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DANCING WITH A KHUKRI

Decapitating a he-goat with one stroke of the Khukri is not for the faint-hearted. My rite of passage into manhood many a time during Dashera at my father's maula puja came with my offering visceral support to animal sacrifices but by keeping at arms length from both the animal and the weaponry. Striking from a distance I was an expert at: beginning with an air-gun, then graduating to .22 caliber rifle I terrorized the avian population at my father's large estate at Kiran Bhawan, Dashera or no Dashera. But close combat was not my forte. Failing to decapitate the hapless goat with one stroke of the khukri meant bad karma to the house (and nobody thought of the goat here) and this burden I was unwilling to shoulder.

As Nepal is the last bastion of the oldest form of Hinduism yet unencumbered by the restraining influences of monotheistic Christianity and Islam as in India, we Nepalese sacrifice an assortment of animals to a plethora of Gods and Goddesses. We need to appease all these awesome deities who are forever ready to pounce on us poor Nepalese for slights real or imagined by offering animal blood instead of our own. There are many power centers in Nepal we are afraid to deny their celestial rights.

I recall during my childhood the nauseating car rides in empty stomach and pulsating head to many power centers of Kathmandu valley in the days preceding the maula sacrifice at home on the 8th day of Dashera. Starting from Maiti Devi we did a tour covering Sankata, Mahankal, Bagala Mukhi, Dakshinkali and Shova Bhagabati. All army officers of the Chettry warrior castes did this routine, ever more passionately they say with subsequent promotions whilst the pyramid to the top narrowed. My father was already retired from the Nepalese army as its Commander-in-Chief so more than promotion for him it was a habit he would not drop. "I am retired, but not tired," he would often repeat.

Gadimai is one of such deities, hibernating for years she awakes very thirsty. In an orgy of sacrificing some 10,000 animals are supposed to have shed blood to appease this particularly angry deity in a ritual dating back to ancient times. Droves of frenzied Hindus from across the border poured into Nepal to participate in this rite off-limit in their own country. To the uninitiated the danse macabre is reminiscent of primitive humans but for believing Hindus this is but another ritual just as commonplace as slaughtering turkey for Thanksgiving or catching the depleting populations of tuna in the ocean.

Perhaps the sight of thousands of headless animals heaped together is loathsome to view on TV as we are now exposed to scientific abattoir and meat-packing industry but the fact remains - in both cases the animals have lost their irreplaceable lives, the bodies to be chopped and consumed by us humans. Perhaps a closer look at modern methods too reveal gross violations of animal rights during breeding, slaughtering and packaging as protested by many animal rights groups. Unless one is a total vegetarian one cannot really selectively argue for the most humane method to kill. All methods are inhumane.

But the slaughter at Gadimai did fleetingly bring to the fore the uselessness of carnage of such magnitude and perhaps will help more people become vegetarian, not a bad thing as we age. I have stopped offering animal sacrifice except for a duck, replacing the goat of late, once a year during Dashera at Dakshinkali and all my guns lie silent. Perhaps I am on the way to becoming a vegetarian like many.

Comments

  1. I agree because all of this slaughter is done in the open, it makes for a nauseating experience.

    But my thoughts were elsewhere as I thought the once captivating Bridgett Bardot, the prime animal rights activist, was coming to town and we could see what age will do to people. But she never showed up.

    Incidentally the protest against Gadimai settled with a whimper. I think the festival almost coincided with Thanksgiving in the USA. Wonder if that had something to do with the whimper, even as the turkeys whimpered!

    As usual what I really enjoyed reading was your personal takes on all this.

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  2. Re the beginning of your last para, may I submit that it was not "slaughter" at Gadimai but sacrifice to the Goddess Durga, a tim-honoured Hindu tradition.

    "I am retired, but not tired" - wonderful quote which I must adopt.

    Incidentally, Bardot (is she still alive?), had lost every bit of her sexual looks as she grew older. She should have offered a buffalo or two to Gadimai!

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  3. Very true, what can be worse : Hypocritical lobbying or pre-historic sacrifices !
    Oh and co-commentators : thanks for the chuckle !

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