“India lives in her villages.” - Mahatma Gandhi
As progressive as our metropolitan cities may be, and as dedicated to the chronicling of urban culture as we are, no one can deny that the heart and soul of India lives in her villages. While bigger cities remain as malcontent as ever, constantly struggling for a better life, continually moving towards a westernised existence, the rush to nowhere rarely touches these rural pockets and it’s this that makes them utterly unique. We’re prone to overlooking them as impoverished zones in an otherwise developed country, hereby labelling them unimportant, but recognizing the psychographics of rural culture in all its old world charm is one of our only links left while attempting to capture the essence of Indian culture.
Many months ago, we featured a list of India’s Most Unique Tribes--forgotten populaces with entirely tangential existences to our own, and it led us on a path to discover other such anomalous pockets the country seems prone to provide home turf to. With over 550,ooo inhabited villages in India, it wasn’t difficult to pull a few up for certain idiosyncrasies and other short stories. So without further ado, here they are--11 Indian villages whose quirks we couldn’t resist unfettering.
I. Kodinhi Village
Double Trouble Or Twice As Nice? Introducing The ‘Twin Town.’
This remote village of Kodinhi in Kerala attracted global attention when people came to know about the unusually high rate of identical twin births – 45 in every 1000 births. Dr. Krishnan Sribiju, a local doctor and himself a twin, has been studying the origin of twinning pattern and genetic predispositions in people indigenous to the village to be able to provide a scientific explanation for this occurrence. While India has one of the lowest twinning rates internationally, Kodinhi has a rate that’s at par with the highest twinning rate in the world, almost 700% higher than what’s average. This phenomenon, which is only three generations old, has been accounted to a natural anomaly rather than a genetic mutation.
II. Jambur Village
‘African by origin, Indian by nationality, Gujarati by language.’
In the heart of Gujarat, a seemingly normal village is home to the Siddi tribe – originally Bantu people of sub-Saharan Africa. However, today they exist as an ethnic group in various states all over India. The Siddis who were initially slave laborers under the Nawab of Junagadh, the Portuguese government of Goa and the Nizam of Hyderabad, are now Indian citizens and make their livelihood with farming, forest conservation work, casual labor, household help and other odd jobs. While the current Siddi generations do have some cultural lineage, they are more or less Indian-ized, in that they celebrate Indian festivals, speak the native language, watch local television and so on. In fact, the only rule that they follow rigorously is that they have to marry within the Siddi community. The Siddi tribe has also seen enough fame having been been a part of the Gujarat tourism video called “Khushboo Gujarat Ki,” and even other TVCs so clearly commercialization at the cost of their culture has already set in.
III. Shetphal Village
‘The Village of Snakes.’
In Sholapur district of Maharastra, there is a village called Shetphal where each house has a resting place for a live cobra in the rafters of their ceilings. More simply put, the houses are designed to aid the movement of snakes. Additionally, there is a temple with a copper image of a seven-hooded cobra over a Shiva idol. In spite of a live cobra in the house, there has never been an incident or a complaint of snakebite to date and it has become a matter of great pride for the villagers that their village has even been featured in several publications now. One way or the other, we’re not quite sure how comfortable we’d be being a guest here.
IV. Mayong Village
...Where Black Magic Thrives.
Mayong lies on the banks of the river Brahmaputra, approximately 40 km from the city of Guwahati and has earned its repute wering the stripes of ‘black magic’ proudly. Tantrism in Mayong village traces all the way back to the period of 8th and 9th century AD and history credits Buddhist monks for having contributed to shaping it in the 12th century, making the trantrism prevalent a rare combination of Hindu and Buddhist secret knowledge (gupta bidya) of which black magic is the foundation. Modern day Mayong, despite being close to the biggest city in Assam, Guwahati, is worlds apart from it. Either way, the fear of tantric curses hasn’t kept people away. Mayong is a tourist and archaeological attraction because of its rich wildlife, archaeology pilgrimage, voluntourism, adventure tourism, cultural tourism and river tourism.
V. Shani Shingapur
The Land of Blind Faith.
Shani Shingapur, a village in Maharashtra, is unable to boast of a single tourist attraction. Yet, the village attracts hoards of tourists every single year. Why? To witness first-hand, the faith of the local people. Their faith in Lord Shani is so deep seated that they don’t have doors in their houses and their valuables lie out in the open, because they believe that if someone dared to steal from them, god would punish them. The village hasn’t recorded a single crime or theft since, so perhaps we could all learn something from them.
The Ghost Town.
Once home to 1500 people, this little village in Rajasthan, near Jaisalmer, is now known as the ghost village. Over 200 years ago, an entire community threatened by the anger of unrequited love, left this village to tell the tale. The Paliwal Brahmins who once inhabited this village, were harassed by the Diwan of Jaisalmer and paid him large sums of money in form of taxes. He eventually set his eyes on the local Chief’s beautiful daughter. When he was tipped off about the Diwan’s intentions, the chief decided to flee the village. Fearing the other villagers might be subject to his wrath, everyone decided to disappear overnight, but not before cursing it – anyone that attempts to settle down in the village will inevitably face death. Today, Kuldhara has become a tourist attraction and Rajasthan Tourism has even restored a few of the houses.
VII. Piplantari Village
The Most Eco-Friendly/ Female-Friendly Village In India.
Piplantari Village in Rajasthan is truly killing two birds with one stone – they make a conscious effort to save girl children and they increase green cover by planting 111 trees every time a girl is born. The community ensures that these trees survive, attaining fruition as the girl grows up. Over the last 6 years, over a quarter of a million trees have been planted. Parents also are legally bound by an affidavit they sign stating that their daughter will receive proper education, will only be married after she reaches legal age and the trees planted after her birth have been correctly looked after.
VIII. Deshnoke Village
Where Rats Play God And Men Are Mice
About 30 kilometers from Bikaner in Rajasthan, lies a small temple village called Deshnoke. One of the most terrifying experiences according to the New York Post is a visit to the Rat Temple in this village. Over 15,000 rats inhabit the courtyard of this temple and locals believe that it is good luck if these rats scamper over your bare feet. Moreover, if you spot an albino rat amidst the black rats, it is considered to be very good fortune. Yeah, we’d rather live with some bad luck.
IX. Barsana Village
The Land of The Man-Bashing Holi.
Barsana Village is located about 45 kilometers from Mathura. Like most villages around in this belt, this village also has a deep connection to Lord Krishna. Flanked by hills on all four sides, the four hills are considered to represent the four heads of Lord Brahma. Barsana is also the birthplace of Radha, Lord Krishna’s love whom he never married. The village makes it to the list owing to the less than normal way they celebrate the festival of ‘Holi’. Lath Maar Holi is celebrated a little before the festival is celebrated around the country. During this celebration, men (or gops) sing provocative songs for the women (or gopis), who in turn chase the men away with laths or wooden sticks, leaving the men trying to protect themselves with shields. A chance to for women to return some of the violence to men? We’re not complaining.
X. Mattur Village
Keeping Sanskrit Alive.
Deep in Karnataka, on the banks of river Tunga, Mattur Village is home to people who converse with each other in pure Sanskrit daily. Even the vegetable vendors speak in this language. However, Sanskrit, considered by many as a dying language, thrives in a few pockets in India – Mattur being one of them. More than 90% of the population here is well versed and fluent in Sanskrit.
XI. Dah Village
The Village of Pure Aryans.
Dah village is perched on a ledge above Indus River gorge at an altitude of about 2200 metres above the sea level. The population of Dah village as per the 2001 Census was 542. A stream of crystal clear water flows through the village from where some water channels have been diverted in all the alleys in the village and also to the nearby agricultural fields. What’s unique about this village is that the origin of the inhabitants has been a matter of debate as they claim to be of pure Aryan breed whose ancestors migrated from South-Eastern Europe over 1000 years ago. Their facial features are dissimilar from those of typical Ladakhis, while music and dance are a way of life for them.
Other slightly atypical traits of the community include the colourful costumes of both men and women accompanies by flower decorations for their hair, living in complete harmony with nature, subsisting on a vegan diet, and their naturally cheerful and stress-free attitudes despite living in small rock shelters. Unsurprisingly, to keep their lineage as pure, Dards of Aryan villages do not marry outsiders. Their first preference is to marry within the village itself and if not, the second preference is to marry inhabitants of other Aryan settlements to keep the purity of their Aryan breed intact.