Cow dung fights bring good health in Gorrehabba festival

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Gorrehabba Festival

In the village of Gumatapura, Tamil Nadu, India, they believe that playing with cow dung brings good health. The tradition stems from a belief that the god Beereshwara Swamy was born in cow excrement. This belief results in villagers throwing cow dung at each other like snowballs during the Gorrehabba festival marking the end of Diwali.

Gorrehabba Festival

Gorrehabba Festival. Video screenshot.

Cowpats are gathered from fields and brought to the temple on tractors pulled by cattle adorned with flowers. At first a blessing is performed before the villagers start throwing faeces at each other!

Although it looks pretty yucky to most outsiders, if you believe that it brings good health then it’s a matter of attitude isn’t it?

The village is in South India. The Twitter video shows the villagers jumping around in delight. Cow faeces is called gobar. Cow dung is also used to fuel stoves and to insulate houses in the region.

Postscript: is there a negative health issue to this festival? Does cow dung contain parasites which can infect people?

I’ve just written about tapeworms and how they can be transmitted from animals to people. The same process applies to the festival mentioned above. Cattle can be infected with roundworms, tapeworms and flukes. It seems to me that a worm infection could be picked up by the villagers playing in cow dung. Common sense dictates that unless I’m missing something fundamental. Worm infections are called helminth infections to the scientific community. Also cow dung contains about 60 bacterial species. The major zoonotic bacteria in cow dung include including Salmonella spp., Campylobacter spp., Listeria monocytogenes, Yersinia enterocolitica, Escherichia coli and protozoa viz. Cryptosporidium parvum and Giardia lamblia — verbatim from study: An Overview of the Control of Bacterial Pathogens in Cattle Manure on the US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health website. Still, I don’t want to spoil the fun.