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Thursday, 22 August, 2002, 14:03 GMT 15:03 UK
Children buried in Hindu ritual
Young girls in India
Most of the children taking part in the ritual were young girls

More than 100 children have undergone a brief burial in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu as part of an ancient Hindu ritual to appease female deities.

The ceremony took place on Wednesday in the village of Perayur, about 50 kilometres (31 miles) from the southern city of Madurai.


Never has there been any casualty during the ritual in all these years

Village leader
The children, most of them young girls, were swathed heavily in cloth dipped in turmeric water before being buried in a pit and taken out after about a minute.

The ceremony provoked widespread media attention after a leading newspaper, the Indian Express, published a front page story on the subject.

However, local villagers in Madurai said there was no need to create what they describe as a "hype" by the media.

Age-old ritual

Locals say the ritual burial, known as Kuzhi Maatru Thiruvizha, has been taking place for more than 400 years and almost all those who take part do so in exchange for the fulfilment of a wish.

"Never has there been any casualty during the ritual in all these years," a local community leader said.

He said the children were buried for less than a minute and only up to their necks.

But eye-witnesses say the practice involves the children being buried completely for a few seconds.

The ceremony takes place once every five years, and was presided over this year by a minister in the state governement, C Durairaj.

He refused to say anything except that he had attended at the invitation of villagers.

'Free will'

Analysts say similiar rituals take place in other parts of the state, where superstitious beliefs make parents put their children through ceremonies that are potentially harmful.

But because most of these rituals appear to have the support of local people, the police are usually unwilling to intervene unless called to.

A young woman in central Madhya Pradesh state had to carry a heated rod on her palms recently to prove her fidelity.

Although the police did make some arrests at the behest of various women's organisations, the woman herself is believed to have told activists that she underwent the trial voluntarily.

See also:

01 Aug 02 | South Asia
24 Jul 02 | Country profiles
19 Aug 02 | South Asia
06 May 02 | Business
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