We Are in 2020 and Priests Are Still Walking on Women’s Backs So They Can Conceive

Social Commentary

We Are in 2020 and Priests Are Still Walking on Women’s Backs So They Can Conceive

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

It looks like we might find a cure for Covid-19 faster than that for superstition and blind faith.  In an unusual and bizarre ritual at Chhattisgarh’s Dhamtari district, nearly 200 married women yearning to conceive lay on the ground for religious priests and baigas (witch doctors) to walk over their backs, believing this act will “bless” them with children.

Unsurprisingly, this is by no means a one-off incident for the villagers.

Every year on the first Friday after Diwali, thousands of devotees attend the “Madhai Mela” to offer their prayers to the local Goddess Angaarmoti. A video from this year’s gathering shows childless women lying on their stomachs as priests walk on their backs to enter the temple, chanting mantras and holding flags.

Ironically, police officers are deployed at the event due to its large gathering as if the pandemic is long gone. Needless to say, no social distancing norms are followed or masks were worn, as the ritual is carried out with the knowledge of local administration.

The tradition is 500 years old and the “people attend the ritual with the firm belief, which shouldn’t be misinterpreted,” R N Dhruv, secretary, Aadishakti Maa Angaarmoti Trust told The New Indian Express. “It’s miraculous to find several married women now blessed with children after they attended the fair in the past,” he added.

Dr Dinesh Mishra, the chairperson of Andhshraddha Nirmulan Samit, disagreed, choosing to be the voice of reason. Speaking to TOI, Dr Mishra pointed out that these superstitious practices should not be encouraged especially “when science has progressed so much with innumerable solutions for conception.”

Kiranmayee Nayak, Chairperson of Chhattisgarh state commission for women, seconded his thoughts, stating that she does not endorse such acts. While no reports of injuries have been made so far, this practice could be hazardous to the health of women.

The videos and photos of the rather questionable tradition are truly shocking.

A different kind of pandemic indeed.

Why are our traditions rooted in patriarchy?

Are we really in 2020?