Ringing the Bells

SYNOPSIS:  About a Saturday excursion – A day of blood-sacrifice to Kali. 

Everyone seemed to pray a lot today even if to different deities.  Road conditions were so treacherous that what should have taken us 40 minutes, took us an hour and a half.  Bishwa wiggled his way skillfully through a 5 km traffic backup and assured me that I was OK as we passed three accidents involving motorcycles…  I begged St. Christopher to hang in there! 

Everyone was heading to Dakshinkali, the local temple dedicated to the Hindu goddess Kali.  Saturdays and Tuesdays are her days.  Particularly on Saturdays, the national day off work, the locals get out and combine sacrifice with fun.   The sacrifice that is first offered to the goddess is later joyfully consumed by the extended family in a picnic in the park surrounding the temple.

Kali, the consort of Siva, is a powerful goddess.  Sacrificial rituals such as performed at Dakshinkali are considered part of Tantric Hinduism and are a bit off the beaten path from mainstream Hindu practices.  Roosters and goats seem to be her preferred animals, but a vegetarian offering of coconuts, flowers and rice will also do.  For hours, the family members line up in two cues with their sacrifices in hand.  As they enter the temple, they make their presence known by ringing bells that are strung along the way, a means of “waking up” the god.  But how could she be asleep on a day like this full of commotion? 

Vendors are selling flowers, and for a small fee will put a red mark of Kukuma on your forehead, a way of opening up the devotee to the spiritual realm.  We arrived just as one round of sacrifices was over.  For almost an hour, the sanctuary had to be cleaned of debris left by the offerings:  flower petals, coconut milk, feathers, blood.  Bishwa secured us both a seat above the crowd, next to a big water canister, looking down on the spectacle.   I am not proud of my pictures as my view was obstructed by power lines and smoke and I was quite distant from the spectacle.  But with hundreds of people attending, I could not expect much better.

The next round of sacrifices was rung in with a 15-minute long, mesmerizing session of two bells and a drum keeping the beat. The head priest was swinging an incense container in front of the surprisingly small statue of the goddess (which I could hardly see) and forming mudras.  I am sure he mumbled some mantras along with it which would have been drowned out by the drum and the bells even if I had been closer.  As a non-Hindu I was not allowed inside the sanctuary and I certainly would not have wanted to stand in line for hours to wait my turn if I could have.

Two green carpets were rolled out to prevent the entering devotees from slipping on the wet floor; and the gates opened to let in a never ending stream of worshippers presenting their offerings.  Standby helpers took the non-blood offerings and others swiftly cut the throats of the roosters and the goats that were presented.  My view was blocked and all I could see was live animals going in and dead ones going out. 

In a nearby stall and for a nominal fee (50 cents for a rooster and $5 for a goat), the sacrificial animals were feathered and skinned, and prepared for consumption.  Happy families left with their barbecue food, ready to party. 

And after watching this spectacle for an hour, I left not so happy to face that dreadful road again.  But St. Christopher came through for us.  We made it without incident. 

Way to go, Kali!

1 comment so far

Add Your Comment
  1. Always fascinating pictures – like that unbelievable ride on the road or all of those beautiful bells. Bill was at some celebration years ago where they were overly generous with red powder but I do not think that this was the event for it would have been in April or May.