Diwali dawns, Himachal awaits animal sacrifice
Saturday December 04, 2010 05:02:20 PM,
A month after the rest of India marked the festival of lights,
Himachal Pradesh will celebrate its unique four-day 'dark' Diwali
- slaughtering hundreds of cattle amid the beating of drums,
playing of trumpets and chanting of mantras to appease the gods.
The 'dark' Diwali, locally known as Buddhi Diwali, will begin
Sunday on 'amavasya' (the last day of the dark fortnight of a
lunar month) with merrymaking and singing of folklore related to
the epic Mahabharata.
It is mainly celebrated in Ani and Nirmand in Kullu district,
Shillai in Sirmaur district and Chopal in Shimla district and is
considered as one of the biggest festivals of animal sacrifice.
The festival is associated with the battle of the Mahabharata as
it is said to have started on the first day of Buddhi Diwali.
Another legend says the news of Lord Ram's return to Ayodhya
reached late in these parts and hence the late celebration.
In Kullu district, the festival is celebrated to commemorate the
killings of demons Dano and Asur who resided there in the form of
Hundreds of goats, sheep and buffalo are sacrificed during the
festival to appease gods and deities.
"For this particular festival, we rear sheep and goats round the
year. We feel bad when we sacrifice them. But their sacrifice
ensures round-the-year prosperity and protection from natural
calamities," said Sudha Rani, an octogenarian villager in the
She said the locals believe if the age-old practice of 'bali' or
animal sacrifice was stopped, the villagers would face the wrath
of the deities.
However, state language, art and culture department director Prem
Sharma told IANS that the practice was registering a decline.
"We are motivating people to break coconuts instead of animals.
Somehow the practice (of sacrificing animals) has declined in some
areas," he said.
As per the tradition, villagers take animals to a nearby temple
where the sacrificial ceremony is performed on 'amavasya'. The
severed heads are offered to the gods and deities and the animal's
body is taken home for cooking. The feast is shared among
Sheetal Devi, another villager in Nirmand, said the leftover flesh
is dried up and stored for consumption during the winter season.
"This festival also marks the beginning of the extreme winter
season. The meat stored during this festival is used for
consumption over the next three-four months when the entire area
is marooned in snow," she said.
Kullu Deputy Commissioner B.M. Nanta said the practice of animal
slaughter was more prevalent in Sirmaur district, where people
were still backward.
The animal protection groups and religious leaders have demanded
that the illegal practice of animal killing be stopped.
N.G. Jayasimha, US-based Humane Society's campaign manager in
India, said: "The state government should take steps to prevent
the slaughter of innocent animals."
A prominent centuries-old Buddhist monastery, the Key monastery in
the Spiti Valley in Lahaul and Spiti district, last month appealed
to the people to stop slaughtering animals and be more humane to
other species. The monastery has even warned locals, mostly
Buddhists, that if they are caught slaughtering animals, including
wild ones, or drinking liquor, a fine of Rs.20,000 would be
(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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