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Tookam (Hook -Swinging)

 
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 of Kali. 

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 11 times.

 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.


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