Body piercing is an ancient practice in Hindu rituals, followed by both men and women from all age groups for various reasons ranging from religion, occult and cosmetic. Elaine Davidson of Scotland holds a Guinness World Record for bearing the most number of permanent piercings than anyone else in the world. Ear and nose piercing in women are common and are means to enhance beauty by wearing stunning accessories.
Photo Credits: George_Gastin
Photo Credits: Nestor’s Blurrylife
Body Piercing and Hindu Rituals
In India, however, the origin of body piercing can be traced to ancient Hindu rituals. In South India, body piercing is a celebration at temple festivals. This is a practice followed to appease Gods and to gain their blessings. Though some practices of body piercings are banned, people have found alternative ways to achieve this.
Hindu Rituals – Thaipusam Festival
Take for instance the Thaipusam festival observed by Hindu devotees of South India. This festival is celebrated in honour of Lord Murugan in the month of Thai(January-February) as per the Tamil Calendar. Devotees pierce themselves with hooks, trishuls and skewers. Some devotees pull chariots with hooks attached to their backs. Some pierce their tongues and cheeks with trishuls and lemons. This kind of body piercing is usually a demonstration of self punishment to seek forgiveness for sins and misdeeds.
Hanging by Hooks – Thookkam Festival
Garudan Thookam is another Hindu ritual celebrated at several Kali temples in Kerala, South India. Devotees posing as Garuda, undergo a painful piercing of skin on the back with metal hooks. They are then suspended from a height and taken around the temple by other devotees. This practice was banned by the Kerala Government a few years back. However, devotees continue the body piercing without being subjected to hanging from their backs.
Body Piercing – Chadak ritual, Kolkata
Several Hindu devotees worshiping Lord Shiva, pierce their tongues and cheeks with skewers at the ‘Chadak’ ritual held at Krishnadevpur village, Kolkata. Some indulge in piercing of the skin on the back with hooks.
Shitla Mata procession, Chandigarh
At this procession, you will be surprised to see young boys with tridents pierced through their cheeks. People with lemons attached to needles hanging from their backs are a common sight at the Shitla Mata procession in Chandigarh.
Surprising Facts – Body Piercing
Religious Hindu devotees who pierce their tongues, cheeks, backs etc. do not feel pain and suffer minimal bleeding. They attribute it to the greatness of Gods. These people practice fasting and other Hindu rituals with total devotion and faith for several days before the body piercing takes place. The fact is, with excessive chanting and drumming sounds in the background, they usually go into a trance, making them unaware of the pain. Before body piercing, devotees apply a kind of white ash or a red colored powder which stops the bleeding. People who pierce the devotees often know the exact location where to pierce to avoid major injuries.
The act of religious body piercing depends on people. Some feel infliction of pain and suffering is the best way to appease Gods. Others feel body piercing is gross.
A thought provoking insight into Hindu rituals and why Hindu devotees pierce their bodies is given in the Hindu Blog