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Villagers throw babies from temple roof

  • Story Highlights
  • For 500 years worshippers throw babies from a tower to crowds below
  • The infants land and bounce on a bed-sheet held taut by men 50 feet below
  • Ritual practiced by Muslims, Hindus in the district of Solapur, Maharashtra, W India
  • Worshippers say no baby has ever been hurt but critics want the practice banned
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(CNN) -- In a ritual that would terrify most mothers, Indian villagers have cheered as screaming babies were dropped from a 50-foot temple tower.

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For 500 years, worshippers at a Muslim shrine in western India have continued the tradition -- a rite considered to bring good health and good luck to the children.

The infants land and bounce on a bed-sheet held taut by men 50 feet below, and are quickly passed through the crowd to their mothers.

Villagers say no babies have been injured during the ritual, which is practiced by Muslims and Hindus in Musti village in the district of Solapur, in the state of Maharashtra. Video Watch worshippers throw babies from tower. »

It also takes place elsewhere in the country, mostly in smaller villages, on special occasions.

Parents who want their infants to participate in the event first take a vow at the Baba Sheikh Umar Saheb Dargah, or temple. Villagers say the ritual is a way of giving thanks.

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But critics want the practice banned, with many saying it's unsafe.

"The state has to interfere," said Sanal Edamaruku, founder and president of Rationalist International and the Indian Rationalist Association. The group supports secularism and freedom of expression. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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