My recent visit to Pithoragarh was an eye opener. I went to many village temples where people from neighbouring places come to pay obeisance and even offer animal sacrifice. This was a new experience for me. I had only heard about animal sacrifice but had never witnessed one.
Kumaon, a land of warriors, has many Kali temples. One of them is Kalika Maha Kali Mandir in Ganguli Haat, around 60 kms from Pithoragarh. The Temple is maintained and looked after by Kumaon Regiment. The animal sacrifice is a routine there. The devotees make a beeline to offer sacrifice to the Goddess. The sacrifice could be a goat or a buffalo.
The ritual of animal sacrifice is not very complicated. The vermilion is put on the head of the animal, a garland is put across its neck and then worshipped by each and every family members. The priest chants shlokas while family members shower flowers and coloured rice. Once it is over, a few drops of water are sprinkled over the animal. If it shakes its body, this means the animal is ready for sacrifice.
It looks obvious that animal would shake its body once water is sprinkled over it. The people associated with animal sacrifice negate this. They say some times animals do not shake water even if a bucket full of water is poured over it. This means, this animal can not be sacrificed.
I am witness to the brutal killing. I saw how the people gagged the mouth of a goat when it refused to shake its body. They put some leaves and rice in its mouth and closed it forcibly. When the animal shook its body to get rid of these intruders, the people standing by clapped and shouted `ho gaya ho gaya’. And the animal was taken to the sacrificial point.
In one temple I saw a goat was give a few puris to eat and when it was about to eat that its head was slashed in one go. The head was offered to the `Devi’ while the body is taken away by the devouts.
After sacrifice of the animal, some people take its body back to their villages to have a feast while some cook food at the temple vicinity itself. I saw in Chandika Devi temple, 12 kms from Pithoragarh, as how kerosene was poured over the body of the dead animal and roasted. After some time, the tarred upper coat was scratched away with knife and rest of half roasted body was taken away in kitchen. It was cleaned and offered as `prasad’.
I am a meat lover, but I vouch I could have only a small half cooked piece of Prasad that smelt of kerosene.
The sequence shows the animal (white goat) and its sacrifice. Pictures could be grotesque but witnessing live sacrifice was even more bad and nauseating.