The world’s biggest animal sacrifice begins: Thousands of buffalo are slaughtered in Nepal by 200 sword-wielding butchers in walled arena, despite outcry over the bloodshed
- GRAPHIC CONTENT: Gadhimai Festival began in Nepal on Tuesday despite a temple authorities ban in 2015
- Sacrificial ceremony, held every five years, kicked off with slaughter of a goat, rat, chicken, pig and pigeon
- It had been hoped bloodshed would end after Nepal’s supreme court directed government to discourage it
Hindu worshippers with swords and knives began slaughtering thousands of buffalo in the world’s biggest animal sacrifice in Nepal on Tuesday, despite efforts to end the bloodshed.
The Gadhimai Festival, which is held every five years, kicked off in Bariyarpur in the early hours amid tight security, with the ceremonial slaughter of a goat, rat, chicken, pig and a pigeon. A local shaman then offered blood from five points of his body.
Some 200 butchers with sharpened swords and knives then walked into a walled arena bigger than a football field that held several thousand buffalo as excited pilgrims climbed trees to catch a glimpse of the action.
‘The sacrifices have begun today… We had tried not to support it but people have faith in the tradition and have come here with their offerings,’ Birendra Prasad Yadav from the festival organising committee said.
A butcher swings his blade to kill a buffalo as the sacrificial ceremony begins during the Gadhimai Festival held at Bariyarpur in Nepal
Men drag a dead buffalo across an enclosure for animals awaiting sacrifice on Tuesday as the ceremonial slaughter began
Hindu devotees ride in the back of a vehicle as they travel with a goat to the festival in Baryarpur, south of Kathmandu
A butcher swings his blade to sacrifice a buffalo inside an enclosed compound during the centuries-old ceremony, which is held once every five years
On Wednesday, photographs captured butchers as they used swords to slaughter buffalo which were marked with red paint, as dozens waved weapons in the air as they watched on.
Thousands of worshippers from Nepal and neighbouring India have spent days sleeping out in the open and offering prayers ahead of the event in Bariyarpur village, close to the Indian border.
‘I believe in the goddess. My mother had asked her for the good health of my son,’ Rajesh Kumar Das, 30, said, holding a goat in his hand.
An estimated 200,000 animals ranging from goats to rats were butchered during the last two-day Gadhimai Festival in 2014, held in honour of the Hindu goddess of power.
A devotee wrapped in a blanket sits near his temporary shelter as he waits for the Gadhimai Festival to begin on Tuesday
A Hindu devotee slaughters a buffalo as dozens of dead animals lay on the ground around it in Bariyarpur, south Nepal
A buffalo lies dead inside an enclosure for animals awaiting slaughter on Tuesday. An estimated 200,000 animals ranging from goats to rats were butchered during the last two-day Gadhimai Festival
Hindu devotees in brightly-coloured clothing help each other cross a murky river near the site of the controversial festival
Worshippers offer prayer as they arrive for the Gadhimai Festival held in Bariyarpur, south Nepal on Tuesday
Men lead buffalo wearing bright orange capes inside an enclosure early on Tuesday morning as the festival got underway
A volunteer controls a crowd using a stick during the ritual before the sacrificial ceremony of the Gadhimai Festival
Many were hopeful the centuries-old tradition would end after the temple authorities announced a ban in 2015 and Nepal’s supreme court directed the government to discourage the bloodshed a year later.
But animal rights activists say both government agencies as well as temple committees have failed to implement these rulings.
Indian border authorities and volunteers have in recent days seized scores of animals being brought across the frontier by unlicensed traders and pilgrims, but this has failed to stop the flow.
According to legend, the first sacrifices in Bariyarpur were conducted several centuries ago when goddess Gadhimai appeared to a prisoner in a dream and asked him to establish a temple to her.
Hindu devotees raise their sacrificial blades to the sky as the ceremony of the controversial festival begins on Wednesday
On Tuesday, an excavator was seen pushing dead buffalo inside a hole before burying them after the ceremonial slaughter
A group of men drag a dead animal through an enclosure of buffalo as another volunteer pushes it from behind on Tuesday
Hindu devotee slaughters a buffalos as a offering during the Gadhimai Festival in Bariyarpur on Wednesday morning