Most people wouldn’t dare touch a scorpion for all the money in the world, but in one small Indian village, people actually seek out the poisonous arachnids and put them on their faces, or eve in their mouths, as part of a worshiping ritual.
Every year, on Naga Panchami, when most of India worships the snake god, the people of Kandakoor, about 20 kilometres from Yadgir, in the state of Karnataka, worship their Scorpion Goddess, Kondammai. Men and women, children and the elderly, all queues to go up a nearby hill called Chellina Betta (Scorpion Hill) and reach an idol of Kondammai, to which they offer sarees, coconuts and oil, and pray for good health and prosperity. After this ritual is completed, everyone starts looking for scorpions to play with.True to its name, the Scorpion Hill is practically crawling with scorpions so devotees don’t have to look to hard for them. A 2016 article on India Today claims that the scorpions show up in the thousands only on Naga Panchami day, and are not found in such large numbers on any other day, but that sounds a bit too hard to believe.
People pick up the scorpions without showing any signs of fear, and then let them crawl on their hand and feet, even their faces. The bravest of worshipers put the dangerous critters in their mouths, convinced that Kondammai will protect them.
Some sources claim that there have been no reports of scorpion stings in Kandakoor on Naga Panchami over the years, but that sounds impossible. However, most sources state that the number of stings has been very low. No fatalities have ever been reported on this bizarre festival.
The impressive scenes captured in Kandakoor during this annual scorpion worshipping ritual have attracted quite a lot of attention over the years, and the number of worshippers has grown every year. Nowadays, apart from the people of Kandakoor, the local scorpion temple also has thousands of devotees from neighbouring states like Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
India has its share of unusual rituals, like cracking coconuts on people’s heads for good luck, or getting trampled by cattle in the name of faith.