Thanks to their parents and a deep-rooted belief, babies in the Bagalkot district of south India’s Karnataka state unwittingly found themselves being tossed off the roof of a temple onto a sheet held by men waiting below, in a ritual that is believed to make them stronger.
On Monday, large crowds of devotees gathered at the Marutheshwara temple near Mudhol town in Bagalkot district to observe the ritual, locally known as ‘Okali’.
Eager parents presented their babies, who were between the ages of three months and two years, to priests at the temple who tossed them from the temple roof onto a cloth borne by a group of men standing below.
Though the ritual often evokes criticism, it is defended by devotees and priests, who feel that their belief necessitates a ritual that places babies at such huge risk.
A trustee of the Marutheshwara temple, Basavaraj, said that the ritual was an age-old one and it was important that it be respected.
“This is a ritual that we have been observing from ancient times. The important thing is for us to have the spirit of worship in our hearts, because true worship is from the heart,” he said.
Editors Note: A video of the baby-tossing ritual can be seen here.