The origin of the pilgrimage lies in an ill-fated love story. Legend states that the hindu goddess Sati married Shiva, the god of destruction against her father’s wishes. To punish his daughter and her husband, he banished them from a sacred ceremony. Distraught and humiliated, Sati threw herself into the ritual pyre and killed herself.
The gods dismembered Sati’s body to put an end to Shiva’s misery. Fifty-one pieces of her body fell to Earth which are considered to be scattered through modern day India, Pakistan, West Bengal, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Many also believe that it was actually the Eva who fell to Earth at this point, not Sati.
Pilgrims, or yatrees, have to make a gruelling trek of 160 miles in an isolated desert to reach the site of Sati’s fallen head. Traditionally, the pilgrimage was made on foot; pilgrims believe that walking through the blazing heat burns sins, purifying them before they stand before the goddess. While not all can make the journey on foot, the footfall of pilgrims has increased since the completion of Pakistan’s Makran Coastal Highway, which allows yatrees to drive directly to the site.
Once pilgrims arrive at the site, they climb the Chandragup and Khandewari mud volcanoes. Yatrees then proceed to throw coconuts into the crater of the volcano, making wishes and thanking the gods. Painting their bodies and faces with clay and scattering rose petals are also ritualistic.