Nepal // The Kathmandu Valley //

Sacrificial chickens and tantric goats

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If orthodox Indian Hindus are very much of the “pure veg”, non-violent persuasion, their tantrically inclined Nepali cousins have a more bloodthirsty bent. At least, the thirst is on the part of Kali, Nepal’s fearsome – yet strangely popular – mother goddess who demands blood sacrifice in return for her favours.

Nepalis are curiously gentle in their worship: they lead their offerings to the slaughter tenderly, often whispering prayers in the animal’s ear and sprinkling its head with water to encourage it to shrug in assent; they believe that the death of this “unfortunate brother” will give it the chance to be reborn as a higher life form. Chickens, goats or, most expensively, buffaloes can be sacrificed, but only uncastrated males, preferably dark in colour, are offered.

At Dakshinkali, men of a special caste slit the animals’ throats and let the blood spray over the idols. Brahman priests oversee the butchering and instruct worshippers in all the complex rituals that follow. However, you don’t need to speak Nepali to get the gist of the explanations.

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