By Taniya Dutta
These hair-raising pictures show the moment hundreds of bare chest devotees clad only in a thin, red loincloth engaged in a fierce battle with burning palm fronds as their weapon to appease a Hindu goddess.
Each year in the month of April, Agni Keli-the festival of Kateel Durga Parameswri Temple in Magalore in Karnataka in southern India is celebrated for eight days for Goddess Durga.
One the second day of the festival, the devotees assemble in an open ground to participate in the intense game of hurling burning palm fronds at each other.
It is widely believed that the deity would be pleased by it. The locals use dried coconut fronds to prepare the fire torches.
For about 15 minutes, these men, heavily armed with burning palm frond torches split into two groups and face each other from a distance of 10 – 15 meters, to throw the fronds at each other.
The simple rule- only five chances given to each participant to hit the opposition. To prevent serious burns, the men only wear pieces of cloth around their lower body, but they are often set ablaze during the fiery ritual. If a person suffers any burns, they are sprayed with water of Kumkumarchane.
Thousands of spectators gather from different parts of the state to watch the unique century-old tradition from a safe distance.
According to Hindu mythology, the goddess fought with demons that had destroyed mankind in the region and hence, the locals hold this ritual in her honour.