8 bizarre customs practised in South Asia

Written By: WION Edge WION
Delhi, India Published: Sep 12, 2016, 09:06 AM(IST)

Indian Naga Sadhu dries his hair Photograph:( AFP )

South Asia, rich in culture and tradition, has a unique character of its own. Cohesion of ethnicity in the region, lends it some of the most absurd-sounding customs.

Here are 8 such bizarre traditions you didn't know about:
  • Baby tossing
Newborn babies are dropped from a 50 ft high temple in southern Indian state of Karnataka India to "bring health and prosperity in their lives".

Couples who are blessed with a child after taking a vow at the Shri Santeshwar temple take part in this bizarre practice every year, in the first week of December. The infants are caught by onlookers waiting with a blanket.
  • Deuki: Sacred slave
Deuki is a girl slave in Nepal who is offered to the local Hindu temple to gain religious merit. Historically, the girls served as temple slaves who were engaged by the priests to give sexual services to male worshippers at the temple. The tradition has been formally abolished but continues to be practiced in some villages by those who seek favour from God or sell their girl child to wealthy couples for the same.  

A Hindu temple in Nepal

  • Sky burial 
Buddhists in Tibet follow a sacred ritual called Jhator or Sky burial.

As the name goes, dead bodies are taken to open fields at a very high altitude, to be left behind for scavengers. The tradition looks to provide resources to earth, even after death. Sky burials have been made illegal now but it can still be observed with the permission of the family. 

A flock of vultures

  • Fire walking festival 
Firewalking festival is observed in some countries like India and Sri Lanka where walking on burning embers or stones is considered to ward off evil spirits and is used as a purification ritual. Some tribes in Pakistan also use this as a justification system to prove the innocence of guilty. If the guilty walks over it without any burns, they are deemed innocent otherwise proven of guilt. 

Thimithi festival in Sri Lanka

  • Isolated labour
According to some families in Pakistan, women giving birth are considered to be impure and unclean. They are sent off to an isolated building called Bashleni to carry on with labour. Only those women who are menstruating can enter the building as they themselves are considered impure and messy. 

  • Love burglars 
Under Bomena, a traditional Bhutanese courtship ritual, boys roam during the night looking for houses where they know that girls, who are eligible for marriage, are sleeping. They then climb up the walls to the girl’s bed. The idea is to stay the night, with her approval.

In Bhutan, however, it’s not so easy as young girls usually sleep with the entire family and any protest from her gets the boy thrown out. At present, the custom is seen as backward and laws have been enacted to stop it.

Girls in the northernmost valley of Bhutan where love burglars are found

  • Polyandry system
In some parts of Nepal, a woman is made to marry more than one man simultaneously. Adopted by the Himalayan region, polyandry has been continuing for many years, much to the dislike of younger generation. It’s present in two forms: fraternal and non-fraternal. Fraternal polyandry has brothers of a generation share a wife whereas in Non-fraternal type, a group of like-minded men from different households get married to one woman. 

A young Nepalese bride at the ceremony

  • Marry a tree
Some girls in India are considered to be born cursed, according to astrological readings in Hindu tradition. Those born under the period when planets Mars and Saturn are both under the seventh house, are known as 'Mangliks'.

According to belief, she brings early death to her spouse and the curse can be broken only after she gets married to a tree before she ties knot with her fiance. She could also marry a clay urn. 

A Hindu lady praying to a tree

(Contributed by: Zeba Khan)

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