This is held in certain Bhagvati temples. When a person is dangerously
ill or in some bad situation, vows are taken that he would subject himself
to hook-swinging or other self-mortification to gratify the dreaded goddess
Kali under the deluded impression that the evil is caused by the anger
Hook-swinging is performed in fulfillment of vows made
to kali to propitiate her and gain her favour with a view to avert mishaps.
The performance takes place in the kali temple in the presence of the
goddess. The performer has to prepare himself early by undergoing some
sort of preliminary penance. He should attend the temple every morning
for the period of 41 days. After the bath and worship of the goddess,
he should abstain from animal food, intoxicants and also from the association
with women. His body has to prepare for the hook. For this, during the
morning hours, the body is rubbed with oil and is shampooed particularly
on the back. A portion of the flesh is by manipulation stretched and made
thin by constant rubbing. So that the integument may be pulled out.
The instructor teaches him to perform various feats in addition to this.
This sort of preparation goes on regularly till the appointed day arrives.
There are two kinds of Hook-swinging known as 'Garudan
Tookam' or kite-swinging and 'Thony Tookam' or boat swinging. For the
Garudan Thookam a sort of car is constructed which will rest on two axles
with four wheels. On this is set up a horizontal beam resting on two vertical
supports. The hook which is inserted through the integument on the back
of the performer is connected with a ring attached to the beam by means
of a strong rope. He is then raised or hauled up. Over the beam there
is a small decorated roofing made and beneath this the performer swings.
In some parts this arrangement is simplified by having only a small pole
on which rests a horizontal beam provided with a metallic ring at one
end. The beam act as a lever so that one end of it can be either raised
or lowered so as to give some rest to the swinger. The rope tied to the
ring is connected with the hook and the waist band of the performer.
For boat-swinging the same kind of apparatus is
used only that it is not set up on wheels. For kite-swinging the performer
has his face painted green, with a red coloured beak as that of the kite
attached to his mouth and he is supplied with artificial wings to simulate
the bird, Garuda-the Brahmani kite. He wets long locks of artificial hair
and performs the feats taught to him by his instructor from his perilous
position on the swing to the accompaniment of music with which the car
is drawn or the pole or the frame work is carried round the temple about
In boat-swinging the man has not to put on the
false wings and beak. Sometimes he carries a sword and shield in each
hand which he flourishes aloft while swinging. He has to put on a pleasant
countenance despite the excruciating pain he must naturally be suffering
then. The swinging is often done by proxy. The man who has taken
the vow engages a professional swinger, who swing for some remuneration.
In the case of children for whose benefit the vow has been made the swinger
carries the child in his arms while swinging the remuneration given does
not go beyond a few rupees. At present in many of the temples the victim
supports himself not simply on the hook attached to the ring but also
on a strong waistband attached to the poles or the frame work.
The origin of this form of worship is described, in
the fight between the goddess Kali and the demon Darika. The latter was
completely defeated and the Kali bit him on the back and drank his blood
to gratify her feelings of animosity. Hook-swinging symbolises this
incident and the blood-shed by the insertion of the hook through the flesh
is intended as an offering to the goddess.