People from South India ‘celebrate’ the Theemithi festival by walking barefoot across a pit filled with burning hot firewood, or sometimes glowing charcoal. The fire walking is done in honour of the Hindu goddess Draupati Amman – so rather than hurrying across the pit, the devotees have to sdo it slowly, as though it’s a walk in the park.
The ritual begins when the head priest traverses the pit with a pot on his head, filled with sacred water. He is then followed by other men, who seek to prove their piety by withstanding the pain. Participants suffer from burns on their feet – and sometimes worse injuries, on the all-too-common occasions when they fall into the burning pit.
The thookam festival sees the backs of devoted Hindus pierced by sharp hooks; the men are then lifted off the ground onto a scaffold using ropes. Sometimes, children are even tied to the hands of the participants. Originating from southern parts of India, the festival has now been banned by the Indian Government after continued pressure from human rights organizations.
3. Baby Tossing
Every year in the month of December, more than a hundred babies are tossed from a temple roof into a crowd below. They plummet 200 feet, to where a group of men stand waiting with a cloth meant to catch them. The reason? Married couples – looking to be blessed with, perhaps ironically, more babies – take part in this event. It is also said to bring good health and luck to the family. The Indian government is looking to set a ban on the jaw-dropping ritual, which takes place in the southern state of Karnataka.
4. Food Rolling
Enter certain temples in Karnataka, and you’ll be ordered to stop, drop and roll. Supplicants roll their bodies over scraps of food discarded by Brahmins – the highest, priestly caste in India. The act of rolling is practiced by all of the castes lower than Brahmin, and is said to cure skin disease.
Made snana has been in practice for over 500 years, but it is now on the verge of being banned. Though restrictions in certain temples had been put up in recent years, these restricitions were lifted after protests from devout Hindus. Members of the Indian government have therefore decided to educate, rather than impose their will upon the people. Good luck to them.
5. Wearing rings to have a giraffe's neck in Thailand
For Thailand's Karen tribe, long neck is a standard set for beauty and they go through a lot of pain to achieve it. Women from the tribe wear rings around their neck, almost like neck braces, but permanent. Girls start wearing rings around their necks as early as when they turn five-years-old and keep adding more rings as they grow up. A life full of restricted neck movement and for what? For long necks other people 'think' are 'beautiful'.
6. Teeth chiseling of female Mentawaians in Sumatra
The female Mentawaians of Sumatra go through a painful practice known as teeth chiseling. The local shaman sharpens a rude blade (do not even question the hygiene here) as best he can, takes a rock and begins to hack away. The young girl is given no drug support to numb her pain.
Why is it done? To make her look more attractive, duh-uh. Everything women must do must be to please men, after all.
7. In Mauritania, young girls are brutally force-fed a diet of up to 16000 calories a day to prepare them for marriage
In Mauritiana, a large, full-bodied, plump wife is said to 'signify good luck and prosperity' in a marriage. To fulfill it, Mauritian women are often force-fed a highly unhealthy 16000 calorie diet every day to become fatter for their wedding, sometimes causing them endless illness and health problems down the line.
Like we told you, we hardly take notice of the groom when it comes to wedding rituals.
8. Bull Fighting
Unlike its Spanish counterpart, Indian bull-fighting, or Jallikattu, is done without the help of any rope or weapons. Thankfully, the bull’s life is also spared afterwards, bovines being famously sacred in India. Celebrated during Pongal (harvest thanksgiving), this is one of the most dangerous sports played in India. Youth, ardent for some desperate glory, usually strive either to tame the bull or at least to hang on to the bull for a reward – usually money.
More than a hundred people have been killed in southern India over the past two decades. A case against Jallikattu is ongoing in the Supreme Court of India, which is considering an outright ban on the sport. The bulls are force-fed alcohol; their eyes are sprinkled with chili powder, and their testicles are pinched in an effort to infuriate them.
Muharram is the first month in the Islamic Calendar, and this was the month which marks the anniversary of the Battle of Karbala, when Imam Hussein ibn Ali was killed, followed by 72 warriors who were killed over the next ten days. Shi’a Muslims in India, and also other countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh, mourn this event by flogging their naked bodies with a bunch of chains known as ‘Matam’. Sometimes, these Matams also contain razor blades or knives.
10. Tongue Piercing
Not studs, but long and sharp needles are used to puncture the tongue. The needles – usually made from wood or steel – can be so long that the tongue is forced to stick out of the mouth permanently, unable to retract. The piercing is common a number of religious festivals. In some regions, young boys and sometimes girls take part in the ritual piercing. The ones who are going to pierce their tongues wear a garland around their necks for a day before the ceremony. The piercing ceremony is usually followed by dancing and merrymaking. These practices are also seen in countries other than India, in southern parts of Asia.
11. In the Sabiny tribe in Uganda, partial or complete removal of the clitoris is a ritual
For the girls of the Sabiny tribe, in Uganda, the price for womanhood is genital mutiliation. If you're thinking what's the point of it, according to them, if she can survive the test, she proves herself strong enough to endure every obstacle that she may face the rest of her life. Female circumcisions are complete when the clitoris is partially cut or completely removed. With high chances of infection and death, this ritual makes sure she is faithful to her husband, and keeps herself off sexual debauchery.
12. Girls in Somalia and Egypt face clitoral mutilation. So do girls from the Dawoodi Bohra community in India and Pakistan
Girls face painful and merciless genital mutilation in Somalia and Egypt. This actof sealing the vagina, in the most unhygeinic condition, without any drugs, is done for ONE 'simple' reason - to prevent any possible sexual indulgence by a girl as the 'pure' virgin's seal is broken only on the night of consummation by the husband.
In India and Pakistan, 'Female khatna’ (circumcision) or Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is limited to the Dawoodi Bohra community. A Shia Muslim sect, largely concentrated in Mumbai, the community is generally perceived as progressive but still practices this ritual secretly.
We ignore men's role in marriages a lot now, don't we?
13. Eating the baby's placenta
In some countries, mothers eat their own placenta after giving birth. Why? All of it for the nutrients that the placenta contains. This tradition is followed in China. I'll leave it on you to decide if this ritual is right for the baby and the mother.
14. Breast ironing in Cameroon, Nigeria and South Africa
In a widespread practice in Cameroon, Nigeria and South Africa, large hot stones, hammers or spatulas are burned over hot coals and pressed against the girl's breast to stop their breasts from growing by attempting to damage breast tissues. And all of it is done just to prevent male attention and as a precautionary measure against girls getting raped.
If you thought this is sad, the reason for doing this is even more sad - the mother often warrants the ritual, removing signs of puberty, so her daughter can pursue education for a longer time rather than being seen as 'ready for marriage'.
15. In Uaupes, girls have to undergo rigorous beating sessions
In the Menses rituals of Uaupes, Brazil, girls are brought out naked on the streets and are beaten to death or till they are unconscious. Why? The reason is shocking but easy to guess, as are most reasons related to women opression. If the girls still wakes up after this extremely cruel treatment, they are considered 'womanly' and 'worthy' of marriage. So much for proving your worth and even then, somehow it is never enough!