Man sagt, der Jäger sei ein Sünder,
weil selten er zur Kirche geht.
Im grünen Wald ein Blick zum Himmel
ist besser als ein falsch Gebet.
You think the hunter is a sinner
because he seldom goes to church.
In the green forest, a view of the sky,
is better than a wrong prayer.
…from last summer.
WARNING: This post contains photos of animals slaughtered for sacrifice.
My dog Kali is named after the Hindu Goddess Kali, because I found her at a temple dedicated to Pashupatinath, who is a form of Shiva. Shiva on the other hand has a female consort & parnter, the dark warrior Goddess Kali. Kali has a big temple south of Kathmandu, at the outskirts of the smaller mountains confining the Kathmandu valley.
Everyone who travels to Nepal will surely hear about Dakshinkali. It is portrayed as a place where blood flows in streams, where people wade in blood and sacrifice massive numbers of animals to satiate the blood thirst of the ever-hungry Kali. It is a dark place, outside of touristy Kathmandu. A temple in the mountains, down in a small shadowed valley.
I need to say that I was reluctant to visit this Temple. Although I am a vegetarian (and have been so for six years) I regularly handle and cut up raw meat for my own dog. This also includes whole animals, such as chickens, turkeys and lambs. I am used to see blood and work with parts of dead animals. However, I could not imagine walking barefoot through warm blood of freshly killed animals. Animals that are killed for sacrifice. Animals that are brutally murdered – so I was told. I considered this whole business a cruel, religious practice of nonsense. After all, we now live in the 21st century, the time for sacrificial slaughter should be over. Animals should not have to suffer for people’s religious ideas. This is about caring for these animals, right?
I cared about the animals…
…or so I though.
Anyway, I decided to visit the temple. I wanted to know where my dog’s name comes from. I prepared myself for lots of blood and beheaded animals. My last day in Kathmandu was a Tuesday. Tuesdays and Saturdays are said to be the bloodiest days at Dakshinkali. On that last day I decided to visit the temple.
Driving to Dakshinkali is a little adventure on its own! Passing through tiny villages, seeing Buddhist monasteries and rice fields, street dogs, cows, the beautiful green forest surrounding Kathmandu valley.
The way from the parking space to the actual temple leads through what seems to be a small market. You’ll often see similar things close to bigger temples. Here devotees buy flower garlands and such as offerings. I was not surprised to see flower garlands here as well, neither was I surprised to see male chickens in cages and young goat bucks tied up. They are to be sacrificed, today, tomorrow… It doesn’t matter, their lives are doomed. What I was surprised to see was the sheer number of vendors selling vegetables, lentils, rice, beans and other foods. I had read before, that the meat from sacrificed animals would be eaten by the sacrificing family, that the big meal afterwards actually was an important get-together for many Nepali families.
I have no problems with people eating meat. I care about the animals, if they have a nice life, as species appropriate as possible, free of pain, and a fast & clean death, I don’t really care about what happens to their meat. But killing animals for religious reasons? To appease a Goddess? This cannot be a valid reason. Sure they must suffer and be in terrible agony, being slaughtered in a temple, smelling all the blood of other animals. At least that is what one gets to read when you start looking into animal sacrifice. Just google Animal Sacrifice Nepal – the biggest part of pages that come up want to end, stop or banish the different forms of animal sacrifice that are practiced in today’s Nepal.
I walked down the stairs into the temple, took my shoes off, and walked into the temple. I walked past men, women and children, holding flower garlands, chickens and young goat bucks. The animals were calm & quiet.
They are led into the temple. According to old tradition the animals that are going to be sacrificed need to give their consent to the sacrifice. This is achieved by spraying water on the animals head, which makes them nod. It also used to be part of the old rituals to ask the sacrificed animals for forgiveness before the kill, however I do not know how much of this tradition is still alive and in practice today.
I stood right besides a little goat buck when he was killed. It was a very fast and clean kill. I did not hear anything from the little black buck. I only realized what had been going on when I stepped into fresh blood. (Actually I think I was not supposed to stand there at all, but I just walked into temple and ignored the few nasty stares that I got… And I am 100% sure I was not allowed to take photos, but I still did. You may thank me later.)
(And yes, walking barefoot in fresh blood, IS a weird and kind of ugly feeling.)
The men doing the slaughter seem very skilled. I have never been in a slaughterhouse, but I’m pretty sure the kills are not as fast as in this temple, and the animals are not as calm when they are led to their death.
And after the sacrificial offering of the animal’s blood to Kali, the family takes the dead body, prepares the meat and enjoys the meal together.
I will be sincere – this experience has been pretty eye-opening to me.
This animal sacrifice is not barbarous. It is not cruel. These animals pictured here did not suffer. They had a clean and fast death.
Why did it take a travel to Nepal & getting spilled by warm blood for me to realize that? With all I knew before that, how I could I think as I did? What was I thinking? I basically knew all of this, and thought I had understood it. I thought I was just caring for innocent animals. But I wasn’t…
I was judging.
I had no base for my opinion, apart from what I had read from other Westerners traveling Nepal. I had successfully maneuvered myself into a position of British Colonialist, trying to educate the “primitive” Hindus about what was the “right thing to do”.
This kind of position is not going to help anyone, even if one wants to put an end to animal sacrifice.
And after all, is there any valid reason to actually want that? The animals do not suffer. The meat is not thrown away.
There is not. I cannot find a valid reason, that is more than mere judging of a foreign culture and religion.
At least not for these small sacrifices. The big mass-sacrifices such as the festival of Gadhimai are a different story.
I am already now weary of what will go on (especially on social media) this coming November during Gadhimai, world’s biggest animal sacrifice. I can already see these animal-loving people condemning strangers for no other reasons than their believed moral superiority. And I will be repeating what I have said now:
This is not going to help these animals. Argumentation based on moral judgement won’t work, if anything the arguments need to be based on the animals’ welfare. And from the point of animal welfare, there is not much to say against animal sacrifice at Dakshinkali.
Ihi, Ehee or Bel Marriage (Nepal Bhasa: ईही) is a ceremony in the Newar community in Nepal in which pre-adolescent girls are ‘married’ to the bel fruit (wood apple), which is a symbol of the god Vishnu, ensuring that the girl becomes and remains fertile. It is believed that if the girl’s husband dies later in her life, she is not considered a widow because she is married to Vishnu, and so already has a husband that is believed to be still alive.
Two boys and their little Bhote (Tibetan Mastiff) puppy.