SUNDERBANS
According to the locals, the king of Tehri had once ordered the 'maun mela' festival be stopped, but a series of unfortunate occurrences prompted the renewal of the traditionReuters

Thousands of fish were stunned and killed in an ancient ritual carried out on the banks of a river in northern India.

Around eight to ten thousand villagers of Jaunpur, near Dehradun, participated in the annual "Maun mela" on Sunday (28 June) where they sprinkled a bleaching powder into the waters of Aglaar river to disorient the fish before catching them.

Swaying to the beat of drums, the men sprinkled "timru" powder made from a local tree and used nets and bare hands to catch the fish.

The fish was cooked by the village women to mark the day celebrated since ancient times.

Forest officials, NGOs and environmentalists have tried to convince people to give up the tradition but to no avail so far.

Even as the stunning of fish was taking place, Dheeraj Pandey, divisional forest official and Neelam Barthwal, a ranger with forest department staff, was distributing pamphlets against the use of bleaching powder which ends up polluting the water.

"We are convincing villagers to mark Maun mela for fish conservation instead," Pandey told the Times Of India.

According to locals, the king of Tehri had ordered the festival be stopped, but a series of unfortunate occurrences prompted the renewal of the tradition.

The country's apex court has succeeded in intervening and stopping some ancient, barbaric rituals like the 2,000-year-old "jallikattu" or bull fighting, despite local government and locals seeking to continue with the tradition.

Glorification of the sati system where a widow is forced to be burnt alive after her husband's death continues, though the law has been largely effective in putting an end to the barbaric practice.

So also, the Devdasi system in Karnataka in southern India where young girls are dedicated in local temples and their virginity is auctioned off. The ritual was made illegal in 1982 but still continues clandestinely in parts of the state.

Marrying trees and animals, tossing babies into the air for blessings, animal and human sacrifices continue to raise their heads in some remote corners of the country.