India being a secular country, since ancient times there is prevalence of different sects with different religious beliefs and practices. Religion has always been a sensitive issue in India. Hence, not many among us like to question some of the religious practices that do not make sense to us. One amongst them is animal sacrifice. I term this practice as ‘Brainsick act of brutality’. Since the time I can remember, I have abhorred this practice and there are reasons for that.
Sacrifice of animals for the sake of religion dates back to the ancient days. This tradition is evident from the proto-historic Harappa from where seals have been discovered depicting the practice of animal sacrifice. India has undergone extensive development since then and now we are a developing country. We use Microsoft and eat from the Mc Donald’s. The development hasn’t stopped or got restricted. Agricultural sector has changed and now we have the Five Year Plans which have been oriented towards agricultural development. Why have religious views not changed? Why do we not question the insane savagery practice of animal killing as a part of a ritual?
I am no animal rights activist, a strict vegetarian or a Vaishnav protagonist, but I object the fact of killing animals in the name of religion. Killing animals at the holy alter and turning it into a virtual pool of blood is not sane! Prior to this human sacrifice was in practice too according to the religious scriptures. Visualize a human or your own self being offered before a Goddess as a sacrifice to propitiate your creator! Doesn’t that yield goose bumps?
To focus on Hinduism, Devi’s are worshipped as Abhaya – Symbol of benediction. The Abhaya mudra poised by the Hindu deities symbolizes protection and peace. We brutally line before our deities lambs, goats, and buffalo’s near the sacrificial pole, murder them and are still unperturbed! Doesn’t the blood of these animals jostle us?
At the Kamakhya temple, located atop Neelachal Hills in Guwahati thousands of animals are slaughtered in reverence to Goddesses Kamakhya or Sati, who was one of the numerous incarnations of Goddess Durga or Goddess Shakti. Buffaloes, goats, pigeons, ducks are sacrificed before the Devi. History has revealed the Ashwamedha Yaga (Horse sacrifice) and Rajasooya Yaga (sacrifice performed by an Emperor) involve sacrificing of animals in large numbers. Animal sacrifice has been clearly mentioned in the Vedas as a part of any elaborate ritual.
With Durga puja just round the corner Kolkata is getting prepared for the festival with great pomp and splendor. The four day festival is going to end the life of a legion of animals. Gratefully, the younger generation mostly doesn’t believe in animal sacrifices and hence, the sacrifice offerings before the Devi have changed from beheading animals to decapitating Chaal kumro (Gourd), sugarcane, banana, cucumber and batabi lebu (pumalo), which act as substitutes to the goats, bulls and lambs. However, at some puja’s, the ones that have been happening from hundreds of years, the religious fanatics refuse to go against tradition and stick to the execution of animals to please the Goddess. There are some alleged ‘Bonedi families’, which traditionally and religiously undertake execution of goats on Saptami and Asthami and beheading of buffalo’s on Navami. Despite law being against this, these sadistic acts are still being committed and people support this savagery in large numbers. The family members smear their forehead with the blood of the executed animals and dance on their thakurdalan before the deity. Yes… in flagrante delicto is carried on in the civilized world where we live! An act of extreme barbarity, which is against legal standards, but no one, raises a finger as religion is associated with this insensate deed.
We do not understand the language of animals, but can’t we see the pain in their eyes. It is a ghastly sight to see an animal crowded with spectators and a priest, who accolades the beast with garlands and chants and then beheads it with one blow! There is strict religious norm involved here… it must be chopped in one blow else it is considered unlucky. I wonder how these direful spectators can enjoy watching this cadaverous act!
It is not only Hinduism that allows sacrifice of animals. Even other religions follow this practice. In Islamic religion this act is carried out on a grand scale during Bakri ID, wherein large numbers of animals are slaughtered to show wealth and prosperity of an individual. Even cows and camels are offered for sacrifice. This sacrifice is not demanded in Islamic religion, but depends on a person’s willingness and unfortunately, people are ad infinitum willing to flow an animal’s blood. Judaism progressed sacrifices until the ruination of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 A.D. Then, Christianity forwent the practice of sacrifice stating that Jesus was the ultimate sacrificial victim. Killing of animals to please the deities has been continuing from centuries and has caught the attention of animal rights activists, but there is nobody who has been able to succeed in stopping this heinous act. The prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, does not prohibit animal sacrifice at religious places. States like Karnataka, Gujarat, Orissa, Himachal and Andhra Pradesh, have brought another act into effect — Animals and Birds Sacrifice Prohibition Act — to ban the practice. However, none of these legal acts or animal rights activists has been able to change this age-old tradition and shun the practice of animal sacrifice.
We claim to live in a culturally refined society, but don’t hesitate to perform draconian deeds! God is the creator and has equal love towards all his creations. He cannot ask for the head of his own creation for ritualistic needs. This vindictive act has no justification. During the Stone Age, the Age of Ethnocentrism people used to slaughter each other on grounds of ones race and ethnic group. The thought of it gives a feeling that it was the uncivilized world. Today things are different. This is the Age of internet and education. Core beliefs have changed, but when tradition and ritualism is considered we have not changed. This is the time to think… Devi is the symbol of cosmic harmony. She cannot ask for her own creations blood. This bizarre practice of animal sacrifice is barbaric. We are not living in the dark ages. It is a stark reality that these animals that are butchered for rituals included in the holy texts are not ‘Satans’ or ‘Shaitan’s’. It is considered as ablution of ones sins through the blood of another. In India animal sacrifice is gloriously performed and this gruesome deed of slaying animals needs another thought. Think again…
“About sacrifice and the offering of sacrifices, sacrificial animals think quite differently from those who look on: but they have never been allowed to have their say.”
– FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE