People in rural Karnataka have resorted to marrying donkeys, frogs, dressing up the living as dead bodies and performing their last rites, all in the name of appeasing the rain god.
But in a remote village named Ujjani in Ballari district’s Kudligi taluk, a shocking display of apathy towards the dead was witnessed on Monday morning.
In a bid to “invoke the rain god”, residents of the village exhumed a few graves of those who suffered from leucoderma and burnt their skulls.
What is even more appalling, is that the entire process is done with the consent of the family members of the dead persons.
The villagers perform this “ritual” on the first Monday of Shravanamasa, the month which appears in the Hindu almanac, based on the lunar calendar.
If digging up graves is not shocking enough, the villagers, after exhuming the skulls of the dead, mount them on spikes and parade it through the village before taking them to a spot known as “Akka-Tangi Kallu” (Twin Sisters’ Stone) and burning them.
On burning the skulls, the villagers weep in front of the fire until it dies out.
“If anyone with leucoderma passes away, there is a superstition that the skull of the dead person must be exhumed, carried in a procession to the Akka-Tangi Kallu and burnt. While the skull is being taken to the stone, it should be pointed towards the sky. Three days after this ritual is performed, it will definitely rain in the village. We have been doing this every year since many decades now and it has always borne fruit,” Praveen added.
On Monday, the villagers dug up three graves, and took the skulls on a procession. On the way, they stopped by at eight temples in the village, performed pujas and later burnt the skulls. After weeping in front of the pyre of burning skulls, they ate jaggery, dry coconut, distributed sweets and fruits before returning home.
Praveen says that if the family members of the dead are hesitant and do not give their consent to the exhumation, the villagers get together and convince them.
Praveen, however, refused to mention the method of persuasion used to convince the families of the dead.
According to an official in Ballari Tahsildar’s office, police cannot do anything about it until the family members file a complaint and there has been no complaint in this regard till date.
“Until someone comes forward, no action can be taken. Besides, there is no rule against practicing superstitions yet,” the official added.