Kullu (Himachal Pradesh), Oct 8 : Animal sacrifice for religious purposes does not have the blessings of at least goddess Hadimba, the prominent deity of the Seraj and Kullu Valleys in Himachal Pradesh! The deity is the first among 250 prominent gods and goddesses in the state that has come in support of last month’s Himachal Pradesh High Court judgment banning the age-old tradition prevailing in most of the areas to sacrifice animals to “appease” the gods and goddesses.

“According to the directive of goddess Hadimba, the centuries-old practice of sacrificing animals, for religious purposes, has been stopped in the temple and elsewhere,” priest Sher Singh of the Hadimba temple told IANS. Sher Singh said the pronouncement was made by the goddess (through the oracle) on Sunday, when the over 250-year-old temple was celebrating its first year of reconstruction.

The new temple, a replica of the one that stood at the site earlier in Saraho village in Cheuni, some 90 km from Mandi town and 250 km from Shimla, was reopened for the public Oct 5, 2013. The old temple was demolished after the wood used in its construction had decayed. Hadimba temple trust secretary Ramchander said at least 31 animals were sacrificed in the temple at the time of its reopening to appease the goddess.

Over 150 animals, mainly goats and lambs, were sacrificed by devotees at their houses. “This time too the temple caretakers arranged for five goats and lambs to be sacrificed. With the blessings of the goddess they were not sacrificed at the last minute,” Ramchander told IANS. He said the devotees in Seraj Valley have accepted the dictum of their deity – “live and let live”.

This idiom has summed up the high court’s landmark 110-page judgment. Invoking parens patriae, a doctrine that grants the state authority to protect those who are legally unable to act on their own, a division bench consisting of Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Sureshwar Thakur observed: “The practice of animal and bird sacrifice is abhorrent and dastardly.”

The bench had banned the animals sacrifice in temples, saying they cannot be permitted to be killed in a barbaric manner to “appease” the gods. Aggrieved over the high court ban, a rare congregation of oracles of the deities called for ‘Jagati Puch’, which was held near Kullu Sep 26 and endorsed that the animal sacrifice was part of their age-old custom and they would continue with it.

Legislator Maheshwar Singh from Kullu, who is also the chief representative of Lord Raghunath, Kullu Valley’s chief deity, told IANS it was unanimously decided to reject the high court ban. Maheshwar Singh, who called for the ‘Jagati Puch’, said 266 assembled oracles of the deities endorsed that the animal sacrifice was part of their customs.

Taking cognisance of the ‘Jagati Puch’, the judges observed: “The extra-constitutional bodies have no role.” The pronouncement by goddess Hadimba, whose another prominent temple is situated in Manali, has come as a big relief for the organisers of the centuries-old Kullu Dussehra festival that concludes Thursday.

According to tradition, the sacrifice of buffalo, male lamb, fish, crab and chicken is an important ritual on the concluding day of Kullu Dussehra, which begins after it ends in the rest of the country. “We hope devotees of other deities will also shun the practice of animal sacrifice,” Deputy Commissioner Rakesh Kanwar told IANS.

At present, over 230 gods and goddesses, including Hadimba, are assembled in Kullu for the Dussehra festivities. “Goddess Hadimba holds a prominent position in Kullu Dussehra. The Dussehra celebrations begin and end with her permission. So the decision to stop animal sacrifice will inspire other deities to shun the ritual,” said an official.

The Kullu Valley is also popularly known as the ‘Dev bhoomi’ – the land of gods. Every village has several resident gods and goddesses – who are invoked as living deities.