Rights Panel Bans Stone Pelting Ritual in MP

IGovernment (India), August 20, 2009

The centuries old tradition of villagers stoning each other during the annual Gotmar festival in Madhya Pradesh’s Chhindwara district will come to a halt this year with the state’s Human Rights Commission banning the practice that claimed a man’s life last year and left over 400 injured.

Describing the tradition of stone throwing as “inhuman and criminal”, the Madhya Pradesh Human Right Commission (MPHRC) has directed the district administration not to allow it henceforth, reports IANS.

“We will fully cooperate in the organisation and celebration of the festival but stone throwing will not be allowed at any cost this year,” Chhindwara District Collector Nikunj Srivastava said.

The Gotmar festival is celebrated every year on the day after the new moon in Bhadrapad month of the Hindu calendar. This year, it will be celebrated on August 21.

During the festival, men from Pandhurna and Sawargaon villages, located on opposite banks of the river Jamna in Chhindwara district, about 400 km from here, hurl stones at each other.

The members of both the teams also vie with each other to chop down a tree planted every year in the middle of the river. The group which manages to chop down the tree and remove the flag on top of it is declared the winner. It all happens while chanting prayers to Hindu goddess Durga.

The district administration, in order to contain the number of injured in the festival, introduced rubber balls instead of stones in 2001 and 2002 but participants did not like them and switched back to stones in 2003.

The district administration arranged the stones and also made preparations to immediately treat the injured. “We set up makeshift clinics in the close vicinity of the river,” an administrative official of Chhindwara said.

Although there are many stories behind the origin of the ritual, according to the one that has been accepted by everyone, a youth of Pandura village was trying to elope with his lover from Savargaon on a new moon night when the villagers of both the hamlets started throwing stones at each other, resulting in the death of the lovers. The fair is held every year in their memory.

At the end of the day, most of the 5,000 participants go to the temple of goddess Chandi, who, they believe, blesses them and makes their wounds heal quickly. They apply sacred ash on their wounds and later visit a temple of Lord Krishna and his consort Radha, so constructed that the first rays of the rising sun fall on the feet of the idols throughout the year.


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The festival is celebrated every year on the day after the new moon in Bhadrapad month of the Hindu calendar. {snip}

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There are many stories about the origin of the fair but the most popular is that a youth of Pandura village was trying to elope with his lover from Savargaon when the residents of both the hamlets started throwing stones at each other, resulting in the death of the lovers. The fair is held every year in their memory.

At the end of the day, over 5,000 participants go to the temple of goddess Chandi, who the villagers believe heals their wounds. They apply sacred ash on their wounds and later visit the temple of Lord Krishna and his consort Radha.

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