The Gadhimai Festival
used to be held in a small village in the past and management was easy. But these days hundreds of thousands devotees from Nepal and India come to Bariyapur of Bara to pay their respects to the goddess who they believe grants them their wishes. Every five years, there is talk of forming a national organising committee but nothing ever happens.
Because there are so many people present, every successive festival has become more and more commercialised. There is no regulation and management, local businessmen take full advantage of the impromptu market. This year, too, traders are already taking shortcuts to maximise their profits.
There seems to be a lack of preparedness for other kinds of emergencies. There are no vets, there is no talk of who will clean up after the festival is over, no one monitors the quality of food fed to animals or made-available to visitors, sanitation is not a priority, toilets are rudimentary, prices are sky-high, and no one knows what will happen if there is a stampede.
Because the government hasn’t paid attention to any of this, profiteers take the initiative and visitors end up paying through their noses. It is crucial the festival’s organisers ensure devotees are welcomed and touts discouraged.
Overkill in Gadhimai, Lucia de Vries and Deepak Adhikari