India is a diversified sub-continent. It has some of the oldest and strange cultures, rituals and customs. People outside India recognize India as a land of snake charmers or for its old rope trick. However, there are also some rituals existing in India which are not only strange but also peculiar.
1. Dowry System :
In ancient days, the bride’s family gave gold jewellery to the bride as a farewell gift to their daughter. This was called stree-dhan which means the property of the woman. Previously, this practices was done voluntarily by the bride’s family. However, with changing times, this practice also changed with time. Bride’s family started paying dowry in cash, jewellery and property. Now, the groom’s family demand dowry by putting a lot of pressure on bride and/or her family. Most of the times, young brides are tortured or killed for dowry.
2. Child Marriage :
Marriages in India are considered to be made in heaven. Even though strict laws are made to prevent child marriages, they are still prevalent in rural areas especially amongst Muslim community. Child marriages lead to early pregnancies which create many medical complication for the young mothers.
3. Baby Dropping/Tossing :
This ritual has been in practice since past 700 years. It is mostly practiced in Karnakata or Maharashtra. In this practice, men throw infant, 2 years or less, from a building to a group of men standing below with a cloth to catch the infant. This ritual is done to bring good luck to the community as well as to the infant.
4. Self-flagellation :
Shia Muslims perform self-flagellation during Muharram. Muharram is the first month of Islamic calendar, it marks the anniversary of the Battle of Karbala. In this battle, the Prophet’s grandson, Hussein ibn Ali, was killed. They mercilessly whip themselves as a remembrance of his sacrifice.
5. Cannibalism and other practices by Aghoris :
The Aghori saints of the ancient city of Varanasi are the worshippers of Lord Shiva. They are known for their post-mortem rituals. They stay in cremation grounds, cover their body which ashes and use bones to make bowls and jewellery. They also consume the meat left on the corpses. The most shocking part is they also perform sexual intercourse with the corpse.
6. Fire-Walking :
It is called Timiti in Tamil Nadu in which a person is made to walk barefoot on a bed of embers or stone that are set on fire and are at an extremely high temperature. This is done to pay respect to God, repel evil spirits and purify one’s soul.
7. Jallikattu :
It is an event held in Tamil Nadu during the celebration of Pongal. Bulls, which are specifically bred for this event, are released from the entry gate. The participants must try to catch the bull by holding its hump. Holding a bull’s neck, horn or tail will make the participant disqualified. If the participant manages to hold the hump till the finish line then he is declared as the winner. But if the participant is thrown by the bull before the finish line then the bull is declared as the winner.
8. Marriages to Animals or Banayan Tree etc. :
Indian marriages are fixed after matching the horoscope of the bride and groom. If the bride has “mangal dosh”, i.e., may endanger life of husband, she has to perform certain rituals like marrying an animal or a banayan tree to get rid of her mangal dosh.
Even though it is 2016, some of the rituals are still followed in India. Hopefully these rituals will not be accepted and practiced by our future generations.