Drought-hit people of Chikkamagaluru exhume bodies to ‘please rain god’

In the last 15 days, at least five bodies have been exhumed in parts of Ajjampura taluk

Updated - May 17, 2024 08:58 pm IST

Published - May 17, 2024 08:50 pm IST - Shivani (Chikkamagaluru)

Residents of Shivani village in Ajjampura taluk exhumed a deadbody and burnt it on Thursday.

Residents of Shivani village in Ajjampura taluk exhumed a deadbody and burnt it on Thursday. | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

People distressed over drought and desperate to keep their areca plantations alive in parts of Ajjampura taluk in Chikkamagaluru district have resorted to a rather macabre superstitious practice of exhuming the bodies of those who had leukoderma (vitiligo) from graveyards and consigning them to flames, believing that it brings good rain.

In the last 15 days, at least five bodies have been exhumed in parts of Ajjampura taluk. According to residents of Jaladihalli village, four bodies were exhumed in one night and then burnt within minutes. They maintain that the recent rains that the village received were a result of the custom they followed.

None allowed to record

Similarly, residents of Shivani, a hobli headquarters, exhumed the body of a woman who died a few months ago and consigned her mortal remains to flames on Thursday. “Hundreds of people witnessed the event. Surprisingly, within a couple of hours after completing the rituals, we received rain,” said a resident of the village. However, he refused to respond when it was pointed out that many villages and cities received rain on the same day, though they had not followed this custom.

In some cases, the family members of the dead raised objections to removing the bodies. However, the villagers convinced them, stating that it was being done in the interest of the entire village. “The areca growers of our village spent altogether about ₹1 crore to somehow safeguard their plantations in the last three months. We prayed to all deities and finally did the rituals to please the rain god. As the last option, they did this custom as suggested by the elders of the village,” said a woman at Jaladihalli.

It is said that the villagers conducted the ritual in a discreet manner. Nobody was allowed to take photos or videos of the ritual. When The Hindu spoke to Chikkamagaluru DC Meena Nagaraj, the officer said she was not aware of such incidents. “For the first time, I am hearing about such customs. We will verify if such things happened,” she said.

Offence under law

As per the law, exhuming bodies is an offense. “Only in the case of suspicious death can the bodies be exhumed for further examination, and only after following a strict legal process. However, those who engage in such practices and the people who provoke innocent people to indulge in such acts should be punished,” said K.P. Sripal, an advocate in Shivamogga.

Areca is the main plantation crop in parts of Chikkamagaluru and Shivamogga districts. The growers earn a minimum of ₹4 lakh per acre, given the prevailing price in the market. With failed rains, many have hired tankers to carry water from private borewells.

Kumar, who owns a borewell with a good yield of water at Shivani village, sold at least 3,500 tankers of water in the last 45 days. “I charged ₹500 per tractor tanker that carries 6,000 litres. Areca growers from many villages in Ajjampura taluk took water from my borewell. Besides that, I supplied water to many villages for drinking purpose free of cost,” said Mr. Kumar.

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