Indian police have discovered a stash of hundreds of human skulls and thigh bones and arrested a gang for allegedly smuggling them to the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan for use in Buddhist monasteries.
“During interrogation they confessed that the hollow human thigh bones were in great demand in monasteries and were used as blow-horns, and the skulls as vessels to drink from at religious ceremonies,” investigating officer Ravinder Nalwa said on Tuesday.
In April, police discovered what they called a “human bones factory” in the state, and arrested six people for illegally trading in skeletons. The bones were apparently being sold to medical students and for use in traditional medicine.
Both caches of bones appear to have originated in Varanasi, a Hindu holy city in northern India where millions of people are cremated every year on the banks of the Ganges.
Mukti Biswas, an arrested villager in another district of West Bengal state, told police that he had plucked bodies from the river, as well as collecting those left behind at Hindu cremation centres by poor people who lacked the wood to perform a proper cremation.
Mr Biswas said he had supplied the bones to medical students.
Buddhist monks in India said human thigh bones and skulls were used by followers of a Tibetan school of Buddhism.
“But one or two bones would last a lifetime, so a racket this huge might have links to other countries,” said Bhikkhu Bodhipala, chief priest of the Mahabodhi temple in Bodh Gaya