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INDRANI BANERJEE

SONGSOPTOK THE WRITERS BLOG | 10/15/2015 |




India is a land of diversity. The diversity comes in its religion, natural resources, people Unity in diversity means oneness in the varieties. India is a best country proving this concept for many years. India is a country where it is very clear to see unity in diversity because people of many religion, race, culture and tradition live together without affecting each other’s feelings and believes to their religion. Unity in diversity focuses on the existence of unity even after lots of differences of cultural, social, physical, linguistic, religious, political, ideological, psychological, etc. More number of diversities makes more complex unity. People in India are united in spite of the much diversity of races, religions, castes, sub-castes, communities, languages and dialects. People in India are highly spiritual and God fearing in nature so they give respect to everyone’s religion.

But in this article we will talk about few unusual festivals in India that must deserve special mention:

1. Kill or get killed - Bani Festival, Andhra Pradesh

Celebrations are a way of human life. But some are so strange, it questions the very definition of the concept. The Bani Festival celebrated at the Devaragattu Temple in the Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh illustrates the point. Every Dusshera, hundreds of lathi-wielding devotees from Andhra and Karnataka gather at this temple to hit each each other on the heads at midnight! Drenched in blood, these men go on with the celebration till the beak of dawn, to commemorate the killing of a demon by Mala-Malleshwara (Shiva). According to the temple priest, this festival has been celebrated for over a 100 years, and earlier axes and spears were used instead of lathis! This year, 56 people were injured during Bani. Medical attendants and policemen are deployed during this festival but they mostly remain spectators, in the face of the the extreme frenzy.

2. Festival of the Snake - Nag Panchami

India shares a very old bond with snakes. These frightening beings have played a prominent role throughout Indian mythology and folklore.  India is known to many still, as the Land Of Snake Charmers. Till date, the fifth day of the lunar month of Shravan  is celebrated as Nag Panchami across India and Nepal. Live Cobras, without their venomous fangs removed, are worshipped! Priests sprinkle haldi-kumkum and flower petals on their raised hoods. Devotees feed them milk and even rats. It is popularly believed that snakes do not bite on Nag Panchami.

3. Play of the Tiger - Puli Kali, Kerala

Puli Kali, celebrated mainly in Thrissur district of Kerala is one colorful spectacle bursting with energy. Performed by trained artists, Puli Kali is celebrated on the fourth day of Onam. Painted in bright yellow, red and black, performers take to the street, dancing to traditional folk beats. Every year, thousands of people gather to watch this unbelievable sight.

4. Pushkar Camel Fair - Pushkar, Rajasthan
Held every November at the time of the Kartik Purnima full moon, the Pushkar Camel Fair is a particularly spectacular sight to behold. For five days, over 50,000 camels are shaved, dressed up, paraded, entered into beauty contests and races, and traded. Add to that an array of musicians, dancers, acrobats, magicians and snake charmers to entertain the crowd!

5. Fire-Walking - Theemithi, Tamil Nadu

Fact, they say, is stranger than fiction. The ritual of walking on fire proves it. Originating in Tamil Nadu, the practice of Theemithi has spread to Sri Lanka, Singapore and South Africa as well. Theemithi is part of a larger ceremony stretching over a two-and-a-half month period where parts of the Mahabharata is re-enacted, totaling up to 18 distinguishable rites. The festival of Theemithi is a celebration of Draupadi, wife of the Pandavas. After the Battle of Kurukshetra, Draupadi walked across a bed of fire and emerged as fresh as a flower. Theemithi is a re-enactment of the same, and is believed to grant a wish or blessing by the goddess.

6. Tossing infants from the roof for good luck - Maharashtra and Karnataka. At times, faith takes over our reasoning and makes us do things without ever questioning them. The bizarre practice of baby tossing has been practiced in India for years by both, Hindus and Muslims. At Baba Umer Dargah near Sholapur, Maharashtra, babies are dropped from a height of 50 feet, and caught in a sheet held by waiting men. A similar custom is observed at the Sri Santeswar temple near Indi, in the state of Karnataka. This ritual has been followed for over 700 years and is believed to bring prosperity to the family. The National Commission For Protection Of Child Rights is investigating these cases. According to organizers, no injuries have been reported so far.

7. Rolling over food leftovers - Madey Snana, Karnataka

India is like a storybook, full of strange and wonderful stories. You may not believe what you read, you may not agree with what's written, but one thing is for certain. You just can't stop reading. Because, the more you read, the more fascinating it gets. Many a time, we Indians choose our hearts over our heads. Holding tight all that we believe in, we confidently tread beyond the realm of rational thinking. These celebrations and rituals will raise many questions, but then, not all questions have answers.


[INDRANI BANERJEE]


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