Hundreds of Indians Fast to Death Every Year in Ancient Santhara Ritual

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Fasting is a common religious practice in several cultures across the world, but few are as hardcore as ‘Santhara’. The exacting ritual is a part of Jainism, one of the oldest religions in the world, and it involves participants making an oath to stop eating until they literally die of starvation. According to the Jains, this is a surefire way to purge oneself of bad karma and achieve ‘Moksha’ – liberation from the worldly cycle of death and reincarnation.

Every year, hundreds of Jains across India take up the onerous oath – some are monks, others are ordinary people. Interestingly, over 60 percent of the participants are female, and it is believed that women are more strong-willed than men. The practice is more popular with Jains who are ill or dying, but healthy people are also known to participate.

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Indian Hindu Leaders Launch Beauty Products Made with Cow Dung

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The Visha Hindu Parishad (VHP), a right-wing non-governmental organization in India, has recently launched a line of beauty products containing two very special ingredients – cow dung and gau mutra.

“The use of gau mutra in medicines and beauty products will help farmers and prevent them from selling cows. Ayurveda talks about use of cow dung to prevent pimples. But people are reluctant to use dung, which is why we are making beauty products out of it,” VHP leader Venkatesh Abdeo said. Just to be clear, gau mutra is not some miracle plant but plain old cow urine, which has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries.

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8-Year-Old ‘Human Calendar’ Can Accurately Calculate Any Day-Date Configuration until 2068

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At first glance, Aryan Parab looks like a regular eight-year-old kid; he likes going to school and playing football with his mates. But ask him a few questions about future dates and you’ll realize that he’s actually a mathematical genius with superhuman computational skills. The boy can work out the day on which any date falls, up to the year 2068, within seconds – faster than his friends can open their iPhone calendars!

Aryan lives in Mumbai, India, with his parents who work as software engineers. He discovered his unique skill earlier this year when he was talking about birthdays and found that he could accurately predict the days of his friends’ birthdays several years into the future. His unique talent has now made him popular as a child prodigy and he regularly entertains audiences with his precise predictions.

His third-grade teachers say that Aryan is also brilliant with numbers. According to his grandfather Suryakant Bhosle, “He loves numbers, and is constantly playing around with dates in his head and coming up with statistics. He is gaining more insight over time, and locks himself up in his room during summer vacation to draw calendars.”

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Indian Temple Has 600 Barbers Shaving 20,000 Heads a Day

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The Seshachalam Hills in Southern India are home to one of the nation’s most popular pilgrimage destinations – the town of Tirumala. Each year, millions of pilgrims display their devotion for the presiding deity, Sri Venkateswara, in the most bizarre fashion – by tonsuring their heads!

There’s actually a rather interesting story behind the unusual practice – according to ancient lore, Sri Venkateswara is believed to have taken a loan in order to fund his own wedding celebrations. The debt was so huge that he continues to pay it off to this day, and requires assistance in doing so. And his devotees are more than happy to help by donating their hair to the cause.

The local temple receives donations from at least 20,000 devotees each day, so they’ve employed a whopping 600 barbers to get the job done. The tonsuring takes place in a specially designated building that’s separate from the main temple, and also at 16 smaller locations around town. Thousands of pilgrims sit cross-legged on the floor with their heads bent forward, as the barbers work their scissors and razors at lighting speed.

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The Most Remarkable Newspaper in the World Is Written by a Bunch of Indian Street Kids

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‘Balaknama’, or ‘Children’s Voice’, is a quarterly publication that’s completely written and run by children living in New Delhi’s slums. With a readership in the tens of thousands, the newspaper is being hailed as one of the most impressive in the world.

Backed by the Indian non-profit organisation Chetna, Balaknama publishes contributions from a federation of Indian children who work for a living and live off the street. It started with only 35 child-contributors, but the stories come from various Indian states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Andhra Pradesh.

Written in Hindi, the paper covers a range of serious subjects that highlight the problems faced by Indian street children. A typical issue would contain articles related to topics like police brutality, child marriage, and illegal child labor. It’s not what you’d expect from a children’s newspaper, but Balaknama is known for reporting hard truths and harsh realities.

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World’s Largest Turban – Indian Man Wears Headgear That Weighs 100 Pounds

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Avtar Singh Mauni, from Punjab, India, is the proud owner of the world’s largest turban. The devout Sikh’s enormous headgear consists of no less than 645 meters of fabric, weighing 100 pounds. It took him a staggering 16 years to assemble, and he needs to spend six hours just to put it on. And you thought you had problems getting ready in the morning!

The 60-year-old is rather proud of his unusual, multi-colored turban; he declared that he will continue to wear it until he has no strength left in his limbs to carry it. “I don’t consider it a burden. I’m most happy when I wear it,” he explained.

In fact, Avtar Singh is so used to the turban that he finds it odd when he isn’t wearing it. “On the rare times I don’t have my turban on, I keep getting this feeling of being incomplete, that some part of me is missing,” he said. “I get afraid that I may fall and I keep wondering ‘have I lost something, where is my turban?’”

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Indian Priests Smash Coconuts on Devotees’ Heads in Bizarre Good Luck Ritual

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Every year, thousands of devotees travel to a remote village in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu to put themselves through a gruesome ritual that they hope will bring them good health and success. Believe it or not, men, women and even children willingly permit priests to smash hard coconuts on their skulls!

Breaking coconuts on a sacred stone as an offering to the deity is a common practice in South Indian temples. But breaking them on one’s own head is quite rare, and viewed as an extreme display of devotion. Several devotees squat on the floor in a line, waiting patiently as the temple priests approach with a sack of coconuts. One priest holds the heads firmly, while the other one brings down the coconuts without hesitation. The whole process is completed in a matter of minutes.

Some devotees can be seen wincing in pain as the coconuts come crashing on to their heads. Some massage their heads, while others promptly collect the broken pieces as holy offerings. Surprisingly, there are a few who don’t flinch at all – these people are often in a deep meditative state of prayer. Nonetheless, medical staff are always present to tend to serious injuries.

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The Amazing Story of the Suicidal Man Who Became India’s Famous Monkey Climber

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Several years ago, young Jyothi Raj was a depressed man – he chose a rock and decided to climb it before plunging to his death. The huge rock presented a dilemma – there was no easy route to reach the top. But Jyothi Raj managed to scale it anyway, by observing and emulating the monkeys around him. And when he got to the top, he was rewarded with cheers and claps from passers-by who had observed his feat. He didn’t want to die anymore. Instead, he became India’s most famous monkey climber.

“A monkey is the world’s best climber. Humans came from monkeys. But I have it backwards. I’m turning into a monkey from being a human,” Jyothi said with a smile.

Jyothi Raj’s story is a rather sad one – he was born to a poor family in the state of Tamil Nadu, Southern India. Fearing punishment at the age of seven, he ran away from home to Bagalkot, in the nearby state of Karnataka, which he made his new home. “I don’t remember how I ended up here,” he said.

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What Is It with Wealthy Indian Men and Solid Gold Shirts?

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When we wrote about Datta Phuge, an Indian businessman who owns a 3.2-kilogram solid gold shirt, we thought that his was a unique story. But it turns out there are other rich men in India obsessed with gold – like Pankaj Parakh, a businessman and local politician who celebrated his 45th birthday by gifting himself a 4-kilogram gold shirt worth over $200,000.

Pankaj is a textile magnate from the town of Yeola, near Mumbai city, who made his millions through his clothing empire. He now wants to make sure the rest of the world knows about his success. And what better way to flash his wealth than by wearing it? So he commissioned the solid gold shirt that he wore on the occasion of his birthday, last Friday.

The yellow metal shirt was designed by Bafna Jewellers in the nearby city of Nashik. The garment was then meticulously executed at Shanti Jewellers in Mumbai, by a team of 20 select artisans who spent 3,200 hours over the past two months ‘sewing’ the shirt.

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New Delhi Restaurant Run by Indian Convicts Proves Big Hit

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Tihar Food Court, a new restaurant in New Delhi, serves its customers a regular fare of north Indian dishes – rice, flatbreads, lentils, samosas, and more. You’d probably get to eat these dishes at many other restaurants in India’s capital, but here’s what’s special about Tihar Food Court – the food is prepared and served by convicts serving time for murder at New Delhi’s infamous Tihar Jail.

The restaurant opened earlier this month within the sprawling Tihar complex – South Asia’s largest prison – as a rehabilitation effort on an experimental basis. It is a rather simple eatery with indoor and outdoor seating for around 50 customers, and cream colored walls decorated with paintings made by prisoners. The small staff consists of a manager who is also a police constable, and seven convicts who have displayed good behavior over several years of imprisonment.

To be eligible to leave prison for a few hours of work at the restaurant, inmates must have a high school education and need to have maintained an ‘unblemished’ record for at least 12 years. They mostly pick prisoners who are due to be released within two years time, so they don’t feel too tempted to escape. The inmates walk or ride a cycle to work everyday completely unsupervised, as the authorities apparently trust them enough not to provide an escort.

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The Indian Strongman Village Where All the Men Train to Become Bouncers

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For centuries, farming was the main source of income for the people of Asola-Fatehpur Beri, twin villages in northern India. But in recent times, the men of Asola have managed to completely reinvent themselves – from poor farmers to strong, well-built bodyguards. Today, almost 90 percent of the men from the 50,000-strong village are employed as bouncers at night clubs in nearby cities like New Delhi.

“In this village, there is not a single boy who does not go to the gym,” said Vijay Pahelwan, head trainer at the local ‘akhada’, or gym. “All boys exercise. They are very careful towards their body. No one drinks and no one consumes tobacco.” Most boys take up wrestling at a very young age in the hopes of making it to the Olympics. But they always have the option of becoming a bouncer to fall back on.

Young wrestling student Keshav Tewar, for instance, spends most of his time at the gym. “No matter what other job I get when I grow up, I’m going to be a bouncer,” he said. “Bouncers have fit bodies and I want to make my body fit too.”

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Indian Man Claims He Can Help People Lose Weight with Ultrasounds He Emits from His Vocal Cords

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A lot of people want to lose weight quite badly, but is there anyone desperate enough to try this Indian man’s weird technique? Jigar Shah, from the city of Ahmedabad, claims that he can induce weight loss in a person just by using his vocal cords to emit ultrasounds. He also says that he’s helped cure several people suffering from hypertension, depression, asthma, aches, kidney failure and even cancer, using the same technique.

According to Jigar, his vocal cords are capable of emitting ‘ultrasound’, which he describes on his website as a ‘very high frequency massage that can penetrate up to 5 inches below the skin’s surface’. Conveniently, the frequency is not audible to the human ear. So when Jigar opens his mouth and says that he’s emitting ultrasound waves, there is really no way to tell if he’s just pretending.

His website also tries to explain how the technique works: “Leaving the surrounding tissues untouched, ultrasound therapy for spot fat reduction and weight loss targets the fat layer of the skin, forcing fat cells to release triglycerides which are then processed by the body’s natural fat burning process. The empty fat cells shrink and are expelled as body tissue waste. The results are less fat in the treatment area with visible inch loss and reduction in body circumference.”

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Indian “Snake Man” Charms the World’s Deadliest Snakes

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40-year-old wildlife conservationist Vava Suresh has a way with snakes. His life’s mission is to ‘love and guard’ even the most venomous of slithery creatures – he’s already rescued over 30,000 snakes so far. His unique talent and hobby have earned him the nickname ‘Snake Man’; people all over the South Indian state of Kerala summon his expert services when they want a snake safely removed from their homes.

Suresh, who was born into a poor family in the city of Thiruvananthapuram, has a completely different perception of snakes than most people. He says that they’re gentle, lovable creatures that need kindness and protection from humans. “Snakes are a part of my life since childhood,” he said.

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Color-Obsessed Real Estate Agent Surrounds Himself with Red and White

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In a bid to make himself instantly recognizable, an Indian real estate agent has surrounded himself with the colors red and white. The man is so obsessed with these colors that they feature in all his clothes, in his car, and his home. He even buys his toothpaste in a red-and-white tube, with a toothbrush to match!

52-year-old Sevenraj, a real estate agent based in Bangalore, developed a fixation with red and white after he realized that it was a great gimmick to get people to notice him. His inspiration comes from Mahatma Gandhi, who was always clad in white. “Mahatma Gandhi is recognized by his glasses and bare torso with a white towel, so I had to do something similar to be recognized by one and all,” he said.

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You’re Not Really a Vegetarian Unless You’re Drinking Vegetarian Water

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An Indian home appliance company recently introduced the idea of ‘vegetarian water’ in an ad campaign, to appeal to their predominantly vegetarian customer-base. It might seem absurd, but they’ve tried hard to make it sound convincing – they claim that their new product, the Prestige LifeStraw water purifier, ‘gives only pure and vegetarian water’.

“Pure vegetarian water? Must be an advertising gimmick!” the newspaper ad declares. And then it goes on to give reasons why it isn’t a gimmick. “Most purifiers claim to kill all viruses, bacteria and germs,” the ad reads. “But the chemically killed microorganisms remain in the water, making it safe, but effectively non-vegetarian.” Consuming dead creatures in your water, they imply, is against the principles of vegetarianism.

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