Barnagar (Madhya Pradesh): ‘MP Ghazab hai, sabse ajab hai’ (MP is unique, different from the rest), a famous catch line of Madhya Pradesh Tourism Department for state’s promotion seems justified in many instances.
It is amazing the extent to which people can go when it comes to matters of faith in rural Madhya Pradesh. In two villages; one in Jhabua district and Barnagar of Ujjain district people lie down on the ground and allow hundreds of cows to trample them as part of Diwali rituals.
Village Bhidawad in Badnagar tehsil of Ujjain and its nearby hamlets witnessed this unique and bizarre practice on the next day of Diwali on Friday. Villagers believe this would bring luck and fulfil their wishes.
When asked if the ritual ends up injuring the participants in the process, locals claim that no one was hurt and that the tradition only brings good luck and prosperity.
Not just that, in case anyone sustains minor injuries, they are treated with cow urine and dung, which they say has medicinal qualities to heal these injuries.
Locals paint their livestock in bright colours and embellish them with bells for this ritual known as ‘Gau Gauhri’. The villagers then drape garlands around their necks and lie on the ground to allow cows to run over them.
These men and women also dance to drum beats and other musical instruments for the event.
The herdsmen say it all started with a man praying for a son and when his wish came true, the villagers started observing this as an annual affair.
A Gau Gauhri festival was also observed at the Gowardhan temple in Jhabua district, where, apart from the “trampling” ritual, the villagers also felicitated the herdsmen. Locals claim that this tradition exhibits the special bond that the herdsmen have with the cows.
Not only Jhabua, but the festival is celebrated with pomp in villages like Sardarpur, Dasai, Ringnod, Sultanpura villages of Dhar district.
The villagers said that the tradition is meant to seek blessings and the practice has been on since the era of the royals. The festival also allows the herdsmen to seek forgiveness from the sacred animals for herding them around the entire year.
Moreover, a Gowardhan statue made of cow-dung is prepared and the rituals are considered incomplete unless the cows step on this statue.
As in Ujjain, the high-risk tradition is considered harmless in Jhabua, as the locals claim these cows do not hurt the herdsmen while running over them.
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