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Bizarre Traditions In India
1. Hindu Thaipusam Festival Piercings
During the celebration of the religious holiday Thaipusam, Hindus declare their devotion to Lord Murugan by piercing various parts of their bodies. It is mainly observed in countries where there is a significant presence of Tamil community such as India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Mauritius, Singapore, Thailand and Myanmar. In Tamil Nadu, they celebrate their devotion to the birth of Lord Murugan and his killing of Soorapadman, a vengeful spirit, with a spear. They do this with painful piercings around the body, including the tongue. Over time, the rituals have become more dramatic, colorful, and bloody, with large spears and hooks through the chest and face – some devotees even pull large wagons with ropes attached to their bloody backs.
2. The Aghori Sadhus and Cannibalism
The Aghoris are members of a Hindu sect who worship Shiva, whom they see as the supreme god. Because they believe that Shiva created everything – they consider nothing to be bad. For this reason they engage in a variety of sexual practices, they drink alcohol, take drugs, and eat meat. Nothing is considered taboo. But the thing that makes their ancient traditions bizarre is that they are also practicing cannibals and their temples are cremation grounds. An aghori lives in the cremation ground and is able to support himself there – his clothing comes from the dead, his firewood comes from the funeral pyres, and food from the river. When a person is cremated, an aghori will coat himself in the ashes of the body and meditate on the dead. The most shocking aspect of the Aghori life is their cannibalism. Dead bodies that are found floating in the river are gathered up and meditated on. The limbs are then removed by the Aghori and eaten raw.
Image credit: ©Thomas L. Kelly
3. Hanging by hooks - Garudan Thookam, Kerala
This ritual art form performed in Kerala's Kali temples is as fascinating as it as shocking. Dancers dress up as Garuda, the vehicle of Lord Vishnu who quenched the goddess Kali's thirst with blood after slaying Darika the demon. After the dance performance, they hang like eagles (Garudan Thookam) from a shaft, by hooking the flesh on the backs! These hanging 'Garudas' are taken around the city in a colourful procession. This ritual is carried out on Makara Bharani Day and Kumbha Bharani Day.
4. Mourning of Muharram (This is also practiced in many other parts of world)
To commemorate the death of Husayn ibn Ali (a grandson of Muhammad), some groups of Shia muslims take to the streets and whip themselves with specially designed chains with razors or knives attached. Other groups slit their heads open with knives . While some Muslims frown upon the practice, many major Muslim leaders endorse it. Thousands of mourners slit open their heads with swords, big knives and razor blades streaming their blood to signify their grief over the martyrdom of Al-Imam Al-Hussein – the tragedy which caused the sky to rain blood and the earth to bleed – and thus paid rich homage to Al-Imam Al-Hussein who sacrificed everything in defending Islam which is today under obligation to him.
Image source: indiamarks.com
5. Worshipping Weapons in Navrati (Ayudha Puja or Astra Puja)
The word Navaratri literally means nine nights in Sanskrit, nava meaning nine and ratrimeaning nights. Navratri is a festival dedicated to the worship of the Hindu deity Durga.During these nine nights and ten days, nine forms of Shakti/Devi are worshiped. The festival is celebrated across the length and breadth of India. But in some parts pf India (Gujarat and South India) on the ninth day of the festival, weapons and tools are worshipped! Below a photograph of Narendra Modi, at that time CM of Gujarat doing Ayudha Puja for which he attracted lot of criticism :
Narendra Modi, at that time CM of Gujarat doing Ayudha Puja (Image source: NDTV)
6) Thimithi, a Firewalking ceremony
The Thimithi or firewalking ceremony is a Hindu festival originating in Tamil Nadu, South India that is celebrated during the month of Aipasi (or Aippasi) of the Tamil Calender. This is carried out in Tamil Nadu in which a person walks over fire. This is carried out every year in month of October and November. The origin of this tradition dates back to centuries. According to Mahabharata when disrobing incident of Draupadi took place, she took a vow to comb her hair only after smearing Duryodhana's blood on it and using his femur as a comb. After Mahabharata she walked over a bed of fire to prove her purity and she came as fresh as a flower. The ritual is celebrated to commemorate this act of Draupadi. This ritual is also performed in Sri Lanka,Malaysia, Mauritius and South Africa.