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A Festival Of Feces – The Villagers Of Gumatapura Play With Cow Dung For Gore Habba

India is a land of festivals, where every culture and every religion have their own way of celebrating their beliefs and tradition. So what if some of them are as bizarre as the Gore Habba festival of Tamil Nadu?

Gore Habba is a festival of playing with cow dung that is celebrated with much pomp in the village of Gumatapura. Just the thought of stepping into or touching feces might feel disgusting to you, but to the villagers this is not a big deal because they believe it brings them good health. Instead of finding it revolting, the villagers consider cow dung harmless and even believe that it comes with the power to heal a number of diseases.

The origin of this unique festival

You must be wondering how this unique tradition of playing with cow dung started? Let’s shed some light on that now.

The villagers say that there were the remains of a holy saint kept in a pit dug inside their village. With time, the remains started taking the shape of a Shiva linga. As more time passed, the pit got filled up by cow dung. Lord Beereshwara, the revered deity of the Gumatapura village is also known to value cow dung. So, naturally, people associate cow excrement with something sacred and pious, and do not mind smearing that all over their body.

The way of celebrating the Gore Habba festival

The festival is celebrated, with much delight, a few days after Diwali. Cow dung is stockpiled in abundance before the day of the celebration and kept right behind the local temple of Beereshwara. There are all the arrangements in place to ensure that the villagers do not run out of ammunition while they engage in a friendly ‘gobar’ (cow dung) fight for the festival.

According to the villagers, this festival also showcases the spirit of equality because there are no restrictions regarding religion or caste, and anyone and everyone can participate. However, women of the village are not allowed to take part in throwing cow dung at each other. They can only stand and watch as the men play to their heart’s content.

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A festival of feces: the villagers of Gumatapura play with cow dung for Gore Habba
Photo of ‘Viva Divar Bonderam 2013’ by Joegoauk Goa under CC BY-SA 2.0

Here’s what the villagers have to say about it

The villagers believe cow dung is completely natural and comes with lots of medicinal qualities. Even though people feel throwing cow dung at each other will make them get infections or catch some disease, they trust their god and believe nothing of that sort will happen to them. In fact, they have been celebrating this festival for the longest time and no one has ever fallen sick because of it.

Cow dung is something indispensible in the rural households. It is used to insulate houses, clean the floors, and serve as the fuel for the stoves. So, perhaps the reverence for cow dung also stems from the high value that it holds in their everyday lives.

Move over La Tomatina because La ‘Gobar’-ina is here to take your place! So, are you willing to face the feces next time after Diwali?

Featured Photo of ‘Divar Bonderam 2013’ by Joegoauk Goa under CC BY-SA 2.0

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