Piercing to please Lord Shiva

The people of Bainan in Howrah are determined to continue with 300 year old traditions, even at the cost of their lives

A sannyasin with a rod through his tongue at Bainan Charak


A sannyasin helps another to pierce a rod through his tongue


Bainan, a nondescript village in Howrah district comes alive on the night before Chaitra Sankranti. Devotees of Shiva, the sannyasins who have observed the month-long rituals of Gajan through Chaitra, gather at this village to follow a 300-year old tradition on this day. Enduring searing pain, these sannyasins pierce their tongues, cheeks, foreheads and even their chests and drive tridents and sometimes rods or needles through them to please the Lord. Enduring the pain and profuse bleeding, none of these sannyasins ever admit to pain. They go into a trance and dance in a frenzy to the rhythm of drums to please Lord Shiva. Although the same rituals were followed in other villages as well through the festivals of Neel Puja and Charak, the Prevention of Suicide Act has forced many places to give up the tradition. However, the people of Bainan, most of whom belong to the scheduled tribes, are determined to continue with this gory, ancient ritual.