In Pictures: Nepalese Festival Where Half a Million Animals Will Be Sacrificed

Gadihimai
A buffalo is sacrificed near Gadhimai Temple at Bara District, about 300 km (186 miles) south of Kathmandu November 24, 2009 Gopal Chitrakar/REUTERS

Today marks the beginning of the Nepalese Gadhimai festival, where hundreds of thousands of animals are expected to be sacrificed in the name of the Hindu goddess.

The festival, which takes place every five years at the border town of Bariyarpur, sees men armed with traditional swords behead animals including goats, chickens, pigs and buffalo. The last festival, which took place in 2009, saw over a quarter of a million animals killed and CNN are reporting that this year the number of sacrifices are expected to double to 500,000.

The festival is the world’s largest mass animal sacrifice, and the event has attracted widespread criticism. This year a campaign to ban the festival was launched with supporters including Brigitte Bardot and Joanna Lumley who petitioned Nepal's president to end the "cruel tradition".

Gadhimai Mela" festival Stuntmen perform on the eve of the sacrificial ceremony for the "Gadhimai Mela" festival in Bariyapur November 27, 2014. Navesh Chitrakar/REUTERS

Gadhimai People walk along a field near the enclosure for buffalos awaiting sacrifice on the eve of the sacrificial ceremony for the "Gadhimai Mela" festival in Bariyapur November 27, 2014. Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters

Gadhimai Mela" festival Herders work inside an enclosure for buffalos awaiting sacrifice on the eve of the sacrificial ceremony for the "Gadhimai Mela" festival in Bariyapur November 27, 2014. Navesh Chitrakar/REUTERS

Gadhimai Sacrificial blades are displayed for sale near the enclosure for buffalos awaiting sacrifice on the eve of the sacrificial ceremony for the "Gadhimai Mela" festival in Bariyapur November 27, 2014. Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters

Gadimai Festival People who are specially assigned to slaughter animals arrive to take part in a mass sacrifice of the buffaloes near Gadimai Temple at Bara District, about 300 km (186 miles) south of Kathmandu, November 24, 2009. Shruti Shrestha/REUTERS

 Gadimai Temple Devotees arrive at Gadimai Temple with pigeons for offerings at Bara District, about 300 km (186 miles) south of Kathmandu November 24, 2009. Gopal Chitrakar/REUTERS

Gadimai Temple People who are specially assigned to slaughter animals take part in a mass sacrifice of the buffaloes near Gadimai Temple at Bara District, about 300 km (186 miles) south of Kathmandu, November 24, 2009. Gopal Chitrakar/REUTERS

Gadimai Temple Devotees warm themselves as they wait for a mass sacrifice of buffaloes near Gadimai Temple at Bara District, November 24, 2009. Gopal Chitrakar/ REUTERS

 Gadimai Temple A man who is specially assigned to slaughter animals takes part in a mass sacrifice of the buffaloes near Gadimai Temple at Bara District, November 24, 2009. Shruti Shrestha/ REUTERS

Gadhimai Mela" festival A herder sits inside an enclosure for buffalos awaiting sacrifice on the eve of the sacrificial ceremony for the "Gadhimai Mela" festival in Bariyapur November 27, 2014. Navesh Chitrakar/REUTERS

RTR4FUP7 A sick buffalo calf lies in an enclosure for buffalos awaiting sacrifice on the eve of the sacrificial ceremony for the "Gadhimai Mela" festival in Bariyapur November 27, 2014. Navesh Chitrakar/REUTERS