Getting smeared in moist bovine discharge is hardly a pleasant experience for most, but revelers at the Gore Habba festival are happy to hold massive cow dung fights, believing it has a healing effect.
The fecal festival is a customary annual event that takes place at the village of Gumatapura, located in southern India. Each year after the Deepavali holiday, the villagers – and anyone willing to join them – partake in a massive excrement-throwing ordeal.
The cow dung – used in rural India for various purposes, ranging from insulating houses to serving as stove fuel – is stockpiled well before the event to ensure that the revelers do not run out of ‘ammo.’ While it might look quite unsanitary to smear your whole body in feces, the devotees believe it is not only harmless, but actually cures diseases.
“Cow dung is very natural and has a lot of medicinal benefits. Others might say if we throw cow dung at each other we will get some infections or even some disease. But with the trust of our god Beereshwara, we are playing in the cow dung, so nothing happens to us,” one of the villagers, going only by his first name Prabhu, explained.
He added that the festival was all about equality and anyone regardless of their caste or religion can participate. Still, women are barred from the excrement-throwing part, yet they are free to watch the show.
The tradition comes from the belief that remains of a saint were placed in a pit in the village, and took the shape of a Linga (an abstract phallic representation of Shiva), which became covered by cow excrements over time. The deity of the village is believed to value cow excrements too, thus the villagers dump the substance in abundance behind the local temple.
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