Legend has it that Lord Veerabhadra Swamy, a fearsome form of the Hindu god Shiva, and the Goddess Bhadrakhali fell in love and decided to marry. In order to tease his beloved, Veerabhadra Swamy declared that he did not want to marry anymore, which enraged Bhadrakhali and her clansmen, who decided to teach the deceitful groom a lesson by beating him with cow dung cakes. The other side retaliated, but the goofy battle ended in compromise and the much awaited celestial wedding. Today, the devotees of Kairuppala village celebrate their union by reenacting their mythical battle using the same unconventional weapons.
Mounds of dried cow dung cakes are heaped in the center of the village, and thousands of devotees split into two groups, the Veerabhadra Swamy side and the Bhadrakhali side. As participants arm themselves with cow dung cakes in one hand and towels in the other (for protection), thousands more villagers climb on nearby rooftops and in trees from where they can watch the battle without getting hit with a smelly projectile.
When the signal to start the battle is given, the two sides start flinging pieces of dried cow dung at each other, and keep at it for about a half an hour. As you can see in the videos below, they don’t hold back at all, and some combatants do end up with some minor injuries, which are treated with cow dung ash at a village temple. This year, about 50 people were injured in the cow dung cake battle.
But, just like in the legend that inspired this traditional battle, the ending is always a happy one, with the two sides coming together to celebrate the union of their two deities.
The annual cow dung cake battle of Kairuppala may look like an extreme celebration, but it’s nothing compared to Gotmar Mela, the brutal stone pelting war between the Indian villages of Pandhurna and Sawargaon. This tradition has participants use large rocks instead of cow dung cakes, and leaves hundreds seriously injured or even dead.