Terrified toddlers scream and sob as they’re shaken by men in robes and tossed from a balcony 30ft above the ground.

It’s not the plot of a horror film – but an ages-old annual ritual carried in southern India, meant to bring participating infants good luck, health and prosperity.

Hard-to-watch footage of the ceremony, held each year in the state of Karnataka, has horrified children’s rights groups, who have labelled it ‘barbaric’ and want it banned by the Indian government.

The practise is believed to date back centuries and takes place across India – involving both Hindus and Muslims.

Video of a ceremony in 2009 shows robed priests shaking frightened babies, before dropping them to the ground below, where locals are waiting with a blanket to catch the traumatised tots.

When the children land safely, the crowd celebrates wildly, passing each infant around before returning them to their mothers.

Local campaigners managed to get the practice banned in 2011, but it returned to Digambeshwara temple in Nagrala village last week – much to the frustration of Lov Verma, from the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights.

Mr Verma said:’I’m absolutely shocked by this. It’s not simply the government’s job. We need to educate all those who take part in this barbaric practice – the temple priests and the community.’

But participants argue it’s their religious duty to attend the ceremonies.

One temple-goer told the Sunday Times:’Our religious beliefs pull many of us to this ceremony every year.’

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