India is a vast country which offers enough strange, beautiful and wonderful stories. Many historians and travellers have mentioned their travel experiences about this country and most have been left gob smacked by its uniqueness. The more you try to understand India, the more you’ll get intrigued and fascinated. It offers something for everyone who steps afoot in its vast land.
At times though, faith overtakes reasoning and people become blind in that process. They choose their hearts over their heads and never think rationally. Indian celebrations and rituals have grandeur and importance, but not without raising a few questions. Let’s look at some of the traditions which Indian people follow blindly:
1. Rats drink community milk in a temple!
These rats look at peace in a circle, conveniently sipping milk donated by devotees inside the Karni Mata temple. This is a daily practice wherein thousands of rats are fed, protected and worshiped throughout the year. If you like to feed them as well, visit Deshnoke near Bikaner, in Rajasthan.
2. Naughty kids get tied to trees!
This one is a tested and tried method for only Indian parents! Here, a mother had tied her four old son to a tree bark with a cloth in order to prevent him from running away. Such sights are common for parents who are poor and have to work outside the house for most hours. Tying their children assures them of their safety! No risks there!
3. Smashing coconut with head!
Performers break coconuts with their head during a ceremony to celebrate the Gujarat Foundation Day in Ahmedabad. Smashing coconut on heads can surely give a big headache to otherwise normal people!
4. Hanging by rope to throw ‘prasad’!
A devotee hangs from a rope and throws offerings (prasad) for waiting people to catch during the “chadak” ritual to worship Lord Shiva, in Kolkata. Hundreds of devotees attend this ritual on the last day of the Bengali calendar year.
5. Fire-mouthing during annual festival!
A devotee performs a stunt with fire during the Jal Yatra procession where they carry holy water from Sabarmati river. This chariot procession in Ahmedabad is one of the most visited by Indian people. But, would you dare to play with fire in your mouth?!
6. Removing kites from live wires without safety!
Employees of Torrent Power Limited remove entangled kites atop live electric power cables after the end of the kite flying season in Gujarat. With just a dangling rope for protection and safety, isn’t it just advisable to let the kites fly off on their own without taking your own life risk?
7. Police offer prayer to guns on ‘Dussehra’!
This one is surely for kills! A Police officer is seen offering prayer to various guns as part of a ritual at the police headquarters on the occasion of Vijaya Dashmi, or Dussehra. The weapons are the new gods adorned in marigold flowers and decked beautifully, until fired!
8. Women hold umbrellas to receive rice!
Here, women devotees can be seen prepared to receive rice from temple authorities by holding up clothes and umbrellas to offerings. The temple authorities on the occasion of the Annakut festival in Kolkata shower these waiting ladies with holy rice to mark Govardhan puja, also known as Annakut (meaning a heap of grain).
9. Devotees burn camphor tablet on tongue!
Burning your tongue can be painful and frustrating, but not for this devoted Sikh man.He can be seen performing with a burning camphor tablet on his tongue to mark the 413th anniversary of the installation of the Guru Granth Sahib, the religious book of Sikhs, in Amritsar. He doesn’t care regarding the complications like oral health or tongue infection, but his willpower is enough.
10. Performers paint faces as tigers in South India!
Performers paint their faces to look like tigers during Puli Kali, a dance which marks the start of the annual harvest festival of Onam in Kochi. This colourful spectacle is performed by trained artists on the fourth day of Onam. They painted their bodies in Tiger attire of bright yellow, red and black. Quite an unbelievable sight, isn’t it?
11. Attaching lemons with needles on back!
Ouch! That just hurts by looking at him! A devotee walks around the street with lemons attached to needles on his back. This isn’t for some fun competition, but he’s taking part in an annual religious procession called ‘Shitla Mata‘ in Chandigarh.
12. Doing aerial gymnastics on poles!
Two performers practices “malkhamb” (traditional Indian gymnastics) during a rehearsal. It’s the game of power and balance. These trained gymnast performers use aerial yoga postures and wrestling postures to balance themselves on hanging wooden pole, cane or hanging rope.
13. Kill or get killed in Bani Festival
Some celebrations are so strange, that they become unique. The Bani Festival is one such. Every Dusshera, hundreds of lathi -wielding devotees from Andhra and Karnataka gather to hit each other’s heads at midnight! They do this blood-thirsty act as a sign to commemorate the killing of a demon by Mala-Malleshwara (Shiva). This 100-year-old festival has surely got our heads rolling!
14. Festival of the Snake – Nag Panchami!
These dangerous species have, in fact, a sole festival dedicated to them in India and Nepal called Nag Panchami. These live Cobras don’t have poisonous fangs removed! Like seen in the picture, people sprinkle haldi-kumkum and shower flower petals on their raised hoods. These snakes are even fed with milk and live rats! Can’t bite this information down so easily!
15. Fire-walking as a re-enactment of Draupadi
This festival is stranger than the ritual. Originated in Tamil Nadu, the practice of Theemithi (fire walking) is a ceremony which extends to two-and-a-half month period where parts of the Mahabharata are re-enacted. The festival is a celebration of Draupadi, wife of the Pandavas. Devotees believe they will be granted a wish or blessing by the goddess.
16. Infant tossing for good luck!
This would be punishable by law if it wasn’t India! The bizarre practice of baby tossing has been practised for years in Baba Umer Dargah near Sholapur, Maharashtra. The poor babies are dropped from a height of 50 feet, and if luck favors, they are caught in just a sheet held by waiting men. All the baby’s agony which is visible in the picture, is only for a belief to bring prosperity to the family.
17. Hooking flesh and piercing the body!
This ritual has definitely frightening proportions! Celebrated in Tamil Nadu and parts of southern India during the Tamil month of Thai. Thaipoosam is a festival that honours Lord Murugan or son of Shiva and Parvati. It’s commenced after following a 48 day strict fast, where many Shiva devotees pierce their bodies with hooks and skewers. Most pinch their cheeks, tongues and other facial parts with sharp objects in order to obtain full concentration on the Lord.
18. Rolling over food leftovers in Karnataka!
Caste-ism has ailed India as a primitive country forever due to such practices. The Kukke Subramania Temple has a strange centuries old tradition called Madey Snana which promotes discrimination. Here, people from the society’s lower castes roll themselves over the floor on food leftovers of Brahmins on banana leaves, to rid themselves of various ailments. This controversial practice was banned but got revived in 2011 after Malekudiya tribe protests.
19. Practising cannibalism in Varanasi!
The Aghori way of life is easily visible if you visit Banaras or Varanasi. The formidable Aghori Sadhus with their bodies smeared in human ash, necklaces laced with skeletons and piercing trance eyes are hard to miss. These saints have for centuries believed in renouncing the world by finding ‘ purity in the filthiest.’ They hold ‘tantrik‘ vibes and eat human remains as their staple diet.
20. Animal weddings to appease rain gods!
Every Indian knows the importance of rains. To appease rain gods, people have turned to frog wedding across villages in Assam and Maharasthra. In Karnataka, donkeys are married in a request to rain gods to shower them happily. These wedding happen anything like Hindu weddings where a priest performs the main ritual and marriage is finally commenced!
Do you know any other crazy customs? Which one was your favourite? Tell us in the comments section.