Prepared to Get Hit at the Bani or the Stick Festival of Karnataka

India is indeed the land of many unique festivals. Our festivals are based on our strong belief system and faith, and sometimes include exceptional traditions that make them so unique. Read on as we talk about the Bani Festival which is one such festival that is celebrated during Dussehra.

WORDS BY- SANGEETA S

THE Bani festival is celebrated every year during Dussehra in the Devaragattu Temple at Kurnool, in the state of Karnataka. The festival is also called the Stick Festival as people hit each other’s head with sticks during this festival. It is believed that on this day that the demon was killed by Mala-Malleshwara who is believed to be a reincarnation of Lord Shiva.
The festival starts on Vijayadasami when the idol of Shri Malleshwar and Devi Parvathi are carried in a procession and mock stick fight is performed. The lathi-hitting ceremony continues till dawn. There is a strong belief that if this ‘stick fight’ is not accrued out, Lord Malleshwar will get angry and bad luck will descend upon the land.

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It is also believed that participation in ‘stick fight’ will bring them good health and prosperity.The tradition of stick hitting is some 100 years old and, earlier axes and spears were used which later got replaced by lathis (wooden sticks). The ceremony starts in the evening when men hit each other’s head.

The faith is so strong that even with blood oozing out of their head, men do not stop with the hitting. They continue dancing and hitting with the belief that they are sacrificing their evil blood to the Lord.

It is believed that this custom of sacrificing blood will make them pure. Often major injuries also happen in the ceremony and medical help and police are deployed so that any emergencies can be handled.
The festival is not only about the stick fight but it has other cultural aspects too. A lot of cultural events takes place during this festival. Dance and music programs are organized to please Lord Malleshwar and Maa Parvathi.

The performances are full of devotion and display the strong bond between the devotee and the Lord. The whole idea is to cleanse one’s mind and become a good human being once again. It is also about the victory of good over evil.

DUSSEHRA FESTIVAL
Dussehra is all about the victory of good over evil. The essence being the same, the festival is celebrated in different ways by different communities. Some of the interesting ones are listed below:

Beggars Dussehra - The devotees dress up as monkeys, demons, Kings etc. and they beg on the streets for the whole day. The money is then deposited in the temple fund. This happens in Mutharamman Temple in Kulasekharapatnam, Tamil Nadu.

Bloody Dusshera – This is the Bani festival where the devotees hit each other with sticks to commemorate the killing of a demon by Mala-Malleshwara.

Flameless Dusshera – Here Ravan is not burnt but worshipped. There is a belief that Ravan meditated here for many years. This ceremony takes place in the Baijnath Temple, in Himachal Pradesh.

Floral Dusshera – Here floral decoration is done by the women in Andhra Pradesh. The decoration is offered to Maha Gauri Devi. It is an effort to make the Goddess alive.

Mandore Dussehra – Mandore is the birth place of Ravan’s wife Mandodari. So as Ravan becomes the son-in-law of the city, people here perform his shraddh on this day.