Wait! Aren't Many Hindus Vegetarian? What's the origin of Gadhimai?
Both India and Nepal's populations are majority Hindu. Gadhimai's participants primarily originate from the southeastern region of Nepal and along the eastern Indian border near the district of Bara, making the festival specific to that area.
The festival's name, Gadhimai, stems from a goddess whose temple is situated near the quaint village of Bariyarpur. Sacrifices are made to her, as she fulfills wishes and augurs good luck and prosperity throughout the five years between the festivals.
According to legend a feudal landlord, Bhagwan Chaudhary, was imprisoned around 260 years ago when a dream befell upon him that he would be freed of all his sorrow and suffering after making a blood sacrifice to Gadhimai. Immediately following his release from prison, Chaudhary took counsel from the local village healer whose descendant, Dukha Kachadiya, started the ritual with drops of his own blood from five parts of his body. It is stated that a "radiant light appeared" and the gruesome sacrifice began...
Throughout its history, the blood of millions of animals has spilled in the name of Gadhimai (see video).
Thousands of Men, Women, and Children come from all over Nepal and India The devotees arrive days or even weeks before the festival, carrying their bare essentials and sacrificial animals, to set up makeshift small tents on the harvested paddy fields around the periphery of the small village of Bariyarpur.
Many of the families cover vast distances to partake in this religious occasion, with thousands entering into Nepal from India, despite the Indian government prohibition against crossing the border with any livestock.
Due to poor sanitation, unregulated importation of livestock, and the culmination of blood and human and animal waste lingering throughout the village for weeks, it is thought zoonotic diseases entered Nepal in 2009 as a result of the previous tumultuous festival.
On the day of slaughter, thousands of buffaloes are pent-up in a compound the size of two football fields, surrounded by a brick wall -- unaware of their destiny, their inescapable fate. The other hundreds of thousands of animals are unmethodically slaughtered throughout the entire village.
Many of the animals, already weakened by the long journey die from exhaustion, starvation or dehydration before being hacked by hundreds of drunken-blood covered men with large kukuris (swords) in hand.