Devi Dhura

Devi Dhura

July-August; the day before and the full moon day of the Hindu month of Sravana
Held at the same time as Raksha Bandhan, the Hindu festival observed by brothers and sisters in honor of their relationship, a two-day festival is observed in the small Himalayan town of Devi Dhura in Uttar Pradesh, India. Hindus gather at the shrine of Varahi Devi or Bhagwati, an incarnation of Durga. She is the patron goddess of the approximately 200 villages in the area. Animal sacrifices—originally male buffaloes, but often bulls or goats today—are made at the shrine on the day before Raksha Bandhan. Processions from the other villages stream in to Devi Dhura. Generally these are led by dancers, followed by the animals, the priest, and members of the community. As hundreds of goats and bulls are killed, people use the blood to mark their foreheads.
On the second day, the bagwals assemble at Kholi Khan, a flat yard next to the shrine. These are groups of men, wearing turbans and carrying sturdy cane shields, who have been selected from six of the villages to participate in an unusual stone-throwing ritual. Each man is given six to eight stones to throw, and the battle that ensues is not a symbolic act but a true fight in which injuries are common and often severe. The stoning can last as little as 20 minutes or as long as two-and-a-half hours, and spectators watch from a safe distance.
Although there are many legends that account for this tradition, none really offers a satisfactory explanation. It is apparently a well-established custom by which Hindus show their faith not only by shedding the blood of animals but also their own. It is believed that the blood lost by the stone-throwing participants amounts to that which would be shed in the sacrifice of one human being.
CONTACTS:
Uttar Pradesh Tourism Department, Directorate of Tourism
Rajarshi Purshottam Das Tandon Paryatan Bhavan
Vipin Khand, Gomti Nagar
Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh C-13 India
91-522-2308916; fax: 91-522-2308937
www.up-tourism.com
SOURCES:
FestIndia-1987, p. 62