Called diksha, or “ear-splitting” involves a long ceremony, culminating with cuts, using a razor, that open the boy’s conch. This is then spread with jewelry traditionally made with baked or glazed terra cotta. After the piercing heals, over a period of many months, the jewelry can be replaced with other materials, such as wood, stone, glass or ivory.
The boys go through the ritual sometime between the ages of five and fifteen. Special saffron robes will be bought, and the entire local Kanphata community will gather to witness and celebrate. Once the piercing is done, the boy begins begging alms from those present as a symbol of the beginnings of his life as a beggar. He will be devoted to the intense physical practices of the sect (difficult physical positions and breathing exercises) as well as to the worship of Shiva, and dutiful devotion to Guru Gorakshanath, who founded the sect in the 12th century. Girls in Kanphata families do not get their conches pierced.