India is a country rooted in many superstitions — ranging from humans marrying trees or animals to influence their stars, to tossing babies off the top of tall towers for healthy lives, while villagers waiting on the ground catch them in sheets.
Considering we're an agrarian country, rain is a constantly recurring theme in many local rituals across the country. So we have priests attempting to appease the rain gods by praying while sitting in barrels of water and funeral ceremonies being performed in Rajasthan for people who are alive in the hope of a strong monsoon.
Joining the ranks of eyebrow-raising rituals is the one from Ujjani, a remote village in Karnataka.
According to a report in The News Minute, on the first Monday of the Hindu month of Shravan, residents of the village dig up graves of people who had leucoderma — a skin condition that manifests itself as white patches on the skin — and mount their skulls on spikes. The spikes are then paraded through the village, with the skull pointing to the sky, before finally being taken to a location known as 'Akka-Tangi Kallu' (Twin Sisters' Stone) and being burned.
On Monday, the villagers exhumed and burned three corpses. As part of the procession, they performed pujas at eight temples. While burning the skulls, they wept in front of the pyre and later ate coconut and jaggery, and distributed sweets and fruits. The villagers believe that it will rain in the village three days after the ritual is performed.
The family members of the dead, in case they are not willing to allow the corpses to be dug up, are 'convinced' by the villagers, reported The News Minute.
Unsurprisingly, Ujjani is not the only village in Karnataka that believes in the power of this somewhat disturbing ritual. In May this year, New Indian Express reported that people from Anekatte village in the state burned the skeletal remains of the head of the village temple who had leucoderma after a mystic told them that the rain god was angry with the village because the body of a man with the condition had been buried instead of cremated.
In both the cases, while the Tahsildars' offices were against the practice, they could do little other than advise the villagers to stop since no action could be taken until someone from the family complained.