India’s Cattle Royale dung fight marks end of Diwali

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Joyful crowds pelted each other with fistfuls of cow manure this weekend as part of one village’s local ritual to mark the end of Diwali, India’s most important Hindu festival. Similar to Spain’s “La Tomatina” — the eccentric tomato-hurling celebration of the local fruit — residents of Gumatapura instead fling snowball-sized wads of a more earthy variety. The Gorehabba festival begins with the afternoon collection of “ammunition” from cow-owning homes in the village, which lies on the border of the southern states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The manure is brought to the local temple on tractor trolleys, before a priest performs a blessing ritual. After that, the dung is dumped in an open area — with men and boys wading in to prepare their weapons for the battle ahead. People flock to Gumatapura from far-flung cities each year, and for those in attendance, the messy battle is as much about fun as it is about the perceived health benefits.

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