Barbarous Ceremony

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This image shows various forms of mutilation and ritual self-inflicted pain allegedly performed in honour of  Mariatale, Goddess of Smallpox. High on the surrounding temple buildings the depiction of human onlookers parodies temple sculptures and friezes.

A devotee is suspended from a pole. The ropes from which he swings are attached by metal hooks inserted in his back - and he is smiling. His helmet and shield mark him as a soldier of Tipu. Gold explains that he witenessed the ceremony  at Negapatam, near French Pondicherry, the city Sir Hector Munro had captured from Tipu’s father, Hyder Ali, in 1781. The image implies that the man enjoys pain, a reputation shared by Tipu and his so-called Tiger-soldiers. (Next)