Operation Makar Sankranti

In late November of 2014, ARM investigators embarked on a mission halfway around the globe to Southern Nepal, where they entered undercover at the world’s largest animal sacrifice festival- Gadhimai. It was here that ARM captured footage that stands to be one of the most grueling investigations on the organization’s agenda to date.

Due to the undeniable and heart-wrenching footage that ARM captured during Gadhimai, a global campaign sparked and the decision to extend ARM’s coverage of animal sacrifice ceremonies in Nepal.

A few months later, on January 14th (2015), ARM returned to the same location where the Gadhimai festival had taken place and documented what is known as ‘Part 2: The Sister of Gadhimai’ Festival.

While many are aware of the horrors of the Gadhimai festival, which occurs every five years, the world is still vaguely unaware of the many other animal sacrifice festivals and ceremonies that occur daily throughout Nepal.

ARM was the only United States animal welfare organization at the two-day event observed over the Makar Sankranti holiday.

Makar Sankranti (also known in Nepal as Maghe Sankranti) is an event widely celebrated throughout Nepal and India. In the Hindu calendar, it marks as a traditional, solstice, and ‘harvest’ event. However, depending on the particular village, country, or region’s belief, it can vary erratically from being a time to celebrate new fertile crops, fly kites, and even ironically, a time celebrating cows’ life. The belief is, during this time, ceremonies conducted in Nepal will bring an end to an ill-omened month when all religious ceremonies are forbidden. Any ‘being’ to die on the first day of Makar Sankranti, can be perceived as giving to a rebirth. Many of these beliefs loosely interpreted to show that sacrificing animals has evolved to become yet another excuse to barbarically kill animals and umbrella it under religion so that the public does not contest it. 

At this year’s ‘Part 2: Sister of Gadhimai Festival’, up to 10,000 animals fell victim to violent beheadings during the bloodshed religious event. While most of the slain animals were goats, other animals such as water buffalo and pigeons suffered the same fate. Also, something often misconceived; the number of animals sacrificed at these events does not only occur on temple grounds. 

However, on both in-depth investigations ARM conducted, ARM witnessed and documented on film, that the brutal and inhumane ceremonies reached far beyond the boundaries of the temple and extended to the border of India and throughout Nepal.

Unlike the Gadhimai festival, sacrificing buffalos is not usually a traditional offering made for Makar Sankranti ceremonies. However, this year 60 buffalo were brought by devotees and offered to the Goddess of Gadhimai. While the remainder of the animal sacrifices were conducted publicly and freely in open fields, the buffalo’s ceremonies were mysteriously not, and took place inside the temple, behind heavily armed soldiers.

At this event, buffalo were not beheaded but subjected to one ear cut off as an offering to the Goddess of Gadhimai. Following the buffalo ceremonies, the committee members confiscated animals with intentions to sell the animals to a local slaughterhouse at the close of the festival, which caused a considerable doubt of the committee members of the Gadhimai Temple. They also claimed that they were not trying to profit from any religious ceremonies and festivals.

Instead, and in an exciting twist of events, the Animal Welfare Network Nepal (AWNN) battled publicly with the committee to allow the animal rights group to purchase the remaining buffalo to spare them from further harm or slaughter. Mainly due to the rise in negative attention and global pressure following last year’s Gadhimai festival, the committee members had no choice but to succumb to AWNN. 

The surviving buffalo cost a reported fee of USD 50 for each buffalo to the animal rights group.

The buffalo are currently under the care of AWNN, and recovered will be adopted to new homes and sanctuaries.

This new development demonstrates that there is a positive momentum occurring for animal rights in a country that today has no existing animal protection laws or regulations.

ARM intends to continue it’s investigations on the dire issue of animal sacrifice for religious purposes in Nepal until the government implements protection laws and regulations. ARM is currently composing reports to present its hardcore evidence to officials, lawmakers, and the Government of Nepal in its efforts to bring hope and reprieve for the countless animals that fall victim to animal sacrifice brutality every day.