It is monkey business of a different sort. Nearly 200 youths had their heads tonsured to ward off the ‘ill omen’ brought on by the death of a simian within the village boundaries.
Surprised? There's more. The monkey's last rites were performed in accordance with Hindu rituals and the ashes will shortly be carried off to Hardwar to be immersed in the Ganga.
Apparently still doubtful if the measures would fully wash off the taint of inauspiciousness, the villagers on Sunday organised a lavish mrityu bhoj (community feast after death) that cost around Rs 1.50 lakh and was attended by nearly 2,000 people.
The monkey was one of a pair of simians that strayed into Dakachya village in Sanwer tehsil, around 20 km from the district headquarters, on September 2. It turned out to be an ill-fated move.
"The pair was chased by dogs and one of them fell into a water-filled ditch and drowned," said village sarpanch Rameshji.
"We pulled out the body the next morning", said the sarpanch and pointed out that the "vanar raja", considered a form of Hanuman, was held in deep respect by the roughly 6,000-odd residents.
"Village elders said it was very inauspicious if a monkey died in the village and said the body needed to be cremated with full Hindu rites to avoid any misfortune befalling the village," Rameshji added.
The dead simian's body was taken out in a funeral procession to a cremation ground on the village outskirts on the banks of the Kshipra.
"It was while returning home after the cremation that we decided to organise a mrityu bhoj," the sarpanch told this reporter.
The feast was made possible through contributions in both cash and kind. "Villages contributed wheat for the chapattis while vegetables and other foodstuffs were purchased through cash donations," said the sarpanch.
Mithun Patwari, one of the organisers, said the mritu bhoj was originally to be held on the gyarveenh (eleventh day after death). “However, we later decided to shift it forward and hold it on the 12th day (Sunday) so that schoolchildren could also attend,” said Patwari.