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For this festival, better wear a helmet

Debidhura in Uttarakhand’s Champawat district likes to fight once in every year, shedding blood to keep a date with an age-old tradition, Bagwaal (battle of stones).

india Updated: Aug 06, 2009 23:56 IST
Deep Joshi

Debidhura in Uttarakhand’s Champawat district likes to fight once in every year, shedding blood to keep a date with an age-old tradition, Bagwaal (battle of stones).

And the date for it is fixed on Rakshabandhan (the bond of protection) day, celebrating the relationship between brothers and sisters. The festival is marked by the tying of a holy thread by the sister on the wrist of her brother.

And like in the past, the ‘battle’ was fought with brutal intensity this time too, leaving at least 50 people bleeding and a crowd of over two lakh utterly thrilled.

A throwback from Kumaon’s past, this show of gallantry, in which seven groups from nearby hamlets participate in combat fatigue, is organised in front of the shrine of Goddess Barahi Devi. Martial music is played in the background for special effects.

First, a puja is performed and then begins the ‘bloody’ show with the warriors raining stones on the rival camp amidst war cries and rounds of loud applause.

This time, the show went on for eight minutes, until, according to traditional beliefs, so much blood was spilled as an adult human being was supposed to have in the arena.

HISTORY HAS IT
Nobody except the people belonging to the district are allowed to participate.

Historians trace the origin of Bagwaal to the 14th century when kings of the Chand dynasty of Kumaon had their capital at Champawat.

The Chand kings were divided into two rival caste groups known as Mahar and Fartiyal.

WHY FIGHT?
Some call it ‘a reflection’ of Kumaon’s martial art traditions, while some call it a ‘rather evolved version of the ancient practice of human sacrifice.