Bloody stone pelting marks ritual in hamlet near Shimla

Bloody stone pelting marks ritual in hamlet near Shimla

People take part in the traditional 'Pathar Mela', celebrated on the next day of Diwali at Dhami near Shimla. PTI file photo

Hundreds of ‘stone pelters’ took to the streets in village Dhami in Shimla on Thursday relentlessly hurling stones at each other in what first appeared like a typical unsavoury setting in insurgency-hit Valley.

Violent stone pelting by unmasked un-shielded men continued ferociously for over 30-minutes until blood dripped on the ground.

The first fall of blood marked the culmination of the ‘festival of stones’ yesterday as several hundreds of people gathered in the tiny hamlet, some 32-km from state capital Shimla.

Villagers in the area say they take pride in the fierce ritual that is witnessed by several tourists including foreigners a day after the festival of Diwali.

Thursday’s festival of stones is widely believed by locals to be potent enough to invite good fortune, even as this uncanny festival has mysterious unexplained ritual connotations albeit sans rationale. Stone-throwing has been a ritual in this village for over a century now.

One of the descendants of the erstwhile Royals of the Dhami estate dressed up in typical princely attire to grace the occasion. It's a contest showcased between descendants of the erstwhile royals and the locals.

The one who bleeds first in the bloody contest is considered fortunate. His blood is smeared on the forehead of Goddess Kali as a mark of obeisance.

The legend has it that the practice of stone pelting was introduced after the tradition of “Nar Bali” (human sacrifice) that prevailed earlier was discontinued.

Officials said all possible precautions are ensured before the start of the event as passions run high on both sides of the divide.

The legend has it that a woman from Halog village was engaged in the neighbouring princely state of Rangoili's royal. But due to age-old bitterness, residents of village Jamog poisoned the prince just before the marriage was to be solemnised.

The distressed woman burnt herself on the pyre of her fiancé. Angry villagers on both sides fought with stones in protest. To maintain the ethos of the festival, no outsider can participate in the event.