Animals spared of sacrifice in pandemic-hit Odisha


Chatar festival in the Bhawanipatna town of Odisha’s Kalahandi district, which is usually marked by the sacrifice of thousands of animals and birds, passed off without much bloodshed on Friday.

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Kalahandi district administration imposed a strict security blanket that did not let devotees kill animals and birds in propitiating Goddess Manikeswari.

Every year, the idol of Goddess Manikeswari is taken to Jena Khal on the outskirts of the town, and after the performance of secret rituals, the deity returns to her abode. The return journey is known as Chatar Yatra.

Lakhs of devotees from Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and West Bengal participate in the festival. A three kilometre main thoroughfare, and nearby lanes and by-lanes, turn red with animal blood. On this occasion, almost every family has an animal or bird to sacrifice.

This year, the Orissa High Court had ordered ban on animal sacrifice. “No person including the State shall be allowed to sacrifice any animal or bird during ‘Chatar Yatra’ festival on the public road or in and around the precincts of the temple,” the Orissa HC had ordered while acting on a public interest litigation.

“God is the creator of the universe. He has created the human beings, animals, birds and all the species on this earth. The animals and birds breathe like us. They have also a right to live in harmony with human beings and the nature. Like the parents cannot tolerate to see the blood of their children, deity cannot be pleased by sacrificing the animals,” it observed.

The HC had directed the administration to generate awareness among people before prohibiting the animal sacrifice.

However, Supreme Court had stayed the Orissa HC court order, which meant there was no restriction on animal sacrifice.

“People have celebrated the festival by staying inside their home. We had taken a preparatory meeting on the COVID-19 pandemic and sought cooperation. It was then decided that Chatar festival would be held without any devotees,” said Kalahandi District Collector Gavali Parag Harshad.

Similarly, Kalahandi Superintendent of Police Battula Gangadhar said that, as matter of precaution to avoid crowds in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, 13 platoons of police were deployed. Prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the CrPC were imposed to avoid assembling of devotees.

In the wee hours of Saturday, the festival was celebrated with a limited numbers of devotees and government officials. A troupe of traditional Ghumura dancers participated in the procession.

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