please bear our cross

The sacrificial goat is black without blemish

The sacrificial goat is black without blemish

The goat was tethered some feet away from the two stones that are Banta, attendant to Chowdeshwari. A black goat, spotless as Chowdy desires, is sacrificed each year in her name after the Kenchammana Jathre, at Banta’s rocks. Chowdy is denoted by another set of rocks at the base of the tree neighboring Banta’s. On this day of the pooje the decoration of her rocks, and the space about them, was expansive, and extra elaborate.

Three surviving brothers (of five, the eldest and the youngest are deceased) who have owned the set of plantations where the pooje is done, have been buying goat each year for the villagers to slaughter. The brothers belong to the vegetarian Lingayat community, and the colors of the pooje of the morning, which they attend, are the colors of the flowers and the paste of turmeric and sandal-wood and vermilion. Lunch was simple vegetarian, yellow-rice and rice with curds. But the lunch was not the thing.

The brothers offer the goat to appease Chowdy, who will cleanse the plantations of the wrongs of last year. The same fervent hope is shared by the villagers who do the slaughter—that Chowdy is satisfied for another year, and—if the pooje goes without fault—they need fear no disease, no untimely death, nor failed crops, or miscarriage, or any other misfortune.

The sacrifice happens in the afternoon. The vegetarian pooje of the morning, the villagers call ‘sweet’; the pooje of the afternoon, noisy and bloody and red, is ‘khara’ (‘hot n’ spicy’). The brothers and their families left before the ‘khara’ pooje began. They asked us that we should continue this tradition, and the wives of the brothers introduced the poojaris to us.

The goat was moist all over; the top of his head was matted with patting by many wet hands. He ate the flowers strung round his neck, chewed twig from the ground, and now and then settled down by the coffee plants and watched Banta’s rocks where in a short time it was planned to give away his life. In the morning he'd been taken round the five pieces of plantation that the now-deceased father of the brothers bequeathed to them about two decades ago. There in every laborer's quarters they had washed the goat’s feet, put vermilion on his forehead, folded their hands in prayer, touched his feet. He had been clumsily dragged about by an aged human who clutched the goat’s short tail with one hand, and, with a rope in the other hand, the goat’s neck. Two drummers led the way, children excitedly trailed the goat, and a toddler, barely three, trailed them all, walking alone a few feet ahead of me. Thus under a clean sunny sky, the small procession left from the labor quarters and walked on the bund between the lakes and went into the heart of our plantation which is two parts bought recently, of the five.

Some chicken lay stuffed each in a bag by the spot where the meat was to be chopped and dropped into curry. A villager inspected and tucked back a rooster into a plastic bag, and the bird croaked with a loudness far out of proportion to its size. The chicken were sacrifice from villagers’ homes, thanksgiving for favors received over the last year. They told me one goat can feed twenty humans. More than twenty were arriving, some with country liquor in bottles, some with spirit already in their bellies—the practice is to consume as much alcohol as one can get, when mutton is on the menu.

Such is this sacrifice in which nothing material is given away—blood is spilled before the deity, but every piece of flesh is heartily devoured by the humans.

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