We cannot deny the fact that Indians are immensely religious people. There are instances in which in the name of religion, in the name of Gods and Goddesses and the attainment of self realisation, men and women have gone to extreme cases of hurting themselves physically. We present below some of the most extraordinary and freakish beliefs and practices that Indians follow in the name of religion:
Theemithi festival or fire-walking
Every year, Tamil Nadu and some parts of South India celebrate Theemithi festival in the months of March and April. On this festival, it is a ritual to walk bare foot on a fire pit, filled with burning wood or charcoal. This fire walking is a part of the Theemithi festival that extends for almost 2 months. The ritual is performed to please Hindu goddess Draupati Amman or Drupadi, also known as Mariamman and Koniamman, the goddess of protection in South India.
The belief is that if a person walks on the burning embers of fire slowly and steadily, he or she will be free from all kinds of disasters and ill health. Some perform this as thanksgiving for getting rid of their problems. It is also believed that the fire walking ritual not only protects the individual who is performing it but also the village as a whole. Participants of this ritual suffer from injuries and burns on their feet and sometimes they even fall into the burning fire. But nothing can stop them and these people prove their devotion to mother goddess by withstanding the pain and heat. This practice is also celebrated in other parts of the world like Trinidad, Fiji Islands, Bulgaria, Tahiti, Singapore, Mauritius and wherever there are South Indians.
Hooking or the Thookam festival
This is another bizarre ritual practiced in South India. Known as the Thookam festival, it is a 10-day festival celebrated in the months of March-April every year, at Bhathrakali Temple, situated at Kollencode in Tamil Nadu – Kerala border.
Every year, thousands of people from different parts of Kerala and Tamil Nadu come to this temple to be a part of festival. The highlight of this festival is the Thookam or Hooking done on the last day of the festival.
Thookam or hooking is a ritual in which sharp hooks are pierced through the backs of Hindu devotees and ropes are attached to the hooks, which are lifted up by others on a scaffold known as ‘Vil Vandi’ which is almost 40 feet high. The devotees then remain suspended in the air for some time. Children are also used in this ritual in some cases. They are tied to the hands of the participants. Though this practice has been banned by the Govt. of India, people in South India still celebrates it. Usually, the children are used in Thookam as a vow by parents for praying for longevity of their children. It is a very painful ritual and the worshippers feel that more the pain, the more is their devotion and sincerity in their worship. It is believed that the Thookam ritual is a replacement of human sacrifice. Devotees also believe that those who perform the hooking, they live a long life and are blessed by God.
Another strange practice in the name of religion is the ritual of baby tossing in Karnataka every year. This practice is an age old ritual followed by both Hindus and Muslims with the belief that the infants thrown will be blessed with good health, long life, good luck and will bring prosperity to the entire family. This is done in the month of December and you can see hundreds of crying and screaming babies and toddlers being tossed and thrown by priests from a great height of a temple to the crowd down. In some cases, the crowd holds the babies being thrown in their arms and in some cases a cloth is there to catch the babies. Then the babies are passed on to their respective mothers. This is also celebrated by the Muslims in Western India. Parents who willingly give their babies for being thrown feel highly satisfied by the fact that their babies are now safe from all evil forces.
Kids-burying ritual in Karnataka
This is another weirdest tradition practised in our country. It is performed in North Karnataka as both a religious belief and a medical treatment. According to the ritual, on the day of the solar eclipse, the children suffering from any ailments and physical disabilities should be buried under mud. Parents believe that the disability in a child is due to the bad effects of solar eclipse and hence can be cured only by the sun’s rays during solar eclipse. As per the ritual, large number of pits are dug before the sunrise. Then parents bring their children in the location and they are buried inside the pit with their necks out of the mud. They have to stay there for at least one hour but it usually extends for many hours at a stretch. Those parents who have forced their children to be a part of this weird ritual believe that their children have been cured due to the holy effects of the sun and the mud, though there are no scientific evidences for it.
Strange but true, all these traditional beliefs and traditions practiced in India depict extraordinary religious enthusiasm. There are various such bizarre beliefs that people in India still follow.