Get subscribed to our newsletter
Get interesting updates to your email inbox.
The gods are angry. They need to be pacified. They require the offering of a human sacrifice! Only then will the deities be pleased, and endow their blessings upon us.
By Kanika Rangray
These are the lines which have been reportedly used as a curtain to hide the barbaric act of human sacrifice. It is a custom deeply embedded in the superstitions of several religions.
In India, the concept of human sacrifice can be dated back to the Indus Valley Civilisation. A sculpture from the Harappan civilisation shows, what some believe it to be, the human sacrifice of a woman offered in the honour of the Mother/Goddess. In the same manner, some agree and some disagree about the prevalence of human sacrifice in the Vedic era. However, the existence of this barbaric act is proven on the basis of its practice in Bengal, a continuation of traditions dating back to Vedic period, by Rajendralal Mitra, a key figure in the Bengal renaissance.
The practice of offering human sacrifices to goddesses like Chamunda for victory in war, is recorded in the Kalika-Purana to have been prevalent in Northeast India in the 11th century. This became increasingly common during the medieval period.
The tradition of human sacrifice decreased during the post-Vedic period due to the influence of ahimsa and penetration of religions like Buddhism and Jainism. However, even as a large section of the Hindu culture continued to condemn human sacrifice, the practice continued as a manner of worship of the goddess Shakti until the early modern period, and continued till around early 19th century in Bengal. Some tantric clans also continued this practice around the same period.
And quite ironically, Islam–the religion based on the Holy Qur’an— which has been recently linked with terrorism and genocides (type of human sacrifice) strongly condemns human sacrifice, as a “grave error and sinful act” and an “ignorant, foolish act of those that have gone astray.” Even though it goes out of context, it is a thought to wonder upon if we have been righteous in linking genocides and such killings with religion.
Human sacrifices in 21st century
It is strongly believed that now India has developed, economically and socially, to an extent where everyone understands the practice of human sacrifice as barbaric and not religious. But there have been recent incidents which prove that social development of our society, at least some sections of it, have not reached the level where one understands the atrocity they commit in the name of human sacrifice.
The skeletal remains of four persons, suspected to be buried by quarry owners as human sacrifice, were unearthed by the police from a burial ground nearby Melur, Madurai. This inhuman act came to light when M Sevarkodiyan, who worked as a driver with PRP granites in Madurai, made a complaint alleging that mentally ill were killed and buried by mining baron PR Palanichamy’s associates each time PRP granites expanded its business or bulldozed local temples for mining operations.
In another such demonic act, a 9-year-old girl became a victim to the horrendous act of human sacrifice in Bengaluru. Her parents alleged that she was used as bait to drive away evil spirits during the construction of a new apartment block close to her school. What is more astonishing and disappointing is that her teacher has also been accused of being involved in this crime. Clearly, education is no deterrent to such superstitious beliefs which are murderous to the victims.
The extent of belief in human sacrifice exceeds the limits of parental love. An unemployed father sacrificed his only daughter, who was 9-year-old, in Kanpur with the belief that this “offering to god” will bring good fortune to his family–all this on the advice of a warlock. There is another incident in which a father sacrificed his 15-month old daughter in Bihar to uncover a treasure hidden in the ruins of a nearby fortress. How inhumane can one be?
These are just four examples. Many more can be given. A five-year-old girl was sacrificed in Karnataka to magically uncover buried treasure at a construction site. A seven-year-old girl was murdered in Chattisgarh to yield successful crop, as locals believed that the girl’s father was casting black magic spells against them; to counterbalance, they performed the traditional ritual of human sacrifice and offered her organs to Hindu goddess Durga. In Uttar Pradesh, a boy was made the sacrificial lamb by a woman–on the advice of a warlock–to assuage a curse she believed she was living under.
Are these examples enough to depict the strongly embedded superstitious belief in human sacrifice or more need to be given?
Is this superstitious belief invincible?
Most of the incidents of human sacrifice surfaced in areas which were economically backward or perhaps people ignored and lacked access to education. But there have been incidents, one such mentioned above, where the sacrifice not just happened in a “civilised” area but also involved a teacher as the accused party. They might dampen spirits a bit and they may shake the belief that awareness and education are tools which can be used to abolish human sacrifices, an illegal religious tradition which is practised till date.
But all one can do is try and try again in a hope and faith that these superstitious beliefs would flash and perish like lightning in the sky!
Diwali is arguably one of the most auspicious and celebrated holidays in South Asia. It is celebrated over the span of five days, where the third is considered most important and known as Diwali. During Diwali people come together to light, lamps, and diyas, savour sweet delicacies and pray to the lord. The day has various origin stories with the main them being the victory of good over evil. While the North celebrates the return of Lord Rama and Devi Sita to Ayodhya, the South rejoices in the victory of Lord Krishna and his consort Satyabhama over evil Narakasura.
Narakasura- The great mythical demon King
Naraka or Narakasur was the son of Bhudevi (Goddess Earth) and fathered either by the Varaha incarnation of Vishnu or Hiranyaksha. He grew to be a powerful demon king and became the legendary progenitor of all three dynasties of Pragjyotisha-Kamarupa, and the founding ruler of the legendary Bhauma dynasty of Pragjyotisha.
Follow NewsGram on Instagram to keep yourself updated.
Narakasura was created, grew up to be strong and powerful but he was not satisfied with it, so he decided that he would worship Lord Brahma. He performed severe penance and was driven by the power of his penance; Lord Brahma appeared before him. Narakasura knew his mother loved him dearly so he asked Lord Brahma to grant him a boon that he would only die by the hands of his mother, Bhumidevi. Lord Brahma smile and ultimately granted him the boon.
Narakasura burst out laughing as Lord Brahma vanished. He thought no mother would kill their child so Lord Brahma had made him immortal. Drunk and maddened by his own power Narakasura brought all the kingdoms under his control and targeted Swargalok (Heaven). Even Indra (King of Gods) and demi-gods had to retreat in front of Narakasura. He kidnapped and took 16,000 women from the palaces as prisoners. Troubled by Naraksura's deeds the gods rushed to Lord Vishnu for a solution.
Lord Krishna and Devi Satyabhama were born to kill Narakasura
Lord Vishnu was born as Lord Krishna and Narakasura's mother Bhumidevi took the avatar of Krishna's wife Satyabhama. As Satyabhama, Bhumidevi was unaware of the knowledge of Naraksura being her son. Aditi the mother of all gods approached Satyabhama crying for help with bloodied ears as Narakasura had torn off the glowing earrings from the ears of Aditi.
Satyabhama was furious on gaining the knowledge of Narakasura's atrocities she asked Krishna to fight the demon king while she fights alongside him. Krishna agreed and they attacked the great fortress of Narakasura, riding his mount Garuda with his wife Satyabhama.
The furious battle unleashed. Krishna defeated Narakasura's general Mura and came to be known as Murari (the killer of Mura). Narakasura used several divine weapons against Krishna, but Krishna slew all those weapons effortlessly. The demon hurled a shakti towards Krishna, which mildly hurt Krishna and he fell unconscious. Upon this sight Satyabhama was enraged, she furiously pulled out a weapon of her own and hurled it at Narakasura's chest. Anxious Satyabhama turned to her fallen Lord, Krishna got up with a smile and he was completely fine. He was only playing his part. It was Satyabhama who was an incarnation of Bhoomidevi, whose hands were destined to slay Narakasura.
ALSO READ: Choosing Environment-Friendly Diwali
Lord Krishna and Goddess Satyabhama had put an end to the Narakasura's kingdom of evil. As Narakasura lay on his deathbed he realised that Satyabhama was no one but an avatar of his own mother. He requested a boon from his mother, for no one to mourn his death. Instead, he wished for people to celebrate it with light and colours. They freed the 16,000 women who later married Lord Krishna to restore them of their honour in society, retrieved Mother goddess's earrings. This day is celebrated as 'Naraka Chaturdashi' popularly known as Choti Diwali - the day before Diwali as the triumph of good over evil.
Keywords: Diwali festival, goddess Laxmi, demon king, Lord Krishna, Satyabhama, the festival of light, Naraksura, Narak Chaturdashi
For all the great inventions that we have at hand, it is amazing how we keep going back to the safety pin every single time to fix everything. Be it tears in our clothes, to fix our broken things, to clean our teeth and nails when toothpicks are unavailable, to accessorize our clothes, and of course, as an integral part of the Indian saree. Safety pins are a must-have in our homes. But how did they come about at all?
The safety pin was invented at a time when brooches existed. They were used by the Greeks and Romans quite extensively. A man named Walter Hunt picked up a piece of brass and coiled it into the safety pin we know today. He did it just to pay off his debt. He even sold the patent rights of this seemingly insignificant invention just so that his debtors would leave him alone.
Anyone wearing safety pins that were visible began to be associated with the rock movement in the 70s. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
Later, he even invented the sewing needles and a couple of other important inventions but never kept any of the patent rights.
When the punk rock tradition took over in the seventies, safety pins became a fashion rage. They were used as piercings and to patch clothes together. Anyone wearing safety pins that were visible began to be associated with the rock movement. In some cultures, the safety pins have become symbols of good luck.
Keywords: Safety-pins, Punk Rock, Brass, Accessories, Walter Hunt
In South India, Deepavali marks the end of the monsoon and heralds the start of winter. The festival is usually observed in the weeks following heavy rain, and just before the first cold spell in the peninsula. The light and laughter that comes with the almost week-long celebration are certainly warm to the bones, but there is still a tradition that the South Indians follow to ease their transition from humidity to the cold.
Just before the main festival, the family bathes in sesame oil. This tradition is called 'yellu yennai snaana' in Kannada, or 'ennai kuliyal' in Tamil, which translates to 'sesame oil bath'. The eldest member of the family applies three drops of heated oil on each member's head. They must massage this oil into their hair and body. The oil is allowed to soak in for a while, anywhere between twenty minutes to an hour. After this, they must wash with warm water before sunrise.
Women applying oil to the heads of men Photo credit: Indians in Kuwait
In some parts of the peninsula, soap is not used to wash off the oil because it nullifies its effects. Some cultures who do not like the oil to remain in any way on their skin wash it off with shikakai and herbs, which is a paste that is traditionally used as a substitute for soap. Sometimes, the oil is heated with flowers and spices as well and is less sticky than in its pure form.
The purpose of this ritual is to cleanse the body, detoxify it, and produce heat in it. Sesame is a very heaty substance and tends to heat up the body. This heat, or 'usshna' in Kannada, prepares the body to face the sudden cold that comes to the peninsula immediately after Diwali. South India has no smooth transition weather-wise from monsoon to winter. There are a few days of stable, rainless weather, and suddenly the cold winds descend.
In many ways, the celebration of Diwali is centered around preparing for winter, considering the amount of heat and light the rituals consist of – lighting lamps, bursting crackers, and consuming warm treats. Those who practice these rituals earnestly find the shift in seasons and weather quite pleasant.
Keyboards: Sesame Oil Bath, Diwali Ritual, Traditional Sesame Oil Bath