In Chhattisgarh’s Angaarmoti temple, around 90 km from the state capital of Raipur, an aberrant ritual that took place on November 20 has now garnered the nation’s attention. A video that has gone viral shows several women lying on the floor in a row, as priests and baigas (witch doctors) walk over them in a celebratory procession. The bizarre act, which is believed to bless these women with children, is turning heads for its derogatory and irrational nature.
Chhattisgarh: In a bizarre ritual, hundreds of married women longing for conception lay down on the ground on Friday to allow priests and witchdoctors to walk on their backs to enter a temple in Dhamtari, believing this will bless them with a child.pic.twitter.com/PhkHYWwMCp
— The Times Of India (@timesofindia) November 22, 2020
The ritual took place at the annual ‘Madhai Fair’ at the temple and was witnessed by over a thousand devotees who attended the post-Diwali gathering. Needless to say, the entire event was organised in blatant violation of social distancing norms amid COVID-19.
Women who are willing to conceive seek the Goddess Angaarmoti’s blessing through this ritual, which is held on the first Friday after Diwali. The ritual this year saw over 200 tribal women from 52 surrounding villages lying flat on their stomach on the bare ground with dishevelled hair, as a group of male priests walked over their backs.
The priests chanted mantras and carried flags as they stepped on one woman after another till they reached temple compound. Amid the chaos and intense beating of drums, thousands in the crowd cheered on from both sides, without any sign of masks or social distancing. Police personnel deployed in the premises were visibly nonchalant about the flouting of rules even as the state continues to report a sizeable number of COVID-19 cases every day. So far, nearly 2700 people in Chhattisgarh have lost their lives in the disease.
No Action From Chhattisgarh Govt Yet As Temple Trustee Defends Ritual
The existence of such patriarchal rituals even in 2020 has sparked a furore across the country, urging the local administration to look into the matter. Kiranmayee Nayak, the Chairperson of Chhattisgarh State Commission for Women expressed deep concern over the incident and clarified that she did not endorse such acts in any capacity. She also added how the ritual could have injured the participant women severely, affecting their internal organs.
“I will visit the place with my team and initiate an awareness campaign with the help of locals to discourage the practice and make women aware about the best ways of easy conception and seeking blessing from the Goddess,” Nayak stated in an interview with The Times of India.
Local science activist Dinesh Mishra deemed the ritual to be ‘medieval’, ‘irrational’ and ‘superstitious’. He also hinted at the government’s deliberate oversight of such prevailing practices. “It might even cause serious injuries to women lying down and the priests seen virtually trampling on them,” he said while speaking to TNIE.
However, even after facing severe criticism, the temple authorities unabashedly defended the ritual, saying that it has been in practice for the past 500 years. Angaarmoti Temple Trust secretary R N Dhruv remarked how the ritual had miraculously helped many women to become mothers and prohibiting it would hurt the religious belief of the local people.
Such offensive customs continue to persist in parts and pockets of rural India under the guise of religion. It is high time that the educated section of the society take cognisance of the issue and prompt the government to take strict action.