For the past 24 years, every time I visited my village for the annual puja, it’s a bad smell that attacks the nostrils to let you know you have reached home.
It’s the smelly pigs and its sty, and the “oink oink” cry.
The annual puja was a regular thing and so was slaughtering. The pigs were raised like children from birth, fed well, only to be slaughtered for the annual puja.
During the regular puja gathering last year, I remember my family gathered on the front porch. We were catching up on the years we haven’t been home.
Suddenly I saw my grandmother covering her ears and chanting prayers. Then I realized what was happening.
Just below our porch, the pig was being slaughtered.
“Grunt, grunt,” the pig cried in pain.
The excitement in my brother’s voice was heard simultaneously.
“Grunt grunt,” went the pig again and finally it fell silent.
The flesh was cut, the waste and uncookable parts were thrown, a bowl was filled with the pig’s intestine (juma). Half the flesh was hung to make shikam.
But now, a religious order not to slaughter pigs for pujas is a welcome move.
A year back, my grandmother, the head of the house, said there would be no killings and we stopped it, however, it didn’t stop the butchers from killing them as we bought the pork for the puja from the shop.
The pig sty in my ancestral house has been empty for the past one year, neither cleaned nor destroyed.
The competition in villages for giving the best meat dish would also decrease with the ban.
“With the ban, the animals would be excused and the competition in the villages would also be minimal,” said Ap Gyeltshen, a farmer from Punakha. However, another farmer added that bringing in more varieties of vegetable curries would be a challenge.
Bhutanese are not very good in preparing a variety of vegetable dishes. But with the slaughter ban, it would be interesting to see how delicious our puja dishes can become.