By Taniya Dutta
Hundreds of devotees in a hilly Indian state gathered with huge bamboo shields as they assailed their opponents with stones.
The ‘attack’ was part of a traditional celebration of a festival that is held every year to please goddess Barahi in Champawat in Uttarakhand in northern India.
The decades-old bizarre celebration in which four clans are divided and pelt stones at each other lasted for about 20 minutes.
While many people sustained minor injuries during the stone pelting, they welcomed their wounds considering themselves ‘lucky’ to have been able to offer their blood to the goddess.
“It is believed that bloodshed during the festival brings good luck. The participants also pelt fruits at each other,” said the head priest of Barahi temple, Kirti Ballabh Joshi.
Hair-raising visuals show thousands of villagers gather to watch enthusiastic devotees pelting stones and taking shield under the bamboo umbrellas as they ditch attacks on them.
Nearly 300 devotees were rushed to local hospitals for treatment of minor injuries after the celebration.
Given the risks involved, the local administration has been pressing to replace stones with fruit for the last four years, but in vain.
Virendra Lamgaria, the head of one of the groups said the injuries are not major to change the age-old ways of celebrating the festival.
He said: “The participants carry big wooden shields to protect themselves from the fling stones, and try to hit others. But the violence lasts only for the duration of the ritual and everything returns to normal shortly after.”