I am glad your dream is over, Bhagwan Chowdary.

Dr Roshan Radhakrishnan
Today, a man's dream finally ended... and I could not be happier.

Every year, we see sickening images of the mass animal sacrifice held in Nepal during the Gadhimai festival. A country with strong roots to a religion of tolerance suddenly goes insane in the name of that same peace loving religion, with devotees from Nepal and India literally running through herds and chopping the heads of living lifestock including goats and buffaloes. Estimates from the 2009 edition stated that nearly half a million animals were killed in 48 hours. Last year, 2.5 million worshippers killed nearly two lakh animals during this festival. I use the term festival because that is exactly what it is considered - a joyous occasion for the entire family.
"The World's Largest Animal Sacrifice", as they proudly claim.

What has always been truly amazing to me is the history behind this festival. 
A feudal landlord, Bhagwan Chowdary, from over 250 years ago, found himself locked in a prison. In his dreams, The Goddess Gadhimai appeared and told him his worries would disappear and prosperity and wealth would appear if he did a blood sacrifice in her name and built a temple for her. So what does the landlord do the moment he gets out of prison? He consults the wise man of the village - a local healer (oh, we doctors! Can't we ever do anything right?!) - and goes ahead with the mass slaughter. And the descendants of these two have been starting the proceedings every year ever since, striving to bring prosperity to the land by filling the streets with blood. 

Or to put it more succinctly, religious bullshit.

I have no doubt that Mr Chowdary had some weird dream three centuries ago. That happens when you are in prison and the latest edition of Tinkle comics has not been delivered to your cell block. The fact that he went ahead with his madness showcases his sense of bloodlust more than anything else. But nothing condones an entire country following suit year after year based on such an idiotic tradition that relied on a dream a man had while in prison. This was not Nelson Mandela looking for peace while in prison... this was a man with violent psychopathic tendencies and a mad delusion. That was all.
And a whole country followed suit right into the 21st century simply because he said 'God told him to do it'.

The concept of the festival reminded me of the movie "The Purge" in many ways. For one night, all rules were off and you could do whatever you wanted to whomever you wanted and nobody would question it. You could rob, beat, rape and pillage as you wish... no action would be taken against you and the next day everybody would be free to go back to work as though nothing had happened. 
Was this festival not just a variation of that? For 48 hours, seemingly good boys and young men who were probably taught maths and moral science in school just like you and me were suddenly running across fields with blades and swords, chopping off the heads of as many animals as they could find. 
And it was okay to watch your child behead living creatures with the same bloodlust as Mr Chowdary, irrespective of whether you wanted him to be a doctor or an entrepreneur when he grew up. After all, "a Goddess said it to a rich guy in prison in his dreams 250 years ago so surely it must be true. People have been doing it for ages so surely there must be some logic to it, right?"

Every religion has its own beliefs and I understand the need to respect them. I may find your beliefs peculiar and you mine. And that is totally fine. But when a belief contradicts the basic laws of 'do no harm', then a line is crossed. If a religion tells you to kill somebody - anybody - to please your God, it is time to reevaluate the basis of that interpretation. 
Because the path of all religions is, in the end, love for one another.

When something is wrong and willfully harms a lesser being, be it 'tradition' or a 'belief', you should never be afraid to question and oppose it. In the end, compassion and humanity must win... the truth is that "We have always been doing it this way" and "God told me to do so" are two of the most dangerous excuses in life. Millions of innocents have died using that absurd justification and sadly, still do even today.  

But there is hope. Today, three centuries after it began and after years of protests and pleas from organizations and people across the world, Chowdary's dream has died. 

“We have decided to completely stop the practice of animal sacrifice. I realised that animals are so much like us – they have the same organs as us … and feel the same pain we do,” the secretary of the Gadhimai Temple Trust, which organizes the celebrations announced, thus ending this madness for the first time in centuries.
Image source: here
The inescapable irony that the very same Nepal also hosts a unique festival called Kikur Tihar
where dogs are worshiped and celebrated for their religious incarnation as Bhairav. 

It takes courage to go against religious beliefs and want to make a change for the better, I know. But this is a necessary first step and is truly welcome news. The road ahead will be difficult, convincing millions that the beliefs they grew up with and held on to is wrong. But we must believe that it can be done. We too can dream, after all.

Like Chowdary, we too can dream - only our dream should be of a world where we can all live without the need to shed blood just to appease someone's belief. Like Chowdary, we too can end up convincing future generations for the next 250 odd years or so, if we truly believe in the dream for 'compassion to all'.

Author's note:
I know activists and celebrities all over the world have been fighting hard to end this practice. I don't know who you all are but from the bottom of my heart, I thank you. And I congratulate you too. A quarter of a million healthy animals will live this year because you persevered when it was easier to just look the other way or give up fighting against traditions and blind beliefs.

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  1. Very interesting blog. A lot of blogs I see these days don't really provide anything that attract others, but I'm most definitely interested in this one. Just thought that I would post and let you know.

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