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Garudan Thookam is one of the traditional festivals that are celebrated in Kerala. It is a very strange tradition that is still believed and performed with great spiritual and religious belief. The festival might seem a little weird and bizarre. According to this festival, people hang hooks unto the back of their bodies and hang themselves down horizontally from a shaft. It might sound disturbing to some of the people to hang themselves down with the hooks, but it is one of the acts of self-torturing which is done by the people of some places in Kerala.

Garudan Thookam – History

hook photo

Photo by Flavio~

The history behind attempting to do such strange activity is that, Goddess Kali killed the Demon Darika and after that she was extremely thirsty and was not able to quench her thirst, as a result, Lord Vishnu sent her Garuda which is an eagle to quench the thirst of Goddess Kali but she was not able to quench her thirst until she drank the bleeding blood of Garuda. Hence in order to pray people hang themselves from hooks, the hooks are pierced unto the back of their skin then these are taken out for the procession in the vehicles.  They also dress like Garuda and perform different dance forms.

The followers of this festival and those who think of performing it has to go through a strict penance of 41 days where they need to resign themselves from all the non-veg food, desires, temptations and has to mentally prepare themselves to take part in such a horrifying yet liberating ritual.

Even thinking about such rituals gives a chill, isn’t? But this ritual is actually performed by many followers of goddess Kali. The word Garudan Thookam actually means eagle hanging, Hence the people in Kerala basically in the district of Idukki perform this Self-torturing ritual to show their spirituality, devotion, love to Goddess Kali.

It is celebrated in Idukki district and one can witness it basically in the Bhadrakali temples, this ritual is performed in the Karikode Devi temple in Thodupuzha. Hence if one really has a doubt or is really interested to witness something bizarre or unusual one can go to this temple.

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The festival is only performed for 1 day and is usually celebrated in the months of February and March. Basically, the days in which this ritual is performed is known as Makara Bharani Day and Kumbha Bharani Day.

A Garudan Thookam is very famous in one of the places of Kottayam district. There is a famous temple in Kottayam known as Elamkavu Devi Temple. At this temple, a floating structure is built which is very nicely decorated and beautifully adorned with flowers. At night the structure even looks more beautiful when it is illuminated with lights. Then the ceremony of chundamthookam takes place which means hook piercing in Malayalam, after the bleeding of blood through the hooks the Garudan referring to the people pierced with the hooks are carried in a procession in a boat around the floating temple. The sight might look a little disturbing to many people but it is a self-beloved and devoted.

India is a land of superstition, this strange ritual is true or is a hoax is hard to decide, but this shows how much faith people have in their god that they are ready to sacrifice anything. Self-sacrifice and self-torturing which requires great dedication, fearlessness, devotion and it seems that people of Kerala have achieved something great out of their will.

Featured Photo by x1klima

Garudan Thookam, A Strange Ritual Of Self Torturing

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