|Photo © Reuters/Rupak de Chowdhuri-All Rights Reserved|
Yes, like you I did a double take when I saw this photograph on Reuters Full Focus blog as one of the photographs that made it in its Best of 2012. And yes, once again it's that time of year when every news outlet in the world decides to feature its "best" images made during the past 12 months.
Its caption tells us that it's of a Hindu devotee attending the "Chadak" ritual at Krishanadevpur village, which is north of Kolkata earlier this year, when hundreds of devotees attend the ritual to worship the Hindu deity Lord Shiva, on the last day of the Bengali calendar year. The Chadak ritual includes a number of self-mortification acts performed by devotees.
The caption also tells us the photographer was unable to check the veracity of the action of this man.
I find it very hard to believe that this is for real. The red turban is suspiciously too low on the man's neck, and there are various tricks that magicians mimic such a horrifying thing.
I've attended various rituals (such the one of the Kali workshippers in Kodungallur where they beat their forefronts with swords until blood gushes out), and I know that I'd certainly circle this devotee to photograph him back and front, and ascertain the trickery (or not). I also find it surprising that there are no other photograph of this fellow other than this one. There are photographs of other people with hooks in their backs, but none of this one.
The photographer, Rupak de Chowdhuri, a photographer with Reuters, Corbis, etc. tells us that he started taking his pictures from different angles, and tried talking to this man to get more information but he didn’t utter a word.
In any case, this is what is called a "monumental pain in the neck".
Whatever it is, the rest of the photographs are also worth a look. Some are really very good...others not so much.