Its interesting that almost all the religions of the world decided that the best way to appease their Gods was to butcher hapless animals to them. Apart from reasons of piety, I suspect it had something to do with guilt. Taking another animals life for food may have looked a bit selfish. Therefore as in most things, men decided why not do it in the name of God? You get to eat the meat and God takes all the blame for the blood and gore.
The Bible, the Koran and the Hindu scriptures have elaborate instructions on not only what animals should be slaughtered but how they should be put to the gallows. The Old Testament God for example got miffed at the slightest human peccadillos and had to be pacified by `burnt offering’ of animals. The Book of Leviticus quotes him on how he wanted the fattest of heifers to pacify his quick temper.
He was also not averse to asking for human sacrifice and Prophet Abraham almost knifed his only son Isaac on these `Godly’ instructions. Jesus Christ’s crucifixion is seen by many Christians as the ultimate human sacrifice for us `sinners’. (Its not a coincidence that Jesus is often referred to as the `lamb’ in the New Testament).
As for Islam it has especially dedicated Eid-ul-Adha – as the `festival of sacrifice’ when thousands of goats, cows and sheep are slaughtered in a single day. This is again to commemorate Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his only son to God. On Eid-ul-Adha , Abraham is venerated for not listening to Satan who tried to dissuade him with his `evil’ advise of sparing his son but going with the `divine’ voice that goaded him to kill him in ritual sacrifice.
But its perhaps in Hinduism where animal sacrifices form an integral part of worship to this day. No wonder then that animals are slaughtered within the temple complex itself. Kamakhya temple in Guwahati Assam is famous for such sacrifices where devotees bring small lambs to their slaughter on a daily basic. There are five temple priests at Kamakhya who do this job in a chillingly efficient way.
The poor lamp has no idea of its fate until it sees the severed heads and pools of blood. It makes one heart rending bleat as one priest holds it over the chopping block and the other brings down the hatchet. Within minutes the animal is skinned, debowled and cut into small chunks and handed over to the owner. The priests get to keep the heads for their effort.
Those who cannot afford goats bring pigeons. But the richer and more `pious’ men bring buffaloes. Almost 3 to 4 buffaloes are sacrificed at Kamakhya every month and dozens of them are slaughtered during Durga Puja festivities.
Kamakya temple dedicated to Goddess Sati has been notorious for its sacrifices. It was not too far back in history when human sacrifices were rumored to take place here. Bimakali temple, in the picturesque town of Sarahan in Himachal Pradesh was another temple where human sacrifices took place right uptill the 18th century. The humans have now been replaced by goats and occasionally buffaloes.
But perhaps the goriest of all the animal sacrifices happen during the Gadhimai festival in Southern Nepal. It’s a month long festival which is held once in every five years. In 2009 more than 5,00,000 animals were slaughtered in the ritualistic bloodbath to please goddess Gadhimai.