Marry Aghori Sadhus

12 Unique Customs And Traditions In India You Should Know About

If traditions offer reassurance in the face of chaos, they can also frame seemingly mystical taboos. Join us for a huge cocktail of rituals and customs that go back to the first centuries of Indian civilization.

The Aghori Sadhus of Varanasi

The Aghori Sadhus ask monks who renounce all earthly possessions in order to obtain eternal spiritual liberation. These ascetic Shaiva sadhus engage in post-mortem rituals such as meditation on corpses, cannibalism, holding skulls as a reminder of the impermanence of life, and smearing their bodies with ashes, which is the final rite performed on a material body . Another important ritual is to take a bath in the Ganges before sunrise to cleanse yourself of all sins.

An Aghori sadhu | @ MikeBehnken / Flickr

The Hola Mohalla warriors of Punjab

Founded by Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth guru of Sikhism, Hola Mohalla is a three day event that usually takes place one day after the Holi festival in March. It's the start of the Sikh New Year and takes place in the small town of Anandpur Sahib in Punjab, turning it into a wild carnival. It shows the fierce martial arts of the Nihang Sikhs, as well as kirtan (religious chants), music and poetry, and ends with a glorious military procession.

The Buddhist chanting of Ladakh

In 2012 Ladakh Buddhist Chants were added to the list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The tradition of Buddhist chanting is celebrated every day in monasteries and villages in Ladakh. Buddhist lamas (priests) chant and recite the teachings and philosophy of Lord Buddha for the spiritual and moral well-being of believers. The ritual is performed in groups - monks wear traditional clothing and use bells, drums, cymbals and trumpets.

Buddhist monk | @ Zeepack / Flickr

Chhau dance by Odisha

Another important tradition from India, which it inscribed on the list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2010, is the classical Chhau dance performed by Odisha. The dance is used as a form of storytelling on stage, using lively male troops. It combines martial arts, acrobatics, athletics and its motifs, highlighting religious themes of Shaivism, Shaktism and Vaishnavism. This folk dance is egalitarian and celebrated every spring.

Chhau Dance | @Wikipedia

Thimithi also known as the fire-walking tradition of Tamil Nadu

Thimithi, which is also celebrated in countries like Sri Lanka, Singapore and Malaysia, originated in Tamil Nadu. The festival is held every year in October and November in honor of Draupati Amman, the wife of the five Pandava brothers in the Mahabharata. Male devotees perform the ritual by walking on a burning coal leaf while carrying a pot of milk or water on their heads for balance. The practice is a sign of total surrender to your beliefs.

A festival of snake worship: Nag Panchami

In Hindu culture, the snake's blessing is sought to bring peace and prosperity to the family. The festival usually falls in the months of July and August. Several stories of its importance have been told in various mythologies and folklore, including the Mahabharata, the Sanskrit epic. On this day, serpent deities made of silver, wood or stone are worshiped with offerings made of milk, sweets and flowers, and sometimes a real snake is used. It is also taboo to dig the earth on Nag Panchami as it could harm the snakes.

Ambubachi Mela, the tantric fertility festival of Assam

During the monsoon season in mid-June, Ambubachi Hindu Mela (festival) is celebrated annually in honor of Devi Kamakhya at the Kamakhya Temple in Guwahati, Assam. The festival celebrates the annual menstrual cycle of Devi Kamakhya aka the mother of Shakti (strength), who represents the nourishing power of a fertile land. The temple is closed for three days during the festival as Mother Earth is believed to have become impure during her time. After its purification, the temple is reopened, Kamakhya is bathed, and Prasad is offered. There is no idol of Devi Kamakhya, one Yoni -shaped stone is cleaned with water and covered with red cloth.

A yoni stone for the Ambubachi Mela | @Wikipedia

Lathmar Holi from Uttar Pradesh

The festival is celebrated before Holi in the neighboring towns of Nandgaon and Barsana near Mathura as "beating with sticks". This distinct style of Holi celebration is limited to these cities because, according to legend, Lord Krishna of Nandgaon visited his beloved Radha in Barsana on this day and the women playfully chased him away with lathis (long staves). The solemn gesture was reciprocated the next day by the men of Barsana invading the city of Nandgaon.

Lathmar Holi | @wikipedia

Transgender Festival in Koovagam, Tamil Nadu

For 15 days in May and April, India sees the largest festive meeting of transgender and transvestites in Koovagam in Tamil Nadu: They commemorate their patron deity Aravan by marrying him in the temple. According to Hindu legend, Aravan sacrificed himself in the Kurukshetra war. But Aravan wanted to get married in advance and grant his wishes. Lord Krishna turned into a woman named Mohini who, after her death, desperately broke her bracelets. Bangles are an important status symbol for married women in India. This tradition is carried out every year at the Aravan Temple in Tamil Nadu.

Sankirtana dance from Manipur

The Sankirtana dance is practiced by members of the Manipur Vaishnav community in the middle of a temple where the performers narrate the life and deeds of Krishna. Sometimes the performances are so intense that they move the audience to tears. The sole purpose of this dance and musical ritual is to gather the devotees in one place to glorify and celebrate the virtues of their god. In 2013, Sankirtana dance was inscribed on UNESCO's list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

A Pung Cholom dance that is part of the Sankirtana tradition | © Matsukin / Flickr

Wazwan, the royal kitchen of Kashmir

Many have called Kashmir heaven on earth, but only those who have visited know that there is so much more to the region than otherworldly valleys and pashmina scarves. Wazwan is less of a cuisine and more of a Kashmiri tradition. It's art served on a traem (platter) that includes a 36-course meal. The dishes are cooked overnight under the supervision of a master chef, a vaste waze . The guests sit in the group of four and share one traem. Kashmiri Muslims invoke the name of Allah before feasting, while Kashmiri Brahmins pray to Lord Rudra.

Kumbh Mela

The Kumbh Mela (Mass) is the largest gathering of religious pilgrims in the world. It rotates between the four pilgrimage sites in a 12-year cycle: Haridwar, Allahabad, Nashik and Ujjain. The last Kumbh Mela was held in Ujjain in 2016 and the next one will be in Haridwar in 2022. The main devotees are the Naga sadhus. Her lonely and extremely tough lifestyle revolves around a monastic way of life. The importance of mass for Hindus is to cleanse their sins by bathing in holy waters.


Author: Steve Nelson

Steve Nelson is a 36 year old journalist. Unexcused reader. Coffee pioneer. Travel instructor. Beer lover. Problem solver.