- Varuna Yajna Ritual
This is a rain ritual. Yajna means sacrifice and Varuna is the name of the Hindu god of water. The ceremony is usually led by a priest called Japa Varunamoolamanthra Yaagam. In this ritual, Hindu priests stand neck deep in barrels of water to perform special prayers. They will chant “Varuna” as many as 50 thousand times.
This tradition comes from the story of the goddess Sati (Dakshayani), where she sacrificed herself by plunging into the fire because she couldn’t withstand the insults from Dakhsa (her father) to Lord Shiva (her husband). In this ritual, the widow willingly commits suicide by being burned on her husband’s funeral pyre. This tradition is still practiced in some remote areas, despite being banned by the Indian government.
- Kumbh Mela
This ritual is carried out every 12 years in the Ganges River. In addition to the Ganges River, Hindus can also do the Kumbh Mela ritual in the Allahabad (Prayag), Haridwar, Ujjain and Nashik rivers. Indians bathe in one of these rivers to cleanse themselves from sin. About 60 million people practice this ritual in the Ganges alone. Kumbh Mela lasts fifty-five days. The Ganges River is chosen for this tradition because it is considered the most sacred river in India. In addition, the Ganges is also believed to liberate every man from the cycle of death and rebirth, and can make them feel closer to Brahman (their gods).
- Thaipusam Ritual
Thaipusam is a festival celebrated by Tamil Hindus during the Tamil month of Thai (January-February). Thaipusam is a ritual devoted to the god Murugan, the son of Shiva and goddess Parvati. On Thaipusam, Indians offer yellow or orange fruits and flowers to Murugan because they believe those are his favorite colors. What makes this ritual so unique, though, is that many followers torture their bodies. They parade through the streets with huge idols on their shoulders and pierce their bodies with various sharp objects. This is done to please the gods and to pay for their sins.
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