Despite being aware that it can lead to severe injuries on any part of the body, people didn’t hesitate because it’s a part of an age-old ritual performed to appease the local Hindu deity Barahi Devi. This year over 120 people were left wounded.
Known as the "Bagwal" festival in local parlance, the event is celebrated at the Devidhura Temple in the state’s Champawat District.
Traditionally, the Bagwal festival is celebrated by shedding one’s blood as an offering to the Goddess Barahi Devi.
The ritual involves a large group of people, separated into two groups. Participants bind their heads with fabric, and then members of one team throw rocks at the rival group. While under attack, everyone tries to dodge the stones. Some use bamboo shields or other special instruments to shield themselves.
The ritual concludes when the head priest of the temple waves to the participants to signal the end of the melee.
#Uttarakhand: Bagwal #StonePelting festival held in Champawat, part of a ritual to appease a local deity. More than 120 people injured. The #festival is held every year at the #temple of goddess #Barahi on the occasion of #RakshaBandhan pic.twitter.com/JKcnmy9ahc— Kishan Rao A S (@KishanRao23) August 15, 2019
Local authorities, however, wait, ready to attend to any injured persons and medical camps are set up in the village. In the past, authorities have also tried to curb injuries by replacing stones with flowers and fruit.