THOUSANDS of women and schoolgirls have been lashed by male priests during a disturbing ritual – to cast out “evil spirits”.
The horrific whipping festival celebrated annually at the ancient Achappan Temple in Triche, southern India, targets females who are said to have changed their behaviour.
Around 2,000 are pictured waiting in a long queue for almost five hours across a field outside the temple.
The priests, dressed in garish clothes, ferociously lash the women one by one, leaving them wincing and writhing in pain.
Their male family members stand behind a rope barrier to stop them intervening.
Many women were given up to four blows each.
Schoolgirl Vishakha, whose parents forced her to take part in the ceremony, said: “I had not been showing any interest in studies so my parents believed that I am possessed by an evil spirit.
“They forced me. Now my friends will laugh at me when they see the marks for attending a festival to cure mental disorders.”
Chinamma, whose hands were visibly sore from the whips, said justified the ceremony.
She said: “A lash here cured of my illness. I have immense faith in the lashing.”
Priest coordinator Killa Goundan insisted the ceremony was “the God’s will” and is an unchangeable part of the town’s age-old tradition.
Other teen girls were brought by their parents for either having irregular periods or not yet attaining puberty.
Some elderly women, who have been receiving regular lashes, came to the ceremony out of their own will, as they believe in the power of the whips.
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