Religion is one of the many factors that hold a strong influence on mankind, in its own way. There are thousands of faiths all around the world which has been biasing the disciples from a very long period of time. Devotees have their own unique way of offering prayers and rituals to their Gods. Festival is another way of showing affection towards the divine. Festivals include various activities and traditions which are trivial and ghastly at the same time. One such festival is the Bani festival celebrated by Hindu devotees.
The festival is held by Devargutta temple in Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh, India during the Dusshera festival. The festival takes place at midnight when the procession idols of the ruling deities Malama ( Parvati) and Malleshwara(Shiva) are brought down the hill temple at Neranki. During the ritual people from three villages fight with a long bamboo stick( Lathi). Men, most farmers do not stir even if they get soaked in blood. The procession starts from the Dasara night and is continued till dawn. It solemnizes the killing of the demon by Lord Shiva’s reincarnation in the form of Mala-Malloshwara. A “victory parade” to commemorate the killing of the demon is continued till dawn.
Regarding the violence of the festival, various awareness camps were conducted. About one thousand police personnel at the venue are mostly limited to the audience. The records do not show many deaths due to the beating. According to the district police, several devotees are injured every year. The medical team is put out patrols and doctors are ready to stitch heads but many just apply turmeric on the wound and go about their business.
The temple authority refutes any suggestions of violence during the whole event. One of the priests, Ramkumar Shastri said ” It’s like playing dandiya with large sticks”, he also asserted that ” during older days people used to use axes, spears etc”.
The ritual in the region once under the Vijayanagar empire is said to be centuries-old and according to local police officials, it has one hundred years of recorded history. However, most ethereal side of the festival has not been discovered yet. The festival also includes several collaborations of artistic performances. The performers at Bani festival believe that along with dance it is also music that plays a crucial role in creating a quintessential performance.
The entire Bani festival brings out the message of victory of good over evil. It is celebrated every year by the artists, dancers, singers, and composers eventually creating a phenomenal journey.