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Strange ritual: A whip descending on a young girl at the Achappan temple’s ‘lashing festival’ at Bavithram Vellalapatti, near Namakkal, on Monday.
NAMAKKAL: In a strange ritual, over 2, 000 women, including school-going teen-aged girls, who were ‘possessed’ by evil sprits were given vicious whips to “free them from these bad elements” at the annual festival of the ancient Achappan Temple at Bavithram Vellalapatti, a remote village situated on the border of Trichy and Namakkal districts, on Monday, the Vijayadasami Day.
The men priests cracked whips on the ‘possessed’ women, the salvation seekers.
Many of them were young school and college-going girls, who winced when they received the lashes and wreathed in pain on the ground. The long and wieldy whips, which descended on them in full ferocity, caused burning marks of wounds on them. Many were given three to four flogs to drive away the ‘multiple spirits’ that possessed them.
Vanita, a Plus-Two student from the nearby village, told The Hindu that she had to sit on the queue as her parents insisted. As she was not showing interest in studies, they believed that an evil spirit had possessed and preventing her from scoring high marks. “They forced me. Now my friends will look at me suspiciously once they know that I attended the festival, known for curing mental disorders,” she said.
Another girl, about 16, from a village in Dindigul district was brought to the ‘lashing ground’ because she was yet to attain puberty and another for her irregular menstrual periods. Even a newly-wed wife, accompanied by her husband attended it saying that in-laws had told her that she was ‘possessed.’
“A lash here will cure all these ills, physical and mental, that afflicts women,” said a 60-year old Chelli, a regular receiver of lashes in the temple for the past one decade. Her hands bore criss-cross marks of scars from wounds she received from the whips.
When asked whether the practice of using whips on adolescent girls is not a crime, the temple priest and co-ordinator Kulla Goundan of Kurumbar descent, said that it was not so. “It is a belief of devotees and the practice has been in vogue for long. We cannot alter,” he said. Nearly 10,000 people gathered for the festival, which concluded on Tuesday.
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