|near Periyakulam, Coimbatore dist. breaking coconut on the head. Daily Thanthi|
|breaking coconut on the head. Daily Mail. Daily Mail|
|breaking coconut on the head. Daily Mail|
The breaking coconut on the head has been around for a long time and it involves smashing of a coconut on the head of a devotee in a plea to the gods for good health and success. In a chosen place preferably in a temple, devotees gather around the Pujari (mostly non-Brahmin priests) who smashes a coconut on their skull. Most of the people get up and walk out as if nothing has happened. Some people rub their heads after this strange event. This ritual is performed as a sort of thanksgiving to the deity after their wish has been granted by the deity.
The priest breaks the coconut one by one on the devotees who sit around him and he does it in a quick succession without deviating from the center part of the skull. This ritual is followed in certain parts of Karur, Coimbatore and Madurai districts in Tamil Nadu.
|MarcosPower1996 - DeviantArt|
In the case of Mahalakshmi temple situated in Mahadanapuram, 23 Kms. from Karur town, the ritual coincides with the annual Adi festival. In some places it is a two day festival and is prevalent among certain casts. At any given place more than one thousand devotees participate in this baffling ritual and head injuries with bleeding do occur because of extra force used by the priest or the impact of the coconut is on the sides of the skull. Prior to breaking the coconut, puja is done to the deity, then the priest, in some cases, goes into a trance and stands on a bed of sharp nails. Once he comes out of the trance, he does a brief puja and then begins to break the coconut in succession on the waiting devotees that include elderly people women and teenagers.
The devotees who come to the temple to have the coconut broken on their head are expected to have head bath in the morning before morning puja at home. They should refrain from non-vegetarian food on this ritual day. Another condition is the couples should practice celibacy to uphold the sanctity of this ceremony.
According to the villagers, this tradition began during the colonial period when the British were laying the railway tracks through the villages. When asked to change the course of the tracks, the foreigners told them with sarcasm that if they could break the coconut-like stones lying on the ground there with their head, then they would change the track line. They villagers did break the small stones with their head through trance and prayer and the tradition continues even to day.
Because of the sensitivity involved in matters related certain prevailing religious practices, the government does not want to interfere. The Human Rights Commission makes an hue and cry about such dangerous practices and it is of no use. As for doctors, they say though the skull is resistant to a certain level of tolerance to impact, such practices are deadly and hazardous to health. Their contention is if the coconut does not break, there is no release of energy, positively it may cause head injuries. Despite warnings by the doctors, people do not want to give up the tradition that has been around since the time of the British.
|MarcosPower1996 - DeviantArt|