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Karnataka Baby Tossing Festival Ban

Guest blogger Neal Pollack has been a satirist (Vanity Fair), a sexologist (Nerve.com), and a cultural anthropologist (McSweeney's). Here, Pollack will explore all the wild, weird, and noteworthy stories you may have missed.

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In a world where Britney Spears driving with a baby in her lap is enough for the media to brand her with a Scarlet Letter, the recently discovered baby-tossing festival in the rural southern-Indian state of Karnataka might as well be the My Lai massacre. In this bizarre ritual, according to an Australian news source, "villagers drop babies from the top of a Hindu temple onto a blanket held by a crowd below, amid dancing and singing." This is supposed to bring good health to the baby and prosperity to the family. It appears, though, that the ceremony, not the only one of its kind in rural India, will soon be no more. A recently appointed government official called it "inhuman and terrifying for babies," and said he plans to seek a ban.

Sure, those of us living in a world of baby-proofed toilets and car seats engineered to handle a Space Shuttle takeoff, can laugh about this as the uniquely primitive custom of a still-developing country (Why, no one's tossed babies in the West since the 1950s!), yet, there's something in human nature about elevating our offspring to extreme heights, and then dropping them. Who among us hasn't received a disturbing holiday card depicting our new-ish nieces and nephews dressed as angels? Who among us didn't gaze slack-jawed at our televisions at the thought that a 6-year-old boy might be flying over the state of Colorado in a homemade balloon? Remember when Michael Jackson dangled little Blanket out the hotel-room window to please the media horde? And don't forget, this holiday season, that many of you worship a man who descended from the heavens to be born in a stable. As that man would have later said, judge not the baby-toss, lest you be judged.

There's still no word, however, of whether the village will be canceling a concurrent bathwater-tossing festival.

Neal Pollack

Photograph courtesy of NC-ND 2.0
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