10/04/2011, 00.00
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Nepalese activists against the slaughter of animals during the festival of Dashain

by Kalpit Parajuli
Animal rights activists suggest replacing animals with pumpkins and vegetables. To avoid waste and criticism, the government cuts funding for the Dashain, which will last until October 13. In just two days more than two hundred buffaloes and goats sacrificed in the main temple in Kathmandu.
Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - Nepalese animal rights activists condemn the sacrifice of thousands of animals on the occasion of Hindu festival of Dashain. The Animal Welfare Network Nepal, has accused the Hindu authorities of misinterpreting the meaning of the feast, inviting them to replace oxen, goats, sheep and birds with pumpkins and vegetables.

Dashain is the most important festival of the Nepalese Hindu calendar and commemorates the great victory of the evil demons known as the Battle of Ramayan, won by Lord Ram through the intervention of the goddess Durga. It is often depicted as slaying the terrible demon Mahisasura, that terrorized the earth in the guise of a buffalo. According to tradition, during the 15 days of Dashain hundreds of animals are sacrificed at every temple to pay homage to the goddess, but also to prevent further destructive wrath. The blood of buffaloes, oxen, sheep, goats, birds is poured down the stairs of the religious buildings. The sacrifices will last for the duration of the festival, and transform the pavement around the temples in huge pools of blood.

Activists have also criticized the waste of public money to support the event. According to media reports the main temple in the capital killed more than two hundred animals in just two days. All paid for by the state.

To respond to criticism by animal rights activists and deter the macabre ritual, the government has halved the funding for the sacrifices, reducing the temples budget from 15 thousand to 8 thousand euros. Narayankaji Shrestha, Deputy Prime Minister and government spokesman points out that the maneuver is part of the austerity measures undertaken to combat the economic crisis. "We're trying to turn Nepal into a secular state - he says - in the future we will not support these types of ceremonies."

However, many accuse the Maoist government, a supporter of the secular state, of promoting the Hindu religion over other religious faiths. One example is the controversial anti-conversion law, still under investigation. It provides for jail time and fines for those who proselytize, for a ban on public ceremonies of religions different from Hinduism and limits the construction of religious buildings. Yesterday, the President, the Vice-President and Maoist Prime Minister Bhattarai went to the temple Fulp (Kathmandu) to attend the grand ceremony of the seventh day of Dashain.

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