Nepal's killing fields: FIVE THOUSAND buffalo lie slaughtered at the beginning of Hindu ceremony which sees up to 300,000 animals killed to bring worshippers good luck
- WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT
- Hundreds of thousands of animals set to be slaughtered during two-day religious festival in Nepal
- The Hindu festival is held every five years in honour of Gadhimai, the goddess of power
- Festivities kicked off on Friday morning with the mass-slaughter of 5,000-6,000 buffalo in a field
- The last time the festival was held, in 2009, more than 250,000 animals were killed, according to PETA
More than 250,000 animals are being lined up for slaughter as Nepal embarks on a two-day religious festival where buffalo, birds and goats are sacrificed to appease a Hindu goddess.
Millions of Hindus flock to the ceremony, which is held every five years at the temple of Gadhimai, the goddess of power, in Bariyarpur, Nepal, near the Indian border.
The last time the festival was held, in 2009, more than 250,000 animals were killed, according to animal rights organisation PETA, who is campaigning to put a stop to the practice.
Offer to the gods: Thousands of buffalo lie dead in a field after being sacrificed for a religious holiday in near the Indian border in Nepal
A butcher walks with a bloodied blade as he looks for an animal to kill during a mass slaughter to celebrate the start of the Gadhimai festival
Religious killing: A butcher gets ready to kill a buffalo during a mass slaughter of the animals for the Gadhimai festival inside a walled enclosure in the village of Bariyapur, near the temple of Gadhimai, the goddess of power
Field of meat: The festival is held for two days and is kicked off with a mass-slaughter of buffalo, after which hundreds of thousands of animals are sacrificed to the goddess
A severely injured water buffalo awaits its slaughter as a devotee prepares to cut off the animal's head in front of watching crowds
The festival is 'kicked off' with the ritual slaughter of five thousand buffalo in a field near the temple, after which two days of ritual animal slaughter takes place.
Animal rights activists such as PETA are campaigning to halt the mass animal-slaughter, but despite their efforts, the organisers of the festival has promised that this year will be the biggest yet.
About 2.5 million devotees have turned out for the festival, according to local government official Yogendra Prasad Dulal, who said it was 'impossible to estimate' the total number of animals sacrificed so far.
'It has been a grand day,' Mangal Chaudhary, head priest at a the Gadhimai temple said. 'The buffalo sacrifice has ended, but we will continue the rituals with goats and other animals for one more day,'
On the first day, worshippers slaughtered more than 6,000 buffaloes, which were coralled into holding pens in the fields, along with at least 100,000 goats and other animals, Chaudhary said.
The festivities will continue on Saturday when at least another 100,000 animals will die in the name of goddess Gadhimai.
About 2.5 million devotees have turned out for the festival, according to local government official Yogendra Prasad Dulal
Millions of Hindus flock to the ceremony, which is held every five years at the temple of Gadhimai, the goddess of power, in Bariyarpur, Nepal
A devotee holds his traditional kukri knife before the beginning of the animal sacrifices
Bringing the buffalo to slaughter: A calf draws its last breath as a butcher lifts his blade over its head
Good start: On the first day, worshippers slaughtered more than 6,000 buffaloes, which were coralled into holding pens in the fields,
Although cows are considered sacred by Hindu's, the thousands of animals seen slaughtered in these pictures are buffalo
One of the many butchers holds his blade, which has been blessed in a ceremony the night before, as he gets ready to kill another buffalo
The ritual began at dawn with a ceremonial 'pancha bali' orthe sacrifice of five animals, comprising a rat, a goat, arooster, a pig and a pigeon, before moving on to buffalo
Meat all around: The last time the festival was held, in 2009, more than 250,000 animals were killed, according to PETA
Worshippers believe the animal sacrifice, meant to appease Gadhimai, the Hindu goddess of power, brings them luck and prosperity
Chop, chop: A butcher wields his kukri, a traditional Nepalese knife, over a buffalo calf right before severing its head
Local government representatives say they cannot ban Hindu's form the slaughter during the festival because it would 'hurt their sentiments'
Devotees began slaughtering thousands of animals and birds in a ritual sacrifice on Friday, ignoring calls by animal rights activists to halt what they described as the world's largest such exercise
More than 80 per cent of Nepal's 27 million people are Hindus, but unlike most of their counterparts in neighbouring India, they frequently sacrifice animals to appease deities during festivals.
Authorities deployed hundreds of police personnel to make sure there were no clashes between activists and the devotees.
'It is a ritual connected with people's faith,' said Yogendra Dulal, an assistant administrator of the Bara district, where the temple is located. 'We can't hurt their sentiments and ban the practice.'
Worshippers believe the animal sacrifice, meant to appease Gadhimai, the Hindu goddess of power, brings them luck and prosperity.
The ritual began at dawn with a ceremonial 'pancha bali' or the sacrifice of five animals, comprising a rat, a goat, a rooster, a pig and a pigeon.
Although cows are considered sacred by Hindu's, the thousands of animals seen slaughtered in these pictures are buffalo.
Every five years, pilgrims flock to the temple of the goddess Gadhimai in the small Nepalese border town of Bariyarpur to behead vast quantities of livestock over two days
Blessing of the weapons: Butchers raise their swords while performing rituals on Thursday night, before the sacrificial ceremony today
Worshippers have spent days sleeping out in the open and offering prayers to the goddess at a temple decked with flowers in preparation
Important holiday: About 2.5 million devotees have turned out for the festival, according to a local government official
The celebrations includes the slaughtering of hundreds of thousands of animals, mostly buffalo and goats
So it begins: Cattle are prepared ahead of the mass slaughter near the Gadhimai temple on Friday morning
About 6,000 buffaloes were held in an open-air pen prior to being beheaded by butchers using swords and large curved knives. Thousands of goats and chickens will also be sacrificed before the festival ends on Saturday, temple officials said.
The heads of the sacrificed animals will be buried in a huge pit while the animal hides and skin will be sold to traders who have contracted to buy them.
'It is not proper to kill animals in the name of religion,' Uttam Kafle, of rights group Animal Nepal, told Reuters by telephone from the site.
'We are trying to convince the people that they can worship at the shrine peacefully and without being cruel to animals.'
India's Supreme Court recently asked the government to stop the illegal movement of animals into Nepal for the ceremony.
A Hindu villager leads a bufallo as he heads to the village of Bariyapur to attend celebrations of the Gadhimai festival
People have arrived from both sides of the Indian border to join in the celebrations in honour of the goddess Gadhimai
Early start: Hindu devotees watch butchers brandish khukris (traditional Nepalese knives) from a tree, in an effort to get a better view of the first sacrifices on Friday morning
More than two million Hindu devotees are set to take part in the festival, which is held at the temple every five years
Cleanse: Hindu devotees take bath to purify themselves in the pond of Gadhimai Temple to please goddess Gadhimai
A group of devotees hold their traditional kukri knifes before the beginning of the animal sacrifices
A devotee offers a pigeon to the Goddess during the celebration of the Gadhimai festival today
A black goat is carried to be sacrificed - one of thousands of animals slaughtered during the blood-soaked festival
A member of the police force attempts to control the vast crowd. The festival has prompted numerous protests by animal rights activists and Nepalese Hindus from Hill region