9 BIZARRE RELIGIOUS AND CULTURAL PRACTICES THAT STILL EXIST IN INDIA
October 14, 2014 | by isha bansal
Living in a ‘progressive’ world like ours, getting killed, burnt or mutilated in the name of rituals is something that doesn’t go down really well with people and is generally repudiated. What people don’t realize is that we are still stuck back in time and some communities still continue to practice some horrendous and barbaric rituals in spite of being banned by the governments.
1) FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION:
FGM involves partial or complete removal of the external female genitalia, for non-medical purposes, without giving anesthesia. Razors, knives and scissors are generally used and they are rarely sterilized. In India, it is widely practiced by the dawoodi bohra community, a sect of shia-muslims. It is done to ensure marital fidelity and to stop the girls from having illegitimate sex.
2) THE KOOVAGAM FESTIVAL:
It’s an 18 days long festival that is celebrated every year at the koothandavar temple in Tamil Nadu. This festival is exclusively meant for the transgenders (hijra, as they commonly known), which has roots in a legend from the Mahabharata. Every year, thousands of transgenders get married to Aravaan’s idol (a valiant warrior) just for a night, when they indulge in merrymaking and dancing. The next morning, Aravaan’s statue is beheaded by one of the priests. The hijras smash off their bangles signalling that they have been widowed by Aravaan’s death in the battle.
3) SELF FLAGELLATION:
The day of Ashura is a period of mourning for the martyrdom of the prophet Mohammad’s grandson, Imam Hussein, who died in the battle of Kerbala in 680 AD. Shia Muslims in India, and also in countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh, grieve this event by flogging their naked bodies with a bunch of chains known as ‘Matam’. Sometimes, these Matams also contain razor blades or knives. It is an act of penace.
4) BABY TOSSING:
In this outlandish ritual, hundreds of babies are thrown from the temple roof by the Hindu priests every year (in the month of December). These babies are thrown to a group of men standing below with a cloth meant to catch the babies, believing that this ritual will make them stronger. It is generally practiced in south India, especially in the state of Karnataka and has been in existence for the past 700 years. It is believed that this ritual brings in good luck for the community. Married couples who wish to have more children engage themselves in this ritual.
5) GARUDAN THOOKKAM (EAGLE HANGING):
This is a ritual art form performed in the Kali temples of south Kerala, south India. The participating people dress up as garuda (the vahana of Hindu god, Vishnu) and perform the dance. After the dance, their backs are pierced by sharp hooks and they are then lifted off the ground onto a shaft, with the help of ropes. Sometimes, children are tied to the hands of the participants.
6) CHICKEN SHREDDING EXORCISM:
One of the methods to carry out exorcism, in Hinduism, involves slaughtering of a white chicken. The bloody parts are then scattered around the house by a priest who is in charge of performing the ritual. Apparently, the demons who have possessed the person in question are afraid of white chickens, thus making them leave the person’s body.
The Aghoris of northern India are a splinter sect of Hinduism who still practice cannibalism. This cult use dead bodies as beds, drink from skulls and smear themselves with the ashes of the cremated bodies. They consume the flesh of the dead bodies floating in the Ganges, in pursuit of supernatural powers and immortality.
8) MASSACRING ANIMALS:
Unfazed by hue and cry against animal sacrifice in the name of worship, various communities still perform the ritual of animal sacrifice. The method includes strangulation and the use of a wooden spile driven into the heart. The ritual slaughter normally forms part of a festival to honour a Hindu God. The spilling of blood is necessary as purification to appease the evil spirits.
9) TONGUE PIERCING:
Not studs, but long and sharp needles are used to puncture the tongue. The needles are made from wood or steel and are sometimes very long, making it impossible for the tongue to retract. This ritual is performed in many religious ceremonies. The ones who are going to pierce their tongues wear a garland around their necks for a day before the ceremony. The piercing ceremony is usually followed by dancing and merrymaking.