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10 of India's craziest festivals: would you participate in them?

Raza Naqvi | Updated on: 13 February 2017, 3:47 IST

There's no doubt about it. We're a festive nation and everyone knows that. We have innumerable New Year's Days even if you don't count 1 January. We have any number of season-beginning and season-ending celebratory events. We are delighted by full moons, new moons and crescent moons. We adore the rain, love harvests and worship the sun and the planets. Basically, we just can't stop the party.

But among all the festivals we celebrate a few really strange ones. Here are 10 of the weirdest.

Puli Kali

Celebrated in Kerala, men dress up as tigers in this festival, and entertain the spectators. In the end, the best performer is chosen and awarded.

Puli Kali_ Getty Images

Photo: Getty Images

Nag Panchami

On Nag Panchami, people bring snakes to temples to worship them, and also feed them milk and rats. After the ceremonies, the snakes are set free. Incidentally, the snakes' venom sacs are not removed because on Nag Panchami, people believe, the snakes do not bite.

Now, that's called faith.

Nag Panchami_ Getty Images

Photo: Getty Images

Agni Kheli

Every April in Karnataka, every year in April, thousands of men wearing nothing but loincloths throw fireballs at each other.

The men are divided into teams and if a player catches a fireball, his teammates treat him with 'holy' water called 'Kumkumarchane'.

Agni Kheli_ File Photo

File Photo

Lath-Mar Holi

We've all celebrated Holi, the festival of colours, but in some parts of Uttar Pradesh, Holi is celebrated as Lath-Mar Holi, during which women holding lathis (sticks) chase men, and beat them up. An annual religion-sanctioned revenge for domestic violence, perhaps?

Lath-Mar Holi_ Getty Images

Getty Images


This is a festival of pain in which people seek the blessings of their gods by piercing their bodies with hooks, skewers and lances. Many people take the pain further: they attempt to pull tractors and or other heavy objects with ropes attached to the hooks in their skin. Tongues and cheeks are also often pierced, the idea being to impede speech and thereby attain full concentration on the lord.

Thaipusam_Creative Commons

Photo: Creative Commons

Madey Snana

Madey Snana, meaning 'spit bath' in English, is a strange, centuries-old tradition in Karnataka, which highlights the centuries-old problem of casteism in the country.

In this festival, people from lower castes roll on the floor over food left over by Brahmins on banana leaves. Apparently this rids them of various ailments.

Madhey Snana

File Photo

Astra Puja (Navratra)

During the Astra puja (prayer), people worship their tools, machinery, gadgets and especially their weapons.

Ajudh/Astra Puja

File Photo

Garudan Thookam

This festival is celebrated in Kerala in which dancers dress up as Garuda, the vehicle of Lord Vishnu who quenched the goddess Kali's thirst with blood after slaying Darika the demon.

Following the dance performance, the dancers hang like eagles (Garudan Thookam) from a shaft, by hooking the flesh on the backs.

Thaipoosam_Getty Images

Photo: Getty Images


As part of religious vow, devotees walk on fire in exchange for a wish or blessing from Draupadi. This festival is part of a longer ceremony stretching over a two-and-a-half month period during which parts of the Mahabharata are enacted.

Theemethi_Getty Images

Photo: Getty Images

Cow trampling

In Kerala and Madhya Pradesh (also in pockets of the country elsewhere), people decorate cows with flowers and colours, and then lie on the ground to be trampled by the sacred animals so that god will answer their prayers.

Cow trampling_ Youtube

Photo: Youtube screengrab

First published: 19 August 2015, 3:37 IST
Raza Naqvi @Mir_Naqvi

Raza is an alumnus of the Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC) and has worked with the Hindustan Times in the past. A passionate follower of crime stories, he is currently working as a Sub-Editor at the Speed News desk.