NOTE: You may find these images disturbing!
Gods in the Hindu religion have different incarnations and one of these normally has a darker or more powerful side to their personality. Kali is the blood thirsty incarnation of Shiva’s wife Parvati and in order to satisfy her taste for blood devotees make animal sacrifices at Dakshinkali temple and other temples like it all over Nepal on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
We had only one more Saturday in Nepal and didn’t want to miss a chance to see this, a ritual not found in the western world. From the Ratna Bus Park in Kathmandu, we drove for over an hour, winding through the lush countryside until we reached our destination. The bus unloaded its passengers at the beginning of a path lined with vendors, which terminated at the temple grounds. We walked through the street of stalls where baskets of fruit, flowers and candles were already prepared for pilgrims to offer to their god. Some people were also selling goats and chickens which worshippers could take to the temple to have beheaded in an offering to the goddess Kali.
Strolling towards the temple we passed a long line of pilgrims waiting to make their offering. Some had chickens under their arm or a goat on a rope and the animals seemed oblivious as they waited in line to meet their end. We each received a blessing and had the tika (the red marking) applied to our foreheads by holy people near the temple entrance. Not being Hindu, we weren’t allowed access to the temple itself and from where we were standing, with what we could see, that was fine by us. We stood and watched as the animal sacrifices at Dakshinkali Temple were in full swing.
The tiled ground inside the open air temple was red with blood. Devotees formed an orderly queue and waited their turn to hand their animal to the temple priests. The priests very skillfully and easily beheaded the chickens with a quick neck twist and a slice of their knife. After dousing the Kali statue with the blood of the sacrificed animal a prayer is said and the next person steps forward with their offering.The sacraficing of goats however was a little more gruesome. For obvious reasons a little more work was required by the priest in order to behead the animal and after he was finished with the goat, the writhing dead body lay on the crimson ground, the severed head right there next to it. Pilgrims carried their sacrifices from the temple, body in one hand, head in the other as if they were coming back from the shop with a loaf of bread and a pint of milk. It was such a normal process to the local people that it didn’t feel strange or wrong watching on.
The entire process runs like clockwork and with men, women and children alike, walking around the blood-soaked temple floor in their bare feet the rituals don’t seem so much barbaric as they do a family day out. The other side to thee religious ceremonies is that after the sacrifice has been made, people take their slaughtered animal to the skilled butchers at the other end of the temple grounds. For a small fee the animal is boiled, skinned and cut up, ready to be cooked later at home or in a lot of cases at a picnic in the shade of the trees surrounding the temple.
This is the side of it for me that really brought it all together. It might seem a bit bizarre or even inhumane at first but when families are together enjoying each others company on a sunny day feasting on their sacrificed animal, it’s not all that unlike any family get together in the west, sitting together at the table after mass with a large roast in the middle. With that said, when I go for a picnic, I think I’ll stick to ham sandwiches and fizzy orange!