B for Bali

B for Bali

‘Bali’ is a Sanskrit term used for animal sacrifice, it means tribute, offering or oblation. The first time I had encountered the ritual being performed was when I was around ten-year-old. I think I was infected by small pox and my parents had offered to sacrifice a goat when I am cured. So, after the illness was cured I was there in my native place during the occasion of ‘Gangamma Jhatara’. ‘Jhatara’ means festival and ‘Gangamma’ is the name of a village goddess. ‘Gangamma Jhatara’ lasts for eight days in Rayalaseema districts of Andhra Pradesh state. During these days lakhs of people from various regions, castes and creed sacrifice goats and roosters to appease the village goddess. I had nearly fainted during my visit to this Jhatara. I had never seen once again. Sacrifices were performed in huge open space in front of the temple and there was blood everywhere. Such was the scale of sacrifices it was difficult to walk without stepping on the blood.

Modern day notion calls animal sacrifices crude and such sacrifices and celebrations are banned or discontinued in many places in India. Yet there are places like Bali where in the practice is still followed. ‘Bali’ practice has a major importance in Hindu religion and has an important mention in Hindu Vedas. Animals like goats, barren cows or oxen, calf are sacrificed to appease Hindu Gods like Indra, Varuna, and Agni. There are rules around these sacrifices too. The sacrificial goat has to be healthy and should be free of any disabilities.

Animal sacrifice is of significant importance even in Abrahamic traditions. Abraham himself had sacrificed a Ram in place of his Son on the altar. References to animal sacrifices appear in Old and New Testaments of the Bible. Genesis 8 and Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 list down various animals that one can offer as sacrifices for atonement. I have listed one such reference below:

Leviticus 12:6

“And when the days of her purifying are completed, whether for a son or for a daughter, she shall bring to the priest at the entrance of the tent of meeting a lamb a year old for a burnt offering, and a pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering”

Muslims engaged in Hajj sacrifice a lamb, goat, cow or a camel. This is the sacrifice of “Eid al-Adha”. Udhiya is the word used in Moslem tradition for the annual sacrifice at Mecca.

While Bali is considered crude and against animal welfare by many in the modern world it has deep roots and importance in many religions. This is the world’s way. What was once acceptable is now unacceptable. What was once a tradition is now barbarism. Change is the way of the world. It is good that some customs are left out unchanged while some are changed to fit into today’s life and perspectives.

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