Toads tie the knot as villagers call for rain

India - Two giant toads were "married" in a traditional Hindu ceremony in eastern India at the weekend by villagers hoping to propitiate the rain gods and end a dry spell.

Four hundred people cheered and blew conches as women put streaks of vermilion on the female toad's head while a band played music and priests solemnised the marriage to the chanting of Hindu hymns.

The toads were picked up from separate ponds, dressed in bright red clothes and brought to the marriage venue in a decorated palanquin in Khochakandar village in West Bengal state late on Sunday.

The married toads were released into a pond after the ceremony in the village about 365km north of the state capital, Calcutta.

"Our forefathers used to organise marriages of toads to get sufficient rain for cultivation. We hope rain will be coming very soon," said Konica Mandal, one of the organisers of the wedding.

The village has been reeling under a severe heat wave with temperatures touching 44°C, drying up ponds and creating problems for farmers and their crops.

The south-west monsoon hit India's southern coast on Sunday, about four days later than normal, but it will be some time before the rains wind their way to the rest of the country.

A heat wave sweeping India, Bangladesh and Nepal has killed nearly 100 people over the past two weeks.

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