India is a land of myriad cultures and customs, and here are a few that have been going on since ages.
Traditional observations and ritualistic practices have been a part of human societies all over the world. We may have progressed to the digital age, but these are still passed down through generations and practiced. Whether for the purification of the mind, the body or the soul or the pursuit of prosperity, these rituals all have their specific goals.
National Geographic magazine has chosen 25 unique traditions from all over the world. Of those, here are four uniquely Indian rituals.
1. Koovagam Festival:-
Transgenders celebrate the Koovagam festival held in India. Image Credit; Koovagam Festival 2017
Even before the historic judgement of the Supreme Court scrapping Section 377, a village in South India has been celebrating and cherishing the transgender identity for ages.
For 18 days between April and May each year, thousands of transgenders from across the country converge at the Koothandavar Temple in the Villupuram district in Tamil Nadu, for the Koovagam Festival.
The festival has been observed for hundreds of years, and has its roots in the Mahabharata and the battle between the Kauravas and Pandavas. Through the 18 days, there are all kinds of celebrations, dances, games and even a beauty pageant where the winner is crowned ‘Miss Koovagam’.
2. Ganga Aarti Ceremony:-
Every evening, residents of the holy city of Varanasi practise the Ganga Aarti, a ceremony to honour the river Ganges. People provide floating offerings like lamps made of candles and flowers. Set adrift in the river, thousands of lamps light up the surface for an ethereal look and feel.
It begins when a group of pundits blow conch shells and light incense sticks and large lamps, which they hold while chanting hymns. Several oil lamps flicker in synchronicity, and, a pundit will pour a bowl of water into the river, signifying the end of the ritual.
This observance is made grander during Kartik Purnima, the Hindu month that falls during October-November.
3. Gochak ritual:-
Photo Source: VIEW of Ladakh
A Buddhist ritual in Ladakh, it is celebrated for three days, from February 20-22 each year. It is believed that Lord Buddha exhibited his miraculous powers from the 1st to the 15th day of the same month.
The Gochak ritual is a penance aimed at seeking world peace and prosperity, where Buddhists move from village to village, prostrating after every few steps. It is the belief of the devotees for the causes of world peace and prosperity that inspires them to leave home early and undertake the arduous journey.
4. Mundan Ceremony:-
A ceremony where the head is shaved, this is one of the most prominent Hindu traditions. The ritual denotes purification of the soul and the body, and signals a kind of preparation for the bereaved to take forward the responsibilities left by the departed.
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This ceremony is performed on two occasions. One is for the wife of the deceased soul and is rather permanent, while the other is for the males of the family to mourn the death of an elderly family member. Unlike the former, this is temporary, and more widely prevalent. An important tradition that is unique to our nation, it is also a mark of gratitude to the departed soul.
In a land full of myriad cultures and traditions, these continue to be authentic and unheard of anywhere else in the world!
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)