Some time back we had covered some of the strangest temples in India and thought, ‘why should we restrict ourselves to just temples’. So, after much debate, our think-tanks came up with an idea to list some of the most outlandish, zany, bizarre (running short of adjectives) festivals of India. What exactly are we talking about? Read on to find out.
1. Thookam or Body Hooking
Hang your body through hooks… wait… aren’t clothes supposed to be hanged?
Thookam or Hooking is yet another bizarre practice of South India at Bhathra kali Temple situated at Kollencodein Tamil Nadu, on the border of Kerala, where sharp hooks are pierced through the backs of devotees. These hooks are attached to ropes which are used to lift the devotee on a scaffold called ‘Vil Vandi’; about 40 feet high. All this is done to make them look like Garuda. This age-old practice was banned by the government, and now people are not hung through the hooks, but they simply stand with the pierced hooks on their backs.
It is believed that the legend behind this celebration dates back to the time when Goddess Kali slayed the demon Darika, but still she remained bloodthirsty. Then Lord Vishnu sent Garuda to Kali. Garuda offered a few drops of his blood to kali which ultimately pacified her thirst.
Aag par Chalna is actually a common sight at Theemithi!
At Thimithi (also Theemithi or Theemidhi) you will be shocked to see men and women walking on fire. This fire-walking ritual is carried out in South India, Singapore and some parts of South Africa.
This practice is done as a part of religious vow where the devotees walk across hot coals in exchange for a blessing or wish from Goddess Draupadi. Teemithi is a part of a much larger two and a half month long culmination of ceremonies where parts of the epic Mahabharata are re-enacted.
3. Baby Tossing
Would you ever toss your infant from 50 feet height??
Tossing screaming babies from a height of about 50 feet (15 meters) can be a very horrifying sight at the Baba Umer Dargah, near Solapur, Maharashtra. This extremely dangerous 700 years old practice is followed by both Hindu and Muslim communities of Maharashtra and Karnataka. There is a group of about 15 people standing right below the place where babies are dropped. They hold a blanket properly stretched to catch the tossed toddlers. A few chants are recited and then weeping babies are mercilessly thrown in the air.
4. Lathmar Holi – colourful riots
Lathmaar Holi…. Holi of a different kind?
Well, in Barsana (the hometown of Radha), women indulge in a strange activity of beating men with a wooden stick while the men carry shields to save themselves.
Holi is a festival of colour celebrated across India, but no other city can match the grandeur of celebrations in Barsana, a small town about 15km from Vrindavan (birthplace of Krishna). It is believed that it was Lord Krishna who started this tradition. One day, when Krishna was playfully teasing Radha and other gopis, the women took offence and chased away Krishna and his friends with lathis (wooden sticks). Since then their naughty and sweet relation is being recreated on this festive day.
If you are planning to visit the holy cities of Mathura and Vrindavan, just apply the incredible Oyo coupons to ensure that you can enjoy a comfy stay at the most luxurious hotels without making a hole in your pockets.
Public enactments of grief depicting horrifying scenes from Karbala battle are carried out by Shias during Ashura (the first ten days of the month) in mosques. It is considered as a period of mass mourning.
Muharram is an annual celebration observed by the Muslim community in commemoration of the death of Imam Hussain, son of Prophet Muhammad. Muharram word is derived from ‘haram’ which literally means ‘forbidden’; so fighting is strictly forbidden in this first month of Islamic calendar.
6. Aadi Festival
Use my head to break a coconut… would you say so??
Well, hundreds of devotees get coconut broken on their head as a mark of the fulfilment of a vow or as thanksgiving after the deity (Goddess Parvathi) granted their wish. Aadi festival at Sri Mahalakshmi Amman Temple of Mettumahadanapuram in Karur district of Tamil Nadu is a two-day festival celebrated with great enthusiasm. For this particular ritual, the Chief priest stands on a shoe of nails and then start breaking coconuts on the head of hundreds of men and women aged over 20yrs.
7. Naag Panchami
Saanp ko doodh pilate hain!!!
On the day of Nag Panchami, you would find women worshiping snakes and offering them milk. In certain parts of the country, snakes are even bathed in milk and then turmeric is applied on their hood.
Nag Panchmi is a famous Hindu festival celebrated across the country with great vigour and enthusiasm. It falls on the 5th day of Sravana, peak of monsoon, in the month of July/August. It is believed that it was on this day that Lord Krishna defeated Kaliya Snake on this day and in return he promised that he would stop harassing people.
8. Cow Trampling Ritual On Ekadashi
To celebrate the spiritual occasion of Ekadashi (a day after Diwali), people get run over by their livestock. Cattle are decorated with colours, colourful clothes and henna. Men wear garlands and lay on the streets and get trampled by herds of cows to get their grants fulfilled. It is a popular practice in many regions of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat.
The most shocking thing one can expect here is a claim by locals that no one has ever got injured during this ritual.
Body piercing is a popular practice with youngsters… or maybe not!
On Thaipusam, a Hindu festival celebrated in the Tamil month of Thai (Jan-Feb) hair-raising sights of hundreds of men with extensively pierced bodies is very common. Some devotees torture their bodies in order to appease the deity. Some fanatical ones even go to an extent of pulling chariots and other heavy objects with numerous hooks attached to their bodies.
It is dedicated to God Murugan (also known as Kartikeya and Subramanium), the son of Shiva and Parvati. People who have some wishes and those whose wishes were granted carry a bamboo structure called Kavadi to the temple. It commemorates the occasion when Goddess Parvati gave Murugan a Spear or Vel to help him vanquish the evil Soorapadam.
Fight like a bull… neah… fight with a bull… Aa bail mujhe maar!!
During Jallikattu, the sight of people fighting with a bull can be quite shocking. Although this dangerous ancient bull-taming practice was banned by Supreme Court, it is still popular in many regions of Tamil Nadu as a part of Pongal celebration.
Jallikattu literally means Jalli – silver and Kattu – gold. People try hard to take the money and prize tied to the horns of the bull.