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10 Bizarre Indian Rituals

Deal Captain

India is a place of many contrasts – as the cliche goes. It has a booming modern economy with a particular strength in IT, as well as ancient bustling markets which looked exactly the same five hundred years ago – minus the cellphones and DVDs.

Some Indians, fiercely embracing exactly the same modernity that those in the West take for granted, resent that their country is still known for its sacred cows and its bizarre rituals. Stereotypes can be difficult to swallow. But they shouldn’t resent this list: it reflects only one small and fascinating shade of the enormous, incredible, multi-faceted country that is India.

10 Fire-Walking
People from South India ‘celebrate’ the Theemithi festival by walking barefoot across a pit filled with burning hot firewood, or sometimes glowing charcoal. The fire walking is done in honour of the Hindu goddess Draupati Amman – so rather than hurrying across the pit, the devotees have to sdo it slowly, as though it’s a walk in the park.

The ritual begins when the head priest traverses the pit with a pot on his head, filled with sacred water. He is then followed by other men, who seek to prove their piety by withstanding the pain. Participants suffer from burns on their feet – and sometimes worse injuries, on the all-too-common occasions when they fall into the burning pit.

9 Hooking
The thookam festival sees the backs of devoted Hindus pierced by sharp hooks; the men are then lifted off the ground onto a scaffold using ropes. Sometimes, children are even tied to the hands of the participants. Originating from southern parts of India, the festival has now been banned by the Indian Government after continued pressure from human rights organizations.

8 Bull Fighting
Unlike its Spanish counterpart, Indian bull-fighting, or Jallikattu, is done without the help of any rope or weapons. Thankfully, the bull’s life is also spared afterwards, bovines being famously sacred in India. Celebrated during Pongal (harvest thanksgiving), this is one of the most dangerous sports played in India. Youth, ardent for some desperate glory, usually strive either to tame the bull or at least to hang on to the bull for a reward – usually money.

More than a hundred people have been killed in southern India over the past two decades. A case against Jallikattu is ongoing in the Supreme Court of India, which is considering an outright ban on the sport. The bulls are force-fed alcohol; their eyes are sprinkled with chili powder, and their testicles are pinched in an effort to infuriate them.

7 Self-flagellation
Muharram is the first month in the Islamic Calendar, and this was the month which marks the anniversary of the Battle of Karbala, when Imam Hussein ibn Ali was killed, followed by 72 warriors who were killed over the next ten days. Shi’a Muslims in India, and also other countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh, mourn this event by flogging their naked bodies with a bunch of chains known as ‘Matam’. Sometimes, these Matams also contain razor blades or knives.

6 Widow-burning
Practiced extensively in the 17th century, Sati was a ritual whereby a widow – voluntarily or involuntarily – would lie down next to her dead husband before being burned alive along with the corpse. The widows who were caught trying to escape this fate, despite the intense social pressure to self-immolate, would be tied to the burning structure, or their limbs would be broken in order to prevent more attempts to flee. Sometimes, they would even be pushed back with bamboo sticks into the burning funeral pyre. Even though it was banned by the British colonial government in 1859, it was still practiced in some parts of India. It is still banned under the current Indian government, with harsh penalties for those few who still insist on forcing innocent women to their deaths.

5 Baby Tossing
Every year in the month of December, more than a hundred babies are tossed from a temple roof into a crowd below. They plummet 200 feet, to where a group of men stand waiting with a cloth meant to catch them. The reason? Married couples – looking to be blessed with, perhaps ironically, more babies – take part in this event. It is also said to bring good health and luck to the family. The Indian government is looking to set a ban on the jaw-dropping ritual, which takes place in the southern state of Karnataka.

4 Food Rolling
Enter certain temples in Karnataka, and you’ll be ordered to stop, drop and roll. Supplicants roll their bodies over scraps of food discarded by Brahmins – the highest, priestly caste in India. The act of rolling is practiced by all of the castes lower than Brahmin, and is said to cure skin disease.

Made snana has been in practice for over 500 years, but it is now on the verge of being banned. Though restrictions in certain temples had been put up in recent years, these restricitions were lifted after protests from devout Hindus. Members of the Indian government have therefore decided to educate, rather than impose their will upon the people. Good luck to them.

3 Chicken-shredding Exorcisms
In Hinduism, exorcisms are carried out by various means, according to the traditions of different regions. One of these methods involves the slaughter of a white chicken: the bloody parts are strewn around the house by the Pandit or priest, who is usually in charge of performing the exorcism. The possessed person in question is then addressed as a demon, or by the name of a dead relative who may have become a demon within them. These demons, or spirits, are said to be afraid of white chickens. In some cases, the demon is reported to have screamed ‘I go! I go!’ through the possessed body, before apparently leaving. Supposedly, this is followed by the immediate revival of the exorcised person, who appears to wake from something like a trance, with no memory of the events or of the chicken.

2 Tongue Piercing
Not studs, but long and sharp needles are used to puncture the tongue. The needles – usually made from wood or steel – can be so long that the tongue is forced to stick out of the mouth permanently, unable to retract. The piercing is common a number of religious festivals. In some regions, young boys and sometimes girls take part in the ritual piercing. 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. These practices are also seen in countries other than India, in southern parts of Asia.

1 Female Infanticide
This social evil exists not only in India, but also in many other parts of the world whose populations see male children as more desirable than female children. Preference for a male child can be so extreme that female infants might be killed, or set afloat in the river. Illegitimate girls, especially, were vulnerable to murder prompted by shame: only if a man agreed to marry the mother-to-be could the child often be saved – but this hardly ever happened. Infanticide was banned in the 19th century.

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Deal Subedar Deal Subedar
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Voted up… Sometimes I feel India would be lot more civilized if the British ruled on for few more decades.

Deal Newbie Deal Newbie
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dudu wrote:

Voted up… Sometimes I feel India would be lot more civilized if the British ruled on for few more decades.

WTF.. Noooo! Freedom is more important than anything.

WTF.. Noooo! Freedom is more important than anything.Some of the rituals are worst, but Jallikattu is the best

WTF.. Noooo! Freedom is more important than anything.Some of the rituals are worst, but Jallikattu is the best for a good read.

Deal Cadet Deal Cadet
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dudu wrote:

Voted up… Sometimes I feel India would be lot more civilized if the British ruled on for few more decades.

toh chala ja wahin, kya kar raha hai India mein

Deal Subedar Deal Subedar
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Who has written this article? I think it must have been written by a western journalist

6 Widow-burning – Is banned because of efforts by great Raja Rammohan Roy, It’s laughable the article mentions it is still practiced
1 Female Infanticide – How is it a ritual?

Deal Subedar Deal Subedar
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dudu wrote:

Voted up… Sometimes I feel India would be lot more civilized if the British ruled on for few more decades.

Please dont say this even as a joke.. British treated Indians like slaves

Lots of Indians were so poor during British rule. You see India growing so much these days because of our self reliance & liberal economic policies.
What british did (railways etc) is solely for their own gains and not because of love for this land. They are the cause for all religious troubles that
we are facing today. India has great religious harmony before the britishers arrived.

Deal Subedar Deal Subedar
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Guys ur forgetting what the issue is here. It not about India or rituals, its about the simple truth that still happens in India. I agree with Dudu on his point… The British rule with a little bit sense would have done us good…..

And jy9585, if the Britishers treated us like slaves at atleast they did something good,even if it was their own good. Nowadays Indian’s he Indian’s ko slaves jaise treat karte hai….. And they are not doing any good also…. whats the use of such freedom?

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Since i live in South India i have seen what they do in the name of religion…. The tongue piercing is nothing, they send those trishuls through there cheeks… Have piercing on their backs and they pull carts and all… Hell painful to see, let alone experience it…

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rohitsharma3030 wrote:

dudu wrote:

Voted up… Sometimes I feel India would be lot more civilized if the British ruled on for few more decades.

toh chala ja wahin, kya kar raha hai India mein

Yeah congratulations on your smart comment.

1. Introduction of English language. We are one of the largest English speaking population outside Europe /America, which has helped us a lot esp. in the IT field.

2. Unification of India. Before the British rule, there was no country called India. The land was just hundreds of princely states fighting with one another.

3. We have the world’s largest network of railways, thanks to the British.

4. Postal system, electricity, automobiles, etc. were introduced by the British.

5. They tamed mighty rivers, building dams irrigating millions of arid lands and made us near self sufficient in food grains.

6. If Indians are shining abroad,their proficiency in english is one of the reasons.

7. If India were to be taken over by other invaders,the Indian history would have been totally different.

8. Sometimes its weird when I read on news about so many buildings/bridges getting collapsed as and when it was built… I still see so many buildings in south Mumbai stand tall which were built in British period. Such was the control and strictness.

True that Indians did suffer, were treated like slaves etc… But the above rituals would just have gotten stronger with time if not for the british rule.

I agree that Britishers improved India for their gains but hasnt it helped us Indians too, esp. the current generation.
Freedom fighters did a great job retrieving our nation but havnt our politicians screwed it after that?

India could never have developed so drastically without the British.

Its my choice where I want to live, I do not wish to have your cheap advice. You just remind me of my friend who keeps posting some Hate memes of Justin Bieber just because he wants to go with the mass but JB’s “Baby” song on his cellphone playlist.Think twice before your personal comments.

@otherswhogotoffended See the usage of the word “Sometimes” and "few"*

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1. Quite true, but did we ask for it? Are Japanese and Koreans doing great because they know English?

2. You should go read the history of USA and why it’s called “United States of America” rather simple country name. The states hated each other some states were slaves of the other states, some much ill treating of people and prisoners equal to what hitler did. Didn’t they find a way for unification and prosperity?

3. Agreed, largest yes, is it the best in the world? They developed it for their own use and a pittance was given to us so we would think they’re actually doing good and civilizing us .

4. same as point 3, it was developed for their own use later taken over by us.

5. You should come see Kallani (literally, Stone Dam in Tamil ) which is one of the oldest dams in the world and is still standing. We’re known for our architecture all over the world, they know nothing, their’s are mock off of Greek and Roman architecture.

6. Same as point one, we shine because we’re good at it.

7. Bro, our country was always invaded from the beginning of time. Most them became our own people, took to India as home, they never looked down upon each other like the british. They were bitter enemies but all them considered themselves as equals. What british did was not invasion, they stabbed us in the back showing themselves as trading partners and friends.

9. Read some old accounts even of foreigners, we were the richest and most prosperous country in the whole world. Why do think there were so many expeditions to find India risking their lives even without a clue where we are?

Our country was corrupt even before freedom, indeed the work of British, Anyone wondered why is the Nehru family having a last name of Gandhi now?

sometimes or few, never trade freedom for anything. We forget the value of things when we have so much of it.

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Binit wrote:

Since i live in South India i have seen what they do in the name of religion…. The tongue piercing is nothing, they send those trishuls through there cheeks… Have piercing on their backs and they pull carts and all… Hell painful to see, let alone experience it…

Yes, but go tell them that’s bad and not to do, they’ll get offended. It’s their own choice. It’s done Malaysia and most of the places were Indian population is. It’s painful to see them but ones actually doing it will never show any kind of pain. All around the world there are such traditions, for example some Christians get themselves nailed in hands and legs just like Jesus Christ and tied to the cross during some festival in the developed countries.

Deal Captain Deal Captain
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Its a fact that certain developments done during British still stand & India stands on them. Lets also not forget the sacrifice of Sikh Gurus who fought against these rituals, Guru Nanak’s teachings were against rituals. Women were given equal right in Society, practices like Sati, etc. were shunned.

In the West too certain rituals like “crusifixtion”, etc. are carried out. Piercings is also done under “body art” there. So there are different ways of inflicting pain.

Also in the West rituals like Black magic, cults, atheist communities, etc. are very common.

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