INDIA is a country where odd is often not appropriate to describe the culture of some of its people. Often weird and superstitious, they range from the seemingly harmless to being outrageously dangerous. But among India’s Hindu and Muslim families in Nagrala village of Karnataka, Solapur and Harangai villages of Maharashtra, the search for goodluck often takes an extremely bizarre form that leaves the uninitiated gasping for breath. It is the baby tossing ritual which is so goringly breathtaking that it is still struggling to find any real relevance beyond being a present danger to the life of the affected children.
Indeed, the baby-tossing ritual is a shocking practice to everyone else except the villagers. Onlookers from outside the village often recoil in horror as terrified babies scream their head off while being shaken by priests preparatory to being tossed off from a 30 foot balcony, high above the ground.
Ironically, the practice is a thing of pure joy to the villagers themselves who believe strongly that in addition to being the harbinger of good luck and prosperity to families, it makes hulks and studs of their infants. Little wonder they erupt in wild jubilation when each kid lands safely on a blanket spread out below. Still high in ecstasy, they pass each baby around before eventually giving same to each mother.
In the main, baby-tossing rituals involves families handing over their infants to village religious leaders who, in turn, carry each of the babies by the hand and feet, shaken vigorously before tossing off a roof, over 30 feet, of a place of worship.
Below await a group of men with a bedsheet to catch each of the falling babies. They raise raucous cheers as quickly as each infant lands on the bed sheet before handing each back happily to their equally ecstatic parents.
Unfortunately, the practice has resulted in serious injuries, shaken baby syndrome (not often obvious until age six) and numerous infant fatalities.
India’s baby-tossing ritual is said to be about 700 years old religious practice now vehemently opposed by several child rights activist groups, working to end. In addition, the country’s National Commission for Protection of Child Rights has ordered a stoppage to the practice in 2009. However, the villagers don’t seem ready to give it up on their custom because they still believe strongly that it is the only way to bring good luck and prosperity to their families. Largely on the account, they revived the practice in 2011. Since then, it’s waxing strong, with huge followership in the affected villages.