Possessed devotees jump into heaps of thorns during a religious festival in Maharashtra.
In the local government school in Walhe where our CC Rohini sometimes volunteers, there is a teacher who invited her for this festival in his village of Gulunje, knowing that she was on the look-out for community stories. A similar festival takes place in Pune and other places in Maharashtra, but Rohini had never heard about it before. She immediately thought it might be a good story for a video and went to the festival with her camera.
According to myth, Shiva, the god of destruction, asked his sister to jump into a pile of thorns to prove her purity. To honour her bravado and confirm their belief in her goodness, men today do the same thing. When Rohini enquired as to why women don’t also jump, she wasn’t given an explanation. Rohini says that those who get possessed enter their own world, and one can see in this video that the devotees are unable to talk properly after this experience. Rohini is religious herself, and has seen people walk on coals as a sign of their devotion to various deities, and not get hurt. But she was never quite sure whether the devotees who did these things were playing some trick. However, after experiencing the Jyotirling va Shri Jyotiba Yatra festival in Gulunje, she is convinced that there is no trick.
“I saw with my own eyes those people who were possessed desperate to jump into a pile of deadly thorns. Still, nothing happened to them and they were all right. I am afraid of even a single thorn – and these people were not scared at all. This is how I know the spirit of God actually entered them. I think it is God’s power which protected them from getting hurt.”
This video is interesting to us for a number of reasons. It captures the kinds of festivals that are not documented in mainstream media. The fact that Rohini did not know about such an event taking place so close to her own village, even though she is Hindu herself, is an illustration of the vastness of Hinduism and the diversity of its localised celebrations. One also sees the uniqueness of the editorial perspectives that appear in community media coverage. Rohini captures the story from both sides, she is there both as a reporter who has never experienced this particular festivity but also as a member of this community who gets swept up in the same kind of religious fervor.