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Ancient Ritual Promises Children To Sterile Couples

May 3, 1992

KOCHI, India (AP) _ More than 1,000 childless Hindu couples have begun a weeklong ritual that is billed as means of achieving fertility, but criticized some as charlatanism.

During the ceremonies in this southern port, the participants, who paid $80 a couple, will look into mud pots for hours and pick up the pieces of broken pots as priests chant ancient scriptures.

The sponsor of the ritual, the private Center for Astrological Research and Development, claims it can make women pregnant by invoking gods in this way. It is holding the ceremonies for the first time.

Women’s organizations and other groups, however, called the rites ″barbaric″ and said they amounted to a scam.

Some opponents threatened to disrupt the event, and as the rite opened Saturday, police guarded the center.

″It will work only if you have absolute faith, strictly adhere to the rituals as laid down in the (Hindu) epics and stick to the recommended diet of rice and vegetables,″ Ramakrishnan Nair, the center’s director, told the couples at an initiation ceremony. He also said that sex is banned during the ritual period.

He said during the week priests will pour hundreds of gallons of ghee, or liquefied butter, and milk onto a holy fire and chant hymns from ancient Hindu scriptures, as the couples perform rites, including looking into mud pots filled with holy water for many hours.

Nair said that three times a day the couples will also be ordered to balance the pots on their heads, drop them to the floor and then pick up every piece of the broken vessels.

″I have no doubt that my wife will get pregnant,″ said one participant, Lakshmi Narayanan. The 35-year-old businessman from Andhra Pradesh state has been married for 17 years.

Nair said 4,919 couples applied to take part, but only 1,100 were chosen because of space limitations.

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