The mention of India may bring to your mind many interesting information you have heard about the nation and the rituals followed here have a sure place in the list. A land of diversified culture, India is well known for bizarre rituals followed by its people since ancient times. Many have long since become a part of history, some owing to the change in thinking (and believing) style and some were abolished by the government like sati, a ritual in which the widow of a dead person was burnt alive with the corpse. Listed below are 10 bizarre Indian rituals.
1. Baby Tossing
Photo by chr
It is believed that baby tossing ritual is being practiced for around 700 years. Not just strange but dangerous, baby tossing is practiced in certain parts of Maharashtra and Karnataka. Babies aged between 1 and 3 are tossed from a height of around 30 feet. The family members of the baby gather on the ground with a cloth to hold the baby and ensure a safe landing. It is believed that such tossing will bring good luck and health to the child.
2. Bull Fighting
It is not only Spain that is famous for bull fighting. Tamilnadu, a state in India, holds the sport, which is referred to as Jallikkattu, once every year during the festival of Pongal. And unlike in other places where bull fighting is held, people here brave the bulls with bare arms. The sport is conducted in certain parts of Tamilnadu and you will find many to actively participate not just for the reward but for the sense of achievement the sport gives. Though bull fighting is considered by some as a sport that needs to be banned, it has been practiced for centuries and hence people associate it with their culture.
3. Tongue Piercing
Ear piercing is quite common but tongue piercing is unique to certain parts of Asia including South India, where some people pierce their tongues using long needles made of steel. Such piercing forces open their mouths and they remain so until the completion of the ritual. Such acts of tongue piercing are performed during certain festival times.
4. Fire Walking
Popularly called the Theemidhi festival, firewalking involves walking bare foot over a pit that is filled with hot firewood that is burning. Glowing charcoal is also added to it and the one that performs firewalking should walk across the pit to reach the other end carrying a pot filled with sacred water on his head. The ritual is associated with Draupati Amman, a Hindu goddess.
5. Food Rolling
Food rolling is a practice followed in some temples in the state of Karnataka. Brahmins who are considered to belong to the highest caste in the caste dominated country eat food in the temple and discard scraps of food and all other castes that are considered lower to them roll over the leftovers. Food rolling has been practiced for more than 500 years and steps to ban the ritual have failed to produce results.
Self-flagellation is a practice followed by Shia Muslims across the world. It is observed once every year to mourn the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, the grandson of Mohammed, the prophet. They self-inflict pain by flogging themselves with chains called as Matam. The injury can be of severe nature as the chains may contain blades and knives.
7. Human-Animal Marriage
The custom of a man or a woman marrying an animal is prevalent is some parts of India. It is considered that such marriages are effective in breaking a curse. In an attempt to exorcise the ghosts, the affected person is made to marry a goat or a dog. Once the marriage takes place, it is believed that the curse has been broken and the person is free to marry a human.
8. Practices of Aghori
Aghori sadhus who live in Banaras in India worship Lord Shiva. They have renounced the world and their way of living comes in as a shock. For them, nothing is exception where eating is concerned – they take drugs, drink alcohol and the also eat human remains after a body is cremated. They have sexual intercourse with corpses.
9. Animal Weddings
Animal wedding is yet another ritual in India that is practiced with belief. Animal marriages are conducted to invoke the blessings of rain god. Since the life of a majority of the population is dependent on rain as the primary occupation is agriculture, people conduct animal weddings hoping that they would have sufficient rain. Frog weddings are very common and donkeys and dogs too have their place in the marriage altar.
10. Plucking Hair Using Hands
Jain monks consider that hair is symbolic of attachment to life and worldly possessions and hence they have their heads shaved. What makes their act bizarre is that they pluck each strand of their hair with their hands. To help heal the wound caused in the head by such plucking, they apply the ash of dried cow dung.
What is the most bizarre ritual you’ve heard of?
Rohit Agarwal is a professional architect who shares his spare time between reading, traveling and blogging. He loves to share the information he gathers with his readers and his blogs at http://www.transindiatravels.com are a reflection of his recent activities.