Thursday, August 20, 2009 If You Ever Wondered What an Indian Rock Festival Was Like...

... it's basically a bunch of idiots throwing stones at each other. Go Team!

Stoning festival banned

Thu, 20 Aug 2009 14:30

A centuries-old festival in which residents from rival Indian villages throw stones at each other — often leaving people dead or injured — has been banned, an official said on Thursday.

The annual Gotmar festival in an impoverished central region of the country involved teams competing to capture a tree placed in a river running between two villages as crowds pelted rocks and pebbles across the divide.

The origin of the custom is unclear, but many locals in Madhya Pradesh state believe it developed from the tale of two young lovers who lived on either side of the river and wanted to elope together.

As they tried to escape, residents of the two villages started throwing stones at each other and killed the couple, according to folklore.

In last year's clash between Saargaon and Pandhurhna, one person was reported killed and more than 400 injured.

District civil servant Nikunj Srivastava said the event, scheduled to be held on Friday, had been banned after the state authority Madhya Pradesh Human Rights Commission described it as "inhuman and criminal."

"The act of injuring each other by hurling stones is done in the name of tradition, but traditions like Sati are banned and so this is now banned too," Srivastava said.

"Not all local people support the stone-throwing but they do not speak out against it because they fear a backlash from the villagers who favour it."

Sati is the outlawed Hindu custom of a widow being cremated on the funeral pyre of her husband as an indication of her devotion.

Attempts to replace the stones with rubber balls in 2001 and 2002 failed as villagers refused to use them.

One of those who fought against the practice of widow-burning was General Charles James Napier, a governor in India under the British Raj. When locals complained about the British authorities outlawing the practice of sati, Napier is famously said to have responded:
"You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours."
I always dug that quote.