Throwing snowballs at each other has a charm unequal to others, cutting across all age groups. There are several variants of this playful game in different forms and rituals in multiple cultures all over the world. Tomatino in Spain is very famous. Gorehabba has all the ingredients to be at the top of the shelf in this genre.
Gorehabba is an annual ritual celebrated in a small village situated on the Karnataka-Tamil Nadu border. With the spirit of snow fight intact, villagers in this south Indian landscape gather on the next day of Diwali to toss cow dung at each other.
Hundreds of villagers gather at Gumatapura and joyfully splash fistfuls of cow dung at each other to mark the end of the Diwali festival.
The Gorehabba festival begins with the afternoon collection of cow dung from homes in the village and is brought behind the Beerappa temple on tractor trolleys. Next, pooja is performed at the Karappa temple, about one km away from the Beerappa temple. On the way back after pooja, one person is designated as a Chadikora (sneak) fixed with a mustache and beard made of grass, seated on a donkey and brought to the temple in a procession.
Reaching the temple, the Chadikora’s mustache and beard are removed and buried in the heap of dung. Pooja is offered and as a green signal for the fun to begin, a lump of cow dung is thrown at the priest. Every single person in the village is pushed into the pit and smeared with cow dung. Thousands of people from the nearby villages gather to watch.
Thereafter, an effigy of the Chadikora is made and burned on a hillock nearby. People wash themselves in the lake, come back to the village and abuse the Chadikora. It is believed that getting covered in cow dung cure people of all kinds of disease.
In Hinduism, the cow is considered sacred and for centuries Hindus have used cow dung for prayer rituals. This is not the only festival of this kind in India. For Ugadi (Telugu New Year) in April, nearly 4,000 people from Kurnool’s Kairuppala village divide themselves into two groups and hurl cow dung cakes at each other.