By Binu Shrestha Kathmandu, Oct. 17: The festival of Dashain is around the corner. During the festival, people offer worship to deities by visiting temples. However, this time all temples have remained closed since March 24 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is the first time that temples have remained closed for such a long time -- seven months. People are eagerly waiting for re-opening of temples. But owing to the alarming situation of coronavirus cases in the Kathmandu Valley and beyond, they are not likely to re-open even in Dashain. As a result, this Dashain is poised to witness far fewer number of animal-sacrifices, -- a common practice across the country during the festival. Animal rights groups have been appealing devotees to stop animal sacrifice and not to subject them to cruelty. The positive side of the COVID-19 pandemic is that it has helped lessen the cruelty on helpless animals, as major temples where sacrifice is most common -- Taleju Temples of Hanuman Dhoka and Bhaktapur -- remains closed and is likely to remain so for days to come. What’s more, government authorities, Guthi Sansthan and Pension Management Office, which had been allocating budget every year for animal-sacrifice ceremony, have already canceled the mass sacrificial ceremonies. In Kathmandu district alone, a total of around 70 animals and birds used to be offered in a dozen Durga temples, including Shova Bhagawati, Gopaleshwor, Indrayani and Naradevi, the Guthi itself, said Hari Prasad Subedi, chief of Kathmandu Guthi Sansthan. The number of buffaloes, goats, sheeps and ducks used to be 14, 41, two and 10 respectively, Besides, 108 animals used to be sacrificed at Taleju Temple of Hanuman Dhoka. Pension Management Office would allocate budget for 54 buffaloes, 54 goats and 54 ducks to sacrifice them at the temple premises. In Bhaktapur, 85 goats, 35 buffaloes and 35 ducks and chickens used to be offered in several temples, said Aandha Karmacharya, chief of Bhaktapur Guthi Sansthan. All sacrificial ceremonies in and around the temple premises of Bhaktapur have also been cancelled. Shankar Manandhar, president of Dakshinkali Temple Management Committee, said that Dakshinkali Temple will remain closed even during the Dashain time, considering the risk posed by COVID-19. The individual animal sacrificial process will not be allowed but if devotees come in a group for animal sacrifice, the priest himself will officiate the process, said Manandhar. Earlier, over 500 animals and birds, including goats, chickens and ducks used to be sacrificed during Dashian, he added. A large numbers of animals are sacrificed to please the goddess as part of the century-old practice, especially on the eighth and ninth days -- Maha Asthami and Maha Nawami -- of Vijaya Dashami.