India is a country with diverse cultures and traditions. From Birth to death, we are surrounded by a large palate of ceremonies and rituals, all coming down to seeking the blessing of deities.
Rituals we perform today come naturally from Vedas or Puranas. However, sometimes we follow the legacy or stereotypes blindly in the name of rituals without giving them a second thought.
Hindu rituals are performed to seek blessings from the almighty. Worshippers ask God to shower good health and peaceful life upon them. These customs are performed at home, holy places, or shrines.
Some common morning rituals that every nine out of ten households follow is that after taking a bath, people offer silent prayers to the sun god, meditate or read holy books like Ramayan and shloka from Bhagavad Geeta or chant Gayatri mantra.
Flickering a lamp at dusk or dawn, putting tilak on forehead, having separate prayer rooms, offering to the Lord before eating, chanting om, fasting is also some of the usual rituals that people pursue in their daily lives.
There are rituals that contain great spiritual significance and people highly believe in them. Some of them are listed below.
Yajna is considered the most sacred ritual in Hinduism. During Yajna, Sacred fire is lit. The priest chants mantras and as soon as he finishes off with a certain mantra, on the word Swaha offerings such as ghee or grains are served to the deities. Then again another mantra start and the same process prevails.
Yajnas are performed usually for the welfare and well-being of loved ones. However, sometimes they are done on the fulfillment of wishes too.
Some Yajna lasts a few hours whilst some go on for weeks.
Japa is a recitation of God’s name for a certain period either silently or audibly. They are done to purify the mind and fill the soul and inner mind with positivity and spirituality. At the end of the Japa, the part of the food offered to the lord is distributed among everyone.
Aarti is a means of prayer. It is usually performed at the end of any religious ceremony. It’s like a ballad that applauds God and describes their powers and accomplishments during those times.
The best Aarti your eyes can ever encounter is the Ganga Aarti in Rishikesh, Varanasi, or Haridwar. Crowds in large numbers convene to perceive Ganga Aarti and blessings of deities. It is believed that merely attending Ganga Aarti cleanses the lifetime of karma.
These were some of the religious and safe forms of worshipping or following rituals. On the other hand, there are some bizarre rituals people follow that put humans in harm’s way like the ones mentioned below.
Cannibal tribes are the followers of Lord Shiva. They live near crematories and put ashes over all their bodies. They can be glimpsed meditating on a corpse or tearing it apart limb by limb and engulfing each limb raw.
Locally, They are known as Aghori Baba. They use skulls or bones to drink or to eat. Sometimes these Aghori babas attach bones and wear them around their neck like a necklace and wander.
This is an odd practice people blindly follow in parts of Maharashtra and Karnataka. In this, Father rides up to the stairs of temples and gives the baby to the man allowing him to drop it from the 10-15m. People on the ground floor standing with a blanket, catch the baby and then give it to the mother.
It is believed that this will make the baby healthier and stronger throughout his lifetime. Around 200 babies of less than two years fall into this ritual trap.
Thimithi is performed in Tamil Nadu in honor of Draupadi. Draupadi walked on fire to prove her purity.
Thimithi makes men walk on a bed composed of fire. In the process, they get severe burns but it is considered a fortune. It is practiced in some other countries too including Sri Lanka, Singapore, and Malaysia.
Lathmar Holi is played in Barsana near Mathura. It is believed that Krishna used to visit Barsana to play Holi with Radha and her mates would chase him away.
Since then men from Nandgaon visit Barsana and the women would beat up men with sticks resulting in harsh injuries.
Practicing rituals or customs shows our culture, identity, and belongingness. It is part of who we are but we should not follow anything or everything blindly. We should always keep in mind that performing rituals in any book doesn’t mean causing damage to another living being or environment.