India is a land of myth, history, and heritage. This country worships thousands of Gods and Goddesses and you can find a temple in every square kilometer. With these many Gods and Goddesses, there is also a long list of festivals celebrated in a hundred different ways. Some amaze us, while others baffle us. With Dussehra just around the corner, we thought, why not talk a little about baffling traditions and practices associated with Dussehra/Dasara celebrations in our country. One version of this pan-India festival that immediately comes to mind is the Devaragattu Dasara.
Also known as the Bani Festival, Devaragattu is certainly the weirdest and bloodiest Dussehra celebration anywhere in India. Every year on Dasara, the Devaragattu Temple in Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh witnesses controlled violence at an unimaginable scale.
Hundreds of villagers from Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh congregate in Kurnool to be a part of this rather dangerous celebration. As part of the ritual, devotees gather inside the temple complex with sticks, which they use to injure their opponents on the head. What follows next is a blood bath.
As the clock strikes midnight, devotees, like programmed robots, start attacking each other with sticks, and it does not come as a surprise that things do get heated. Medical teams and police are deployed at every step to take care of the injured, but most just smear turmeric on their wounds and go about their day.
Commemorating the slaying of a demon by Mala-Malleswara (Lord Shiva), these men drenched in blood wage war till dawn. What was earlier celebrated with axes and spears some 100 years ago, has now been brought a notch down. In its present form, the Devaragattu Dasara is celebrated with just sticks! While the whole celebration leaves the spectators flabbergasted, it is the zeal of the locals to “kill or get kill” that makes us wonder how far we’d go to celebrate the victory of good over evil.