The small Indian village of Gummatapura is famous all over the world for its unique way of ending the annual Diwali celebrations: a massive cow dung battle called “Gorehabba”.
If Spain has La Tomatina, a famous battle with tomatoes, and Italy has the traditional Battle of Oranges during popular Ivrea’s Carnival, India has Gorehabba, a cow dung battle to end the important Diwali festivities. Diwali is literally the Festival of Lights, celebrated by millions of Hindus, Sikhs and Jains across the world. Diwali, which for some also coincides with harvest and new year celebrations, is a festival of new beginnings and the triumph of good over evil, and light over darkness. Usually lasts five days and is celebrated during the Hindu lunisolar month Kartika (between mid-October and mid-November).
Well, maybe it may seem like an insult to such important Indian festivity, but only to those ignorant to the importance and significance of cow dung in Indian culture.
Poop is held in such high regard that companies use it as an ingredient for beauty products, handcrafted art, and even radiation repelling devices.
And some claim it can even ward off the coronavirus…
So yes, hurling cow dung at each other was far from disgusting for the dozens who participated in Gorehabba!
The day of the cow dung battle begins with the collection of “ammunition” from cow-owning homes in the village of Gummatapura, on the border between the states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
Then it is piled onto tractors pulled by cattle adorned with marigold flowers, and brought to a local temple where priests perform a blessing ritual.
The blessed cow dung is dumped in an open area of Gummatapura, and topless daredevils rush to it to prepare their projectiles.
The battle is a fierce one, with bits of manure flying all over the place, and if you are brave enough to stick around to film the event, be careful as you risk getting hit by stray shrapnel!
For the young men taking part in Gorehabba, hurling and getting hit with balls of cow dung is both about fun and a belief in the benefits of manure. Many believe that simply touching the blessed dung with your hands, you can be cured of all diseases, and you also have a big chance of never getting sick.
(Author’s note…that’s a big deal, especially during a global pandemic).
In any case, if you’re wondering how the Gorehabba cow dung battle began, apparently locals believe that one of their deities, Beereshwara Swamy, was born in cow dung.
And, Interestingly, this is not the only famous cow dung battle in India. The people of Kairuppala, a village in India’s Andhra Pradesh state, also engage in an epic cow dung cake battle which count dozens injured every year. They believe the tradition brings them good health and prosperity. But this is another story….