I was eating a peaceful lunch in the lunch room today, talking about mundane things that afflict employees everywhere. It was then that I heard the sound of drums beating in a simple rhythm. I did not give much thought to it, until the drum-beating crowd sounded like they had made a stop right in front of our office. I walked to the window to see what it was. There was an open lorry, with the icon of a Goddess, bedecked with jewels and adorned with flowers. A couple of people were holding umbrellas above Her head. I thought that it was the traditional aarati, and I was instantly reminded of my days in Madras. Every now and then, processions of Gods used to be taken on our road. There used to be naagaswaram playing beautifully. The house-fronts would be cleaned, and adorned with rangolis. We used to take camphor, fruit and coconuts and perform pooja. But this procession wasn't just that.
There was a water tank leading the lorry. God's path has to be clean, so these guys had ingeniously brought a tank along, with its faucet open. Drums were beating loudly and rhythmically. A couple of youngsters were dancing and looked like they were drunk. A man spread banana leaves side by side on the ground, right in front of the lorry. A couple of women served rice and some more dishes on them. A girl removed agarbattis from the wrapper, handed them to the chief priestess (?) and threw the wrapper on the roadside. I remained watching, mainly to see whether these guys would clean up as they left. On hindsight, I think that was too much of an expectation.
Agarbattis were burnt. Camphor was lit. There was real devotion and seriousness on the faces of the people standing around the lorry. The drum-beating then reached a feverish tempo. Two sheep were dragged in front of the lorry. That was the limit for me. I could not stomach it anymore. I just walked back to my seat. A while later, the beating of the drums stopped.
I have spent quite some time in small and large towns of Karnataka. Every year, in B__, there used to be the annual festival of the Mother Goddess, and animal sacrifice used to be a regular part of the proceedings. I do not know if it continues, though. During my tenth standard I lived in H___, another town. And exactly before my exams, cholera broke out. The folks there thought that it was because the Mother Goddess was angry. Therefore, to propitiate her, a festival was organized. Some thirty buffaloes, a lot of sheep and innumerable chicken were sacrificed. The devotees were not at all worried about cholera spreading even more because of their unhygenic practices.
Is there a law that bans animal sacrifice? Yes!