India is a beautiful and vibrant country with so much to offer. From food to culture, from education to business opportunities – India is definitely a country worth visiting. However, just like every other country in this world, India has her fair share of weird rituals that will make us say, WTF or at least make us squirm. This list of top 5 bloody and painful Indian rituals will present you with such moments. However, before we begin with our list, we want to say something.
“The rituals listed here are not practiced all over India. They are limited to specific sects or communities. It is strongly advised to the readers (especially Americans and Europeans) not to consider these bizarre Indian rituals as something of mass-practice. DO NOT build up a view that these rituals are a face of India because that’s what most Americans and Europeans do in an attempt to show their own culture as great and supreme. We repeat, these painful Indian rituals are limited to specific sects or communities. They do not represent the whole nation.”
Bloody and Painful Indian Rituals – 1: Aadi Festival of Tamil Nadu (Smashing Coconut on Head)
The south Indian state of Tamil Nadu have their own calendar where they have a month called Aadi. This is the 4th month of the calendar. The Gregorian counterpart is 16th of July to 17th of August. There are several festivals held during this month. The most noted of all rituals is that of SMASHING COCONUT ON HEAD. This particular ritual is what we are referring to as Aadi Festival.
This ritual is locked up within a specific area of Tamil Nadu. There is a there is a temple called Mahalakshmi Temple located in Tamil Nadu’s Karur district. Hundreds and thousands of devotees come here every year and the priests smash coconuts on their head. Actually the devotees allow the priests to do so. This ritual is intended either as a thanksgiving to Goddess Lakshmi for granting some wish or it is plea to the goddess for prosperity and good health.
So, why this bizarre and of course painful ritual? According to the stories that circulate, it is said that the British wanted to build railway tracks right through the temple. The villagers there were totally against that. Some 187 coconut-shaped stones were dug up from the area. The British saw a nice opportunity and said that if the villagers could break those stones by smashing them on their head and show their devotion, the tracks for the railways will be diverted. To the surprise of the Brits, the villagers succeeded and since then, the ritual is practiced. Now however, instead of stones, coconuts are smashed.
It is mandatory for the devotees to be at least 18 years old to participate in this ritual.
Bloody and Painful Indian Rituals – 2: Maharashtra’s Govardhan Puja
Cows in Hinduism are sacred. In fact, cows are worshipped. This takes a whole new level in Bhiwdawad Village located in Maharashtra. During this puja, the villagers will decorate their cows using flowers, henna and colors. Once that’s done, the villagers will lay down on ground and allow the cows to walk over them.
The ritual takes place after a 5-day-long fast and is held on the day after Diwali on the occasion of Enadakshi. The villagers believe that by doing so, the gods will listen to their prayers. The ritual may not be bloody but it is definitely damn painful.
As before, this ritual is isolated only in Bhiwdawad Village of Maharashtra and is not found anywhere else in India.
Bloody and Painful Indian Rituals – 3: Garudan Thookam of Kerala
Will you like being hanged on hooks? That’s one painful and bloody affair isn’t it? However, it is a ritual in Kerala. It goes by the name Garudan Thookam. It literally translates into Hang Like Eagles. Talking a bit about the background, it is said that Goddess Kali once slayed a demon named Darika. Goddess Kali’s thirst for blood was then quenched by Lord Vishnu. Now Garuda is basically the Vahana of Lord Vishnu. Vahana means transport (loosely speaking).
The devotees first dress up like Garudas and perform a dance in the temples of Goddess Kali. After the dance, they hand themselves from a shaft using hooks pierced on their back and their legs. They hang like the Garuda or the eagle. These hanging men are then taken around in the city in processions. The ritual takes place on two particular days – Kumbha Bharani Day and Makara Bharani Day.
As before, the ritual takes place in various places of Kerala only. It is not a ritual that can be found elsewhere in India.
Bloody and Painful Indian Rituals – 4: Tamil Nadu’s Thimithi or Firewalking Ritual
At some point in life almost everyone gets a feel of how it feels to burn in fire (though accidentally). No one tries to burn themselves on purpose unless it is an attempt to commit suicide. In Tamil Nadu however, the scenario is pretty different. They have a ritual called Thimithi, which means Firewalking. Simply put, devotees will walk on burning wood (perhaps coal too – we are not sure). The ritual takes place in month of Aippasi as per Tamil Calendar. The Gregorian counterpart is somewhere between October and November.
This ritual is celebrated in honor of Draupati or Draupadi, the wife of the Pandava brothers from Indian epic – Mahabharata. Draupati Amman is believed to be incarnation of Mariamman – the goddess of rain and primary South Indian Mother Goddess in rural areas of Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.
Coming to Draupadi, she walked over a bed of fire after the infamous battle of Kurukshetra was concluded. After walking over the fire, she emerged fresh. Thimithi is practiced with a belief that firewalking will bring blessings of the goddess and will fulfill wishes.
Tamil Nadu is where Thimithi originated and is still practiced. However, Thimithi is also practice in Sri Lanka, South Africa, Réunion, Mauritius, Malaysia and Singapore where South Indian population can be found.
Bloody and Painful Indian Rituals – 5: Bani Festival of Andhra Pradesh
This is the bloodiest Indian ritual on list. In Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh is a temple known as Devaragattu Temple. The Bani Festival is celebrated there every year on the day of Dussehra. Hundreds and thousands of devotees go there wielding lathis (strong wooden or bamboo sticks). At the stroke of midnight, they start hitting each other on the head with those lathis. Drenched in blood spilling out of head, they continue doing so till it is dawn. The ritual is all about commemorating the killing of a demon by Lord Shiva (or Mala-Malleshwara). Policemen and medical attendants are deployed in the location but they only stand there as spectators.
According to the priest of the temple, this ritual is more than 100 years old and previously, people used to use spears and axes but now it has become far saner because now people use lathis. As a result, the number of casualties have also declined. Still, dozens die on that day because of this bizarre ritual.
As before, this ritual is limited to Andhra Pradesh and some devotees from Karnataka also participate in this ritual.