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
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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