowed sacrifice of only one animal for all its men. She also sought an end to another cruel practice called “meat on hoof” which she termed barbaric. It involved airdropping (from choppers) live animals (with parachutes strapped on them) for regiments posted in so-called inaccessible areas to provide them fresh meat.

BWC was therefore hopeful that both these cruelties would be abandoned soon. However, it was not till just before Dassera 2018 that the Defence Ministry again asked the Indian Army to put an end to ritual animal slaughter in all their units. BWC therefore hopes that the beheading of buffaloes and goats by the Gorkha, Garhwal, Kumaon and other regiments has completely stopped.

Nepal: Ritual sacrifices – or murder?

The Gadhimai Mela (fair) is held every five years in Bariyarpur, Bara District, South Nepal. It has been reported that 2 to 5 lakh animals, mainly young buffaloes, goats, ducks, roosters, pigeons, and rats are sacrificed. 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.

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 the additional 4,500 Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) officials deployed 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.

According to a senior SSB officer the number of animals sacrificed from India in 2009 reduced by 75%. But in view of only a few hundred being seized and may be as many apprehended from crossing over, BWC felt it was an over-estimation, and therefore thought our efforts with the help extended by the Government of India had curtailed and saved 50% of the animals scheduled to be beheaded.

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.

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?

Interestingly, in comparison to animal sacrifices very many more coconuts are broken open on a big stone originally installed for this purpose at the Gadhimai temple.

Soon after the 2009 Gadhimai Mela got over, animal activists began creating awareness about the next one scheduled to be held on 28 & 29 November 2014.

BWC vowed to do all it can to lessen the carnage. We first requested the Government of India to bring up the subject with the Nepal Government. We also wrote to them (like we had in 2009) about stopping the movement of animals across the porous border. Before which we had sent RTI applications to the Home Affairs and External Affairs Ministries asking for the numbers of animals, people and vehicles that crossed from India into Nepal between 21 and 27 November 2009. One of the replies dated 11 March 2014 stated “the Bureau of Immigration is exempted from providing any information/details on the subject.” Whereas the Ministry of Home Affairs’ Central Public Information Officer wrote on 12 March 2014 “data regarding number of people, animals, etc. crossing Indo-Nepal border is not complied by Department of Border Management, and accordingly is not available.”

Meanwhile, PFA filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court stating that under India’s Import Export Policy and the Foreign Trade (Development and Regulation) Act, 1992 live cattle and buffaloes were not allowed to be exported, but for the Gadhimai festival in November 2014, lakhs of animals would be illegally transported into Nepal since 70% of the animals sacrificed came from India.

The Court immediately issued a notice to the Union of India and the four border states of Bihar, UP, Uttarakhand and West Bengal. At the next hearing the Bench passed an interim order directing the Union of India to check the illegal movement of animals into Nepal. In compliance with the Supreme Court order, the Sashastra Seema Bal issued directions to ensure that movement of cattle for sacrifice during the Gadhimai Mela is halted.

This was followed by Uttarakhand issuing an order giving instructions to the state’s Police of the areas bordering Nepal, to strictly implement the ban on illegal transportation of animals for sacrifice at the Gadhimai Festival.

As a result of border checks in October-November, Bihar reported 47 arrests and 271 animals seized. Police were deployed round-the-clock at 9 check-posts in East Champaran district to stop animals and birds from crossing in to Nepal, as a result of which 622 buffaloes, goats and other animals in 9 trucks were seized and 37 smugglers were arrested.

Not only have animal activists from India, but also from Nepal, been continuously creating awareness and working in different ways, including interception of animals from crossing over, so that the carnage would not take place, or at least lessen. A PIL was also filed in the Supreme Court of Nepal calling for a national ban on animal sacrifice.

Earlier, in January 2014, BWC began appealing for contacts likely to help eliminate or at least lessen the number of animals sacrificed at the year-end Gadhimai mela in Nepal.

Our meticulous investigations about the Gadhimai animal sacrifice threw up some significant information. It was only after 28 & 29 November 2014 that we got to know we were not the only ones to have realised the 2009 figures had been highly exaggerated. Moreover, the number of animals planned to be sacrificed at the forthcoming mela had kept rising – began at 25,000, jumped to 200,000 and then 500,000.

The sacrificial area measures 2 Nepalese bighas – 13,546 square metres or 3.35 acres. One buffalo calf thrown on its side would cover a minimum of 1.30 square metres. Adult buffaloes would take up more space. Many photographs show vacant spaces between carcasses. The carcasses are not piled one upon another and none are taken out of the field when the killing is going on. Therefore, no more than 10,000 buffaloes can ever be sacrificed within the walled area.

We had not challenged or refuted claims made by others because we felt it could have harmed the cause and even a few hundred animals might not be saved. Now that the 2014 sacrifice is over, we are disclosing our findings.

The Gadhimai temple of Bariyarpur in Bara district in Nepal is situated 26 kilometres from the border town of Raxaul in Bihar. Almost every one who attends the Gadhimai mela is from India. It is not essential for those who visit to sacrifice an animal – and most of them don’t. Although bananas, white pumpkins, and sugarcane sticks are not “sacrificed” there, devotees do break coconuts as an offering to the deity.

Some Nepalese did not even know where or what Gadhimai was, leave alone it being synonymous with buffalo sacrifices! (The Embassy in Kolkata said it could be the way in which they and we pronounce Gadhimai.) Any way, there is no doubt the place is insignificant except when it comes to life – to kill – every few years – not necessarily every five years so the event may not take place in 2019 as expected. However, the Gadhimai mela is organised on the saptami and asthami tithi (seventh and eighth day) of the Margshish month of the Hindu lunar calendar.

To some extent it was a relief to know for sure that the number of animals sacrificed did not run into lakhs although sacrifice of smaller animals like goats, chickens and pigeons is said to be permitted within a radius of 3 or 5 kilometres of the temple. The number of devotees who visit Gadhimai for the mela are not as many either. Only a couple of thousand animals are beheaded at the site, but this, in itself is no doubt, mass slaughter. Repeated close scrutiny of scores of photographs and videos revealed that almost all the buffaloes were male calves – obviously unwanted animals from the dairies of the region.

Knowing the number of animals killed is lesser than thought does not make it any the less barbaric, cruel, or gruesome. Every animal is an individual and each life is precious and counts. This is evident from how we all react on viewing the internet videos of the buffaloes being sacrificed.

BWC came to this factual conclusion after making extensive inquiries over a year. We located and spoke to a great number of people like auto rickshaw drivers of Bihar (not one of them had sacrificed an animal there), travel operators of Gorakhpur, journalists and many others who had themselves visited Gadhimai mela.

BWC now realises that it is just not feasible for “approximately 90,000 buffaloes” as stated in the letters written by the Ministry of Home Affairs on 25 September 2014 to the State Governments, to be bought, brought and beheaded by scores of slayers swinging khukuris, machetes and scimitars operating round the clock for a day or two.

Persistent inquiries revealed that the temple authorities take money from devotees for the animals promising to arrange for the sacrifice – in the open field away from the temple. A high wall has been erected around this slaughter-field and those who want to see what is going on need to scale the wall.

And guess what? Two days later there was no trace whatsoever of the massacre. The heads were buried whereas the rest of the carcasses’ flesh may, or may not have been distributed (meat spoils fast) and skin sold off.

For an animal to be sacrificed, a devotee may give Rs 1,000 or less, whereas another Rs 3,000, and yet another Rs 5,000. Thus the temple records show scores more than are actually sacrificed. People who wish to sacrifice may not even see the animal and they do not want the meat. Once they have paid they think their reverence to the Goddess is over.

Following the 2014 Supreme Court’s order (mentioned above) directing the Government of India and states such as Bihar to check the illegal movement of an estimated 90,000 animals into Nepal, not only did the SSB confiscate buffaloes and arrest people, but the animal activists who went to the area also helped to apprehend smugglers. Since hundreds of animals were again seized, the killing must have been lesser than in 2009.

To sum up, the number of buffaloes sacrificed at Gadhimai in 2009 never ran into more than a few thousands, and in 2014 the number was lesser. The number of animals saved from being sacrificed in November last, was again no more than a few hundred. So, about 50% buffaloes, goats and chickens from India that were scheduled to be killed must have been saved.

Nevertheless in July 2015, it was a victory for animal rights activists when under pressure of a Supreme Court of Nepal injunction won on 24 November 2014 by the Nepal Animal Welfare & Research Center, the Secretary of the Gadhimai Temple Trust declared “We have decided to completely stop the practice of animal sacrifice.”

Animal Sacrifices on Asthami and Navami before Vijaya Dashami

On 15 & 16 October 2023 from 8 pm of Asthami to 4 am of Navami during the 10-day Dashain festival, 15,251 goats were killed by devotees of Nepal’s Rajdevi Temple, 50% of them being brought by Indians. The sacrifice was arranged by the local Mahavir Youth Committee who charged Rs 200/- per animal that they supplied.

In India too animal sacrifice on these days takes place as part of the Navratri Durga puja. It is understood that on Mahanavami, Goddess Durga is worshipped as Manisasuramardini which means the Annihilator of the Buffalo Demon Maishasura, symbolising triumph of good over evil.

Buffaloes are sacrificed in the presence of thousands of devotees at Billeshwar Dewalaya Temple at Belsor, Assam on Navami.

In Bihar bali is performed in the presence of thousands of devout Hindus who come to witness animal sacrifice on Mahanavami at the Kali Mandir at Darbhanga House on the Patna University campus.

At the Royal Durga Bari in Agartala (Tripura) buffaloes are sacrificed as Bali Pratha on the eve of Mahanavami puja.

Pashu bali in the presence of hundreds of villagers takes place in Chittorgarh (Rajasthan) on the occasion of Mahanavami to please Goddess Kali too.

At Balurghat Sree Sree Bolla Raksha Kali Temple (West Bengal) thousands of goats are also sacrificed.

Animal Sacrifices cause Earthquakes

Etiology of Earthquakes: A New Approach contains scientific research (mid-1990s) by Madan Mohan Bajaj, S M Ibrahim and Vijay Raj Singh. The book states earthquakes are related to the collective slaughter of animals dying in misery. Every time living beings are killed, their tormented bodies and cries emit Einstein Pain Waves (EPW) or nociception waves that cause acoustic anisotropy in the atmosphere. Acoustic anisotropy leads to a very strong anisotropic stress on rocks. This stress builds up, putting immense pressure on the tectonic plates and creating havoc beneath the earth’s surface which in turn results in earthquakes.

In simple words, the EPW (a result of mass slaughter) affect or interact with the earth’s natural vibrations and are powerful enough to cause cracks or earthquakes.

Based on this theory and proof that there is a history of mass animal butchering in or near high risk seismic zones where earthquakes occur, can there be any doubt that Gadhimai was the cause of Nepal’s May 2015 earthquakes?

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. It is well known that Thakur Ramakrishna Paramahasa, Sarada Devi and Rani Rashmoni (the founder of the temple) did not like animals being sacrificed. A short documentary film entitled No More Blood Shed promoting the idea that one did not need to kill to prove ones devotion to the deity was made at Dakshineshwar in 2018 with the commentary effectively narrated by no other than a descendant of Rani Rashmoni who holds the post of trustee of the temple.

No More Blood Shed can be viewed on You Tube

Symbolic bali is the ritualistic sacrifice of white pumpkin, banana 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.

In 2023, the 209-year-old Hangseswari Kali Puja in Hoogly’s Bansberia temple (the most visited Kali temple of West Bengal) decided to do away with animal sacrifice following a unanimous decision by the family.

At the Bhadrakali shrine in Odisha also vegetables such as white pumpkin and cucumber are “sacrificed” – not animals.

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. As mentioned above, Nepal’s King Gyanendra’s emissaries had sacrificed animals at this temple in 2002. And this was the same temple where in 2005 two buffaloes were beheaded on the sacrificial alter for superstar Amitabh Bachchan’s speedy recovery by the Samajwadi Party members. The same political party had earlier performed the panchabali (sacrifice of 4 animals and a pumpkin) to ensure that their chief became CM of Uttar Pradesh.

On Mahashtami Day goats, lambs and cocks were sacrificed at a Durga temple in Sirlo, Odisha. 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.

Another Durga Temple managed by the Maa Durga Temple Pushpalata Ghosh Charitable Trust abolished the 700-year old tradition of animal sacrifice during Navratri 2022. Usually about 10,000 animals are sacrificed at the Begusarai Durga Temple in Lakhanpur, Bhagwanpur block in Bihar every year after the devotees’ wishes are granted. Instead of animals, devotees sacrificed vegetables and fruits like pumpkin and sugarcane for goddess Vaishnavi.

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.

Human Sacrifices

Since time immemorial human sacrifices have been practiced around the world. But when it happens in this century when people are trying to abolish animal sacrifices, it is more shocking. For example in 2022 two women were sacrificed in Kerala.

BWC feels that condoning animal sacrifices might lead to human sacrifice because basic reverence for life is missing.

Page last updated on 19/06/24