6 Insanely Violent Festivals You Won't Believe Aren't Riots
We're so afraid of celebrations getting out of hand that you can't even buy real fireworks in much of the Western world. Our definition of getting crazy is buying some plastic beads and showing off our boobs. But in some parts of the world, they still know how to party.
Sure, not everyone will survive the following festivals, but that just makes it all the sweeter for the ones still standing after ...
Explosive Sledgehammer Day
Doing stupid stuff to impress our friends is a grand tradition that has existed ever since one caveman discovered fire and another caveman tried to top him by demonstrating how close he could hold it to his balls. It was just a matter of time until somebody turned it into a holiday involving explosives strapped to sledgehammers. Swing said sledgehammer into the ground and ...
This absurdly dangerous tradition occurs every February in San Juan de la Vega, Mexico, and is part of a celebration of the village's namesake -- San Juanito, the patron saint of fuck yeah let's blow some shit up. We're having a little trouble working out the logic of celebrating a town's patron saint with exploding hammers -- but then who cares about logic, because that moment when the hammer meets the ground and you feel like a real-life Thor must be freaking magical.
"GET THEE HENCE ... GROUND!"
But of course when you have an entire village full of people pretending to be Asgardians with the help of not-pretend explosives, it's not all fun and games. People are injured every single year during these shenanigans -- a total of 50 in 2008 alone. And it's not hard to imagine how that could be the case when you watch the poor bastard at the end of this video, who got just a little overzealous about the amount of explosives he strapped onto his hammer. The resulting explosion flips him back like a rag doll and whirls the hammer out of the top of the camera frame, never to be seen again.
Maybe San Juanito caught it. Hopefully not in his saintly skull.
Manasa Devi Festival: Getting Bitten by Venomous Snakes (on Purpose)
As legend has it, an Indian man by the name of Lakhinder was bitten by a snake. Then, no surprise, he died. But his widow Behula prayed to the hindu god Manasa Devi, who brought him back to life -- and not even as, like, zombie-Lakhinder. So today, devotees to Manasa Devi celebrate this by hosting a traditional festival during which people bathe themselves in herbs and then let a bunch of cobras bite them.
That's right: They. Let. Venomous. Cobras. Bite. Them.
"I said bite my face! No ... stop licking my forehead!"
So why isn't this known as the Annual Mass Death by Snake Venom Festival? Well, like a Big Mac, the secret lies in the special sauce -- the herbs that they bathe in and eat prior to the festival. They're an herb called Eklavi that, according to the participants, nullifies the effects of the cobra venom. But goddamn, that doesn't change the fact that deadly venom is being pumped into their bloodstreams. Or that holy shit they're allowing cobras to sink their monstrous fangs into their flesh again and again:
Because you needed to see a better shot of this. You're welcome.
During the course of the festival, the villagers parade the participants around on litters with the snakes hanging from their skin like the most metal piercings ever. Also, the devotees aren't allowed to speak anything except mantras for the duration of the festival. Given the fact that they have snakes gnawing on them the entire time, we're thinking those mantras are something along the lines of "Ow ow that hurts snakes FANGS FUCK AAAAHHHH!" We hope at least one of them goes something like "Hey, guys? I think those herbs maybe weren't quite adequate protection and I need some medical attention now. Because I'm dying, you see."
Agni Keli: Throw Torches at Your Friends Day
Every year in April, an eight-day festival is held at Shree Kateel Durga Parameshwari Temple in India, and on the second night they host an event called the Agni Keli. During the Agni Keli, also creatively dubbed the Indian Fire Festival, thousands of spectators gather around the streets of Mangalore to watch a parade of bare-chested men march down the road and light hundreds of palm fronds on fire. These will soon be projectiles.
The best parties always start with shirtless men huddled around a fire.
They divide themselves into two teams and, for 15 minutes of hell on earth, play a big old game of Satan's dodgeball.
They've been doing this for centuries as a way to pay respect and show honor to their goddess Durga (presumably she's the goddess of gauze and poultices). The men each have five palm fronds that they're allowed to throw, after which they just have to stand there and try to look cool while dodging the opposing team's fiery assaults. Because even when it comes to pelting each other with fire, you've got to have some rules, goddammit.
Their only protection is a thin cloth tied around their waist, and if they get hit, their teammates spray them down with some special holy water called Kumkumarchane -- which we're thinking might be a bit of a mouthful to call out for when you've got a lit torch smoldering its way through your loincloth.
"Kum ... Kumkum ... OH DURGADAMMIT JUST PUT ME OUT!"
Scissors Dancing and Other Bodily Impairment
We all heard the old "don't run with scissors" line as kids, and the fact that most of us are still sporting two eyeballs as adults shows that we must have listened. In Peru, however, they seem to have a vendetta against overprotective mothers, because not only do they run with scissors, they dance with them. Oh, and also they stab them through various parts of their bodies.
Also, flying self mouth kicks.
La Danza de las Tijeras, or scissors dancing, is performed annually in the southern highlands of Peru. It's a competition where dancers go through a grueling physical and spiritual test -- the dances can last up to 10 hours -- to see who can push themselves the furthest. But dancing around in brightly colored outfits while holding some scissors is pretty tame compared to some of the other events we've shown you, right?
This is what happens when you run with scissors, kids.
At some point, someone decided that dancing with sharp objects wasn't quite extreme enough. So they go through all sorts of terrifying trials, such as jabbing rusty metal objects through their skin, lying on a bed of broken glass (while people stand on them), sticking themselves with pins, sticks and cacti and eating live animals such as frogs and snakes on stage. But why do they do all this?
When a guy's getting his tongue nailed to a harp with a rusty hammer, should we really ask why?
Peruvian scissors dancing dates back to the 16th century, when Spain had just "discovered" Peru and decided to make it their new backyard. The natives didn't exactly appreciate Spain forcing their newfangled Catholic religion on them, and by doing their traditional dances, they believed that they could be possessed by their old gods, the Huacas, thereby signaling their return to defeat Spain's robe-wearing bearded guy. The Huacas never did show up to punch Jesus in the face, but the Peruvians kept right on dancing nonetheless, and today scissors dancing makes for one hell of a tourist attraction.
"Get in the picture, honey, quick! Before he moves!"
Wat Bang Phra Tattoo Festival: Scary Tattoo Needles and Animal Spirit Possessions
Every March in Nakhon Pahom, Thailand, thousands of locals and adventurous tourists gather around the Wat Bang Phra temple, where they pray to the shrine of Buddha and pay their respects to the monks, who give special tattoos called sak yant. What's so special about these tattoos, you ask? Well, for one thing, they take an enormous amount of skill to create, because instead of using a normal mainstream tattoo gun, the monks use a horrifyingly gigantic needle, about 18 inches in length and 4 millimeters in width.
He's tattooing a dragon on that guy's kidney.
But there's more to it than just getting some bitchin' ink: The participants believe the sak yant are capable of bringing them spiritual and physical protection, and that they can possess their bodies with the spirits of the animals depicted. With these spirits, they believe that they become faster, stronger and resistant to pain, and during the festival many of them fall into trances and become literal party animals.
This guy's channeling a kitty. Hiss!
Throughout the day, with thousands of people praying in front of the Buddha statue, hundreds of tattooed men who've become possessed ("possessed" by tattoo ink fumes and sun exposure, we're thinking) start to scream and roar. And when they just can't hold it in any longer, they jump up and prowl through the crowd, launching themselves at the shrine like prepubescent girls at a Justin Bieber concert (prepubescent rabid girls, that is). They get so out of control that armed security guards have to be constantly at the ready to restrain them.
"HULK ... CLAW YOUR GODDAMN FACE OFF!"
And if you think these are just a few oddballs who got lost in the crowd, think again. Sitting in the crowd at this festival is like sitting inside a Street Fighter game, never knowing when the dude next to you will decide to power up a hadouken:
Indian Good Luck Babies: The Annual 50-Foot Baby Toss
In many parts of the world, it's considered completely unacceptable to do things like leave your baby unattended in a car, drop it off at the mall food court to fend for itself like a feral cat or chuck it off of a 50-foot building. What, you've never heard of that last one? Well once a year in Sholapur, India, mothers from around the region do exactly that for the sole purpose of securing "good luck" for their child. And damn, do these kids need it.
In the event that you didn't watch that video (and good for you), a bunch of babies are gripped by their teensy little wrists and their tiny little ankles, jiggled up a bit, and then dropped from the top of a 50-freaking-foot tower onto a bed sheet held taut by the crowd below. And the kids just look terrifyingly confused about the whole thing. Wait, what are we saying? Of course they do -- they're infants. They rely on the adults around them to know better than to pull shit like this.
"Seriously, all of you are ending up in a nursing home."
But besides the whole "desperate for some good luck" thing, this seems to be a practice that hundreds of Muslims and Hindus are pretty OK with. The ritual has been going on for over 500 years, and since there haven't been any reported injuries (emphasis on the "reported"), the tradition has carried on.
But that hasn't stopped people who were presumably not dropped as infants from speaking out against the practice, citing some pretty convincing reasons to abolish it -- such as "Hey, guys? You probably shouldn't drop babies off of buildings." But since the ritual takes place in a region of the world where good luck is in seriously short supply, it's likely going to take something damn compelling to convince them to cut this shit out.
And if the look on that kid's face doesn't convince them, nothing will.
You can check out more from Kier over at his blog, Makeshift Coma, or follow him on Twitter. When he's not busy being baffled by the things elephants can be trained to do, Gabriel is supporting an awesome band. You can follow XJ on his blog and on Twitter.
For more parties that got out of hand, check out The 7 Most Unexpectedly Awesome Parties in History and 5 Halloween Parties Too Badass to Be Real (That Totally Are).