Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhawanipatna, Oct 2:
As part of a ritual ‘celebration’ that is a blot on the pacifist ethos of Odisha, nearly ten thousand animals and birds were sacrificed in the Kalahandi district headquarters of Bhawanipatna today to ‘propitiate’ Goddess Manikeswari, the presiding deity of the town, during the annual Chhattar yatra.
Like previous years, the district administration failed miserably in its efforts to check and prevent animal sacrifice this time too as devotees’ butchered goats, buffaloes, chicken and other birds to appease the deity with their blood as she was taken in a procession from Jenakhal after Sandhi puja to her temple inside the Bhawanipatna royal palace, which is her permanent abode.
The ADM Bhawanipatna said; “It’s a matter of mentality and the awareness level of devotees. We had held two meetings in this regard. It can only change if the people change their mindset on such matters. We did’t use force; we tried to persuade people. But it obviously hasn’t had the desired effect.”
Lakhs thronged the route to have a glimpse of the presiding deity to the rhythmic beats of Jenabadya, Nisan and Ghanta (traditional musical instruments) with dancers performing ‘Ghumura’ and martial art forms.
“We believe we will get rid of our vices and diseases by sacrificing animals. Every year, we participate in the festival to invoke the deity’s blessings,” said a devotee.
“I have sacrificed a goat byway of thanksgiving as the Devi has fulfilled my wishes,” said a woman devotee.
Before the start of the sacrifice ritual on Asthami tithi of the Hindu month of Ashwina every year, two swords belonging to the goddess are washed in the pond located behind the Bhawanipatna royal palace. The swords are then worshipped and brought back to the temple in a procession. Then a buffalo is sacrificed at the Budharaja or Vairab temple, a satellite shrine of the Manikeswari temple.
Following this ritual, the Chhattar or umbrella of the goddess, along with two swords of the deity, are taken out for the procession.