Dozens of Hindu men in western India were nursing their bruises Tuesday after being trampled by cattle as part of an annual ritual to encourage God to answer their prayers.
In the centuries-old ceremony performed in the town of Garbada in Gujarat state and in other parts of the country, men lay on the ground and allowed decorated cows, considered sacred in India, to walk on them.
The ceremony was carried out Monday, the day after Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights — one of the key events on the Hindu calendar.
While the ceremony can be painful, “there has never been a case where a person has been injured seriously or died”, Bhadar Rathod, a tribal chief in Garbada, told AFP Tuesday.
The ceremony in Garbada, some 200 kilometers (160 kilometres) from the state’s main city of Ahmedabad, has become well known and is now something of a tourist attraction.
After offering prayers to the cattle, the animals are decorated with yellow, green, purple, pink and other coloured powder and embellished with peacock feathers while bells are tied to their legs.
The men then lie face down on the ground, holding their arms tightly against their bodies, and the cattle trample over them, prodded forward by other villagers, as others watch.
“It is believed that if a cow’s feet touches a person, his problems will be reduced,” a district official told AFP.
Indian villagers lie face-down in the paths of decorated cattle in a ritual at Garabada, on November 4, 2013