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.
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.
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.