Pothuraju

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Pothuraju is an Avatar of Vishnu. He is considered as guardian angel is some parts of India. Pothurajus are priests who worship Lord Pothuraju. He is known as Potraj in the other states of India.

The Potraj are a fast vanishing tribe that hail from the Western state of Maharashtra. They are worshipers of a goddess that is referred to as ‘Kadak Lakshmi’.

The Potraj are nomads who get alms for displaying what must be an extremely grueling profession. The women balance a small platform with their deity perched on their heads and play a drum to a foot-tapping beat while the men dance, twirl and smack themselves with heavy whips made out of woven coir or leather. The whips may weigh in the region of 10 kgs (22 lbs) each and are knotted for added measure and land on the backs of these performers with a resounding ‘thwack’. Children are thrust into this profession at a very early age so that they may grow up and be able to bear the crack of the whip on their backs. Young boys may start as early as the age of six with lighter whips till they reach puberty and their teens and graduate to the heavier ones. Apart from the gruelling treks between cities, nights spent exposed to the elements, unrelenting sun above their heads the entire day and the unforgiving rope whip on their backs, the members end up living a hand to mouth existence on what can only be described as meager charity.