“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 beats in her villages. While bigger cities find their identity trying to play catch up with their constant evolution, village life isn’t distorted by a rush to nowhere. Sometimes this is what blinds us to them, and their simplicity. Lost, somewhere in between our omnipresent internet connection and vibrations of our smartphones, we’ve forgotten that the essence of india reverberates in the sounds of the village. Oftentimes in our ignorance painted by big city life, we miss out on lessons that are nothing short of revolutionary, taught only beyond the reach of our phone signals.
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 that exist in the country. With over 550,000 inhabited villages, it wasn’t difficult to pull a few up for certain idiosyncrasies and other short stories. So without further ado, here they are—16 Indian villages whose quirks we couldn’t resist unfettering.
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 the twinning pattern and genetic predispositions in people indigenous to the village 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 the average is. This phenomenon, which is only three generations old, has been accounted to a natural anomaly rather than a genetic mutation.
African by origin, Indian by nationality, Gujrati by language
In the heart of Gujarat, a seemingly normal village is home to the Siddi tribe – originally Bantu people of sub-Saharan Africa. 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 through farming, forest conservation work, casual labor, household help and other odd jobs. While the current Siddi generation has some element of a distinct 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, marking the onset of commercialization at the cost of their culture.
The village of snakes
In the Sholapur district of Maharashtra, there is a village called Shetphal where each house has a resting place for a live cobra in the rafters of their ceilings. 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 an idol of Lord Shiva. 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.
Where black magic thrives
Mayong lies on the banks of the river Brahmaputra, approximately 40 kilometres from the city of Guwahati, and has earned its repute wearing the stripes of ‘black magic’ proudly. Tantrism in Mayong village traces all the way back to the period of 8 and 9 century AD and history credits Buddhist monks for having contributed to shaping it in the 12 century. The tantrism practiced here is 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 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.
The land of blind faith
Shani Shingapur, a village in Maharashtra, cannot 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 maybe there is something to be said for living life as an open book after all.
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 the 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.
The most eco-friendly/ female-friendly village in India
Piplantari Village in Rajasthan shows us how to twofer, otherwise known as two for one – 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.
Where rats play god and men are mice
About 30 kilometres 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.
The land of the man-bashing Holi
Barsana village is located about 45 kilometres from Mathura, and like most villages around in this belt, it too has a deep connection to Lord Krishna. Flanked by hills on all four sides, the 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.
X. Mattur Village
Keeping Sanskrit alive
Deep in Karnataka, on the banks of river Tunga, Mattur is home to people who converse with each other in pure Sanskrit on a daily basis. Sanskrit, considered by many as a dying language, thrives in a few pockets in India – Mattur being one of them. More than 90 percent of the population here is well versed and fluent in Sanskrit.
The land of pure Aryans
Dah village is perched on a ledge above the 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 southeastern 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.
Treating open defecation with a warm greeting
Open defecation has been an inevitable problem in India. With increasing public lavatories in cities, the urban frontier is getting rid of this problem but it still persists in the villages. To combat this problem a village named Bekkinakeri, in Karnataka, came out with a unique solution when they realized that requesting people to stop wasn’t working. They targeted all the popular public defecating spots and stationed themselves there. Each time a culprit attempted to defecate; they would appear out of nowhere and wish them ‘good morning’. Embarrassed to be caught in a compromising position, they would pull up their pants and run away. This worked wonders and now no perpetrator in close proximity to any of these spots. What an idea sirjee!
You don’t have to wait for the first of the month anymore
This village in Haryana distributes sweets each time a girl child is born. The village also has a woman as their Sarpanch who has been making constant efforts to change people’s mindset towards women. She has enabled women in the village to walk around without covering their heads. Haryana has the lowest girl ratio and she intends to change the figures in the years to come.
The village with an IAS or PCS officer in each house
The first civil servant from this village was a man by the name in Mustafa Hussain (father of the poet Warniq Jaunpuri), in 1914. The village was then hit by a dry spell and the next person to clear the exam was Indu Prakash, in 1952. Now, every family in the village has either one IAS or PCS officer. In fact, don’t look too surprised if you happen to have an encounter with a family filled with civil servants! Ironically the village hasn’t had much improvement in spite of being flourished with civil servants and still suffers from pot-holed roads, basic medical facilities and irregular electric supply.
The land of the IITians
Traditionally known as the land of weavers, this small village in the Gaya district of Bihar, now has a better reason to be well known for - they have a ridiculously high ratio of students studying in Indian Institute of Technology across the country, and almost every child has this institute as their Alma mater.
All the world’s a stage
Heggodu is a village located in the Shivamogga District of Karnataka, with a population of approximately one thousand. It is a village that thrives on its love for Shakespeare, Brecht and Isben, to name a few. You’ll find bullock-cart drivers who discuss French cinema, performances of renowned literary works, literary debates between farmers and shopkeepers, and a library that boasts of films and plays sourced from all over the world. It also houses Ninasam, one of south India’s premier theatre institutes that also hosts film screenings and plays for the village to enjoy.