One of the most intriguing places in Kathmandu that you should not dare miss while in Nepal is the Dakshin Kali or Dakshinkali Temple. Believe it or not, actually animal sacrifices are still practiced here, making it one of the bloodiest temples in South Asia. Located just about 22 kilometers from the center of Kathmandu, near the village of Pharpin, this blood-soaked temple and one of the main temples in Nepal is dedicated to the goddess Kali, which explains the gory ritual.
Kali is a Hindu goddess that is known as the black one. Her name is synonymous to black, time, death, or lord of death. The goddess represents death, violence, darkness and eternal time, and is often appeased by the bloody offering of animals, particularly of male chickens and uncastrated male goats. The bloody sacrifices are performed twice a week, and especially during the Dashain Festival in October. What you will see is something that was taken directly from the movies or TV magazine shows.
The place itself is a bit spooky. The temple is located on a dark southeastern edge of the valley, between two imposing hills where two rivers meet. The sacrifices happen on Tuesdays and Saturdays, but Saturdays are more special and much bloodier for some reason. Devotees come in bringing their offerings of chickens, ducks, goats, pigs, sheep and even buffalos occasionally. An expert butcher cuts their throats and lops off their heads. These animals don’t go out without a fight, so you could image the noise of wailing pigs, chickens, goats coupled by the prayers and noise from the crowd and the stench of freely flowing animal blood. There is much more blood and spectacle during the Dashain Festival in which the image of goddess Kali is bathed in a pool of animal blood. It is an event not to be missed by foreign tourists.
The Dashain Festival is a 15-day national festival observed all over Nepal. It is the longest, most colorful, most elaborate and most anticipated religious event in the country. It is highlighted by the animal sacrifices as Kali is drenched in a holy bathing of blood for days. Government offices, private institutions and schools are closed on these days so that more devotees could come. Tourists from all over the world flock to Kathmandu to witness the ceremonies.
However, non-Hindus cannot enter the compound where the image of Kali is actually located. Even Hindus have a hard time getting in since there is always an incredibly long line. You just need to content yourself with photos from the outside, but even that is not a piece of cake since you will find yourself competing for the best shot of the goriest scenes against tons of camera-toting tourists. Just don’t forget to respect the devotees because to them, of course, this is sacred and not for show.
After the sacrifices, the animals are butchered clean in a nearby stream that has turned red to be boiled or eaten. Some decide to eat them right there and then for a picnic while others take the meat home. Families and worshippers come with pots, vegetables and firewood, eager to eat off their sacrifices and just have a big day out. Some will actually invite you and other tourists to enjoy the feast with them.
Dakshin Kali Temple is definitely a must-see. The path leading to it is always crowded with visitors, the faithful and vendors selling tea, fruits, coconuts, snacks, and souvenir items. The sacrifices are gory yet sacred, but outside and around the temple, it is festive and fun.