10 Agonizing Religious Practices in the World

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There are about 21 major religions in world, Christianity being the most populated one followed by Islam, Hinduism, Chinese Traditional Religion and many others. Every religion has its own code of conduct and there are various rituals and religious practices that they believe in, follow and preach. Some of these practices are well heard of. Like attending worship services at a church every Sunday is a very popular ritual that most of the Christians follow. But there are many religious practices which are rather unknown. These can be painful, ruthless and inhuman. Some religious practices may include sacrificing living animals or even your own children. And unfortunately there are plenty of them. Some of these are thought to bring good luck and prosperity and therefore people follow them blindly. A recent study provided evidence to the theory that by performing such rituals which inflict pain, the charitable behaviour in its participants increases. Many people practice such rituals to prove their faith and dexterity even if it comes at the cost of excruciating pain or lives. Here is the list of 10 such religious practices which I think to be really agonizing.

10. Teeth Chiselling

teeth chiselling

This is a ritual which is practiced by the Mentawaian Tribe of Indonesia and is specifically for the women. The tribe believes that by chiselling or sharpening the teeth of young women, they become more attractive and a balance develops between the body and the soul. Its procedure is undergone by using a crude blade which sharpens the teeth, carves the corners of teeth and at last they are filed to give the desired shape. As an end result what they get is shark like pointed teeth. The Mentawian tribe believes that by chiselling the teeth of young women, the spirits will be pleased and balance will arrive in the girl’s life. The practice elements excruciating pain and is done without any anaesthetics.

9. Baby Throwing


Yes! People actually do that. In the Maharastra state of India, baby throwing is performed as a religious ritual which makes a horrifying site for many. Babies between the age of one and two years are thrown from a 50 feet high tower and meanwhile men are located underneath the tower to catch them in sheets. This custom is mostly practiced by Hindus and Muslims as they believe that throwing the baby will turn him into more intelligent and lucky. The toddlers can be heard screaming while they are in air before being dropped but that does not stop the devotees from engaging in this custom.

8. Sun Dance

sun dance

Sun Dance is a part of many cultures’ ceremonial protocols. The Native Americans, the First Nations People and many other contemporary cultures indulge in this practice in order to offer self sacrifice, as they believe this prospers the family of the doer and the whole community. Sun Dance is performed differently by each tribe but flesh offering is a common feature that every tribe indulges in. At a traditional Sun Dance ceremony, drums are played, prayers with pipes are made and fasting is done. But the agonizing part of this ceremony is skin offering. Young men who participate in this get their chests pierced by skewers causing extreme pain and they are supposed to break free of these skewers by tearing them through their skin. Certain portions of this ceremony got banned by the United States and Canadian government citing the painful ordeal experienced by several young men but currently the whole ceremony is legal and practiced.

7. Flagelation


Flagelation, the devotional ceremony performed by many religious groups mostly Judaists and Islamic, is another method of self-harm. In Judism flagellation is a corporal punishment, whereas in Islam, people willingly indulge themselves in act of methodical beating and whipping. This is done to mourn the sufferings and martyrdom of Hussain and you can see Shia Muslims flogging themselves with knives, blades and chains on the day of Moharram.

6. Scarification


The act of scarification may include scratching, etching, burning or cutting into skins. But for a tribe living in Papua New Guinea, scarification is a ritual which every boy has to undergo in order to be treated as a man. The young boys are required to be cut in their back, chest and buttocks in order to give their body a crocodile like pattern. Need not to say the practice is awfully painful. But apart from the physical misery, the young boys also undergo mental trauma and humiliation for weeks which is thought to make them physically and psychologically tough.

5. Okipa Ceremony

okipa ceremony

Okipa Ceremony is another torturous practice performed to prove physical courage and seek approval of the spirits. Performed by Mandan Indians the ceremony initiates with a Bison Dance and continues till four days. During these four days, the young men are not allowed to eat, drink or even sleep. They are lead to small huts where wooden skewers are inserted in their chest and shoulders which slit their skin. And during this tormenting act, they are supposed to sit with a smiling face. Later these men are hung from the roof of lodge until they faint after which they are pulled down. Finally the awakening of these men proves the approval of spirits.

4. Aghori


The practice of Aghora is believed to have broken away from the Hindu religion or to be more precise, the “Tantric Kapalika Order” in 14th century. Hindus are known to believe in the mythology that Brahma is the creator of this Universe and there exists no evil. Anything irreverence should be abandoned. The Aghori gurus were known to dwell near the cremation grounds and smear cremation ashes over themselves. They were witnessed to be using the bones of the corpses and crafting skull bowls from them and even eating those corpses.

3. Sky Burials


Sky Burials used to be a ceremony of Tibet which was exclusionary and swank. It was a funery practice in which deceased bodies were dissected and scattered on mountaintops. This was done so that the pieces could be consumed or decomposed by the birds which would be soaring in the sky. The Tibetans and also many Mangolians used to believe that after death, the body is like an empty vessel and there is no need to preserve or store it. Therefore they would scatter the dissectioned pieces for the nature to consume.

2. Circumcision


Reading about circumcision might just scare you for next few hours, or maybe longer. This is a practice that is followed mainly in Judaism and Islam and is gruelingly painful. The procedure of circumcision involves removal of the foreskin from the penis. Whereas, in female circumcision, the skin covering the clitoris or the clitoris itself is removed. In Islam it is believed that Prophet Mohammad was born without a foreskin and to symbolize their inclusion with the community, devotees undergo circumcision. Circumcisions are also performed by Romans for which they have their own method using a metal clasp or a string. These are called Roman Infibulations.

1. Sokushinbutsu


As intricate is its name, equally abominable is this tradition which was an ultimate act of self denial by Buddhist monks. The practice which is also known as self mummification, was outlawed by the Japanese government in the late nineteenth century and is not advocated today by any Buddhist sect. In order to practice self mummification, monks would take a special diet and do rigorous physical activities for three years to turn their body into a fat less structure. Then they would eat only bark and roots and drink a poisonous tee which would cause excessive loss of fluids and prevent their body from decaying after death. Later the monks used to seal themselves in a stone tomb that had no space for any movement. Attached to that tomb, was an air tube and a bell which was used to indicate that the monk is still alive. And the day the bell would stop ringing the tube would be removed and tomb sealed. It is believed that many hundreds of monks tried self mummification but only 24 mummies have been found till now as the others would start rotting and the mummification could not be successful.


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