India:land Of Demons,ghosts And Witches

In our childhood, we heard in rapt attention the stories about Gods, demons, ghosts and witches. Those gripped us in the iron hold of devotion and fear. We grew up getting molded in the conditionings by these ideas that our lives were invariably influenced by them. As an instance, we learned from others that bowing in reverence whenever we passed before a temple was as mandatory as keeping a talisman around the neck for the protection of devilish influence from ghosts.

In our childhood, we heard in rapt attention the stories about Gods, demons, ghosts and witches. Those gripped us in the iron hold of devotion and fear. We grew up getting molded in the conditionings by these ideas that our lives were invariably influenced by them. As an instance, we learned from others that bowing in reverence whenever we passed before a temple was as mandatory as keeping a talisman around the neck for the protection of devilish influence from ghosts.

We sat in the middle of septuagenarians and octogenarians in the evening assembly that lasted up to late night. In the beginning, the discussion was about pantheon of Gods and Goddesses and their leelas- miracles. Gradually, it would veer to brahmarakhyas, meaning demons.

Words from the old, toothless mouths would form vivid, horrible appearance of the demons. Six-legged with big heads and eyes leaping fire, the demons would look eagerly to drink the blood of humans. We used to shiver in fear, while an old man narrated the incident of meeting a demon.

“How could he save five and half liter blood of his body”- the children thought while trembling in unexplainable fear? As darkness came descending on the horizons of night, the tale of the demons by the old man went unabated.

“He had eyes with the colors of venom and blood and kept spewing fire as we met for the first time”- The old man was describing with the swelling of palpitation in our hearts.

“Just see, how brave my grandpa used to be”-The grandson of the old man whispered in my ear!

“Yeah, he just killed the demon with his bare hands”- I added!

“No, demons are disciples of lord Shiva and invariably remain in His Company. How could I kill him”- words from the mouth of the septuagenarian were inexhaustible?

“As he came baying for my blood, I began chanting the names of Shiva. The ferocity of that horrible creature was brought to standstill at that instant”- We sighed as he finished his narration. But this engendered the feeling within us that names of Shiva were the unfailing antidote for demons.

Types of ghosts came usually in two categories. The first one was Betal-, meaning Satan and the latter was pretatma-evil spirit. As our group of children learned from the discussion, there was an atma-spirit within every human body. Some human-beings become evil after their death because of unfulfilled wishes.

“Just take the instance of the bride, who expired just after seven days of her marriage. She began desiring more for the company of her husband even after her death”- Thus the octogenarian initiated us to the world of ghosts.

“She was more dedicated in her service to her husband even after her death. Except sex, she saw to the facts that things were arranged in the perfect order for her hubby. She cleaned his room and washed his clothes after her husband went to the office. Even being a ghost, she was dying for the odor from her hubby’s underwear”- We heard his recounting with our mouths agape in fear and wonder.

“But she was shocked to find one day that her man was marrying again. She swore that she would not share her man with any one, rather kill him if needed. She brought blood from the scalp of a child and wrote on the wall of her man’s room”-The faltering voice of the old man was shocking for us.

“What? What could the ghost write on the wall”?
“Be mine. Otherwise you will not be spared”- The old man kept relating as the children huddled closer to get escape from the possible attack by the ghosts. What we were given to understand that ghosts appeared only in subtle forms; those were difficult to be visible to naked eyes. If another child would put his hand over my shoulder per chance, it sent a shiver down my spine.
“But her man married and with his new bride, he was restlessly waiting for the first conjugal night. As they slept on the bed to consummate the wedding, the window of the room opened with a thud. There she was…..bloods dipping from her teeth and posing her nails like sharp weapons”- The old man was speechless for sometime!!!
“What happened grandpa, then”- We asked in a chorus?
“She materialized herself in her full form inside the room through the window. She showed her blood-stained fangs and rushed at her man and bride…… She tore the chest of her hubby and drank his blood. While the new bride was staging an attempt to escape, she caught her by hair and throttled her to death”- The old man spread his eyes, trying to give the final touch to his story.
“Grandpa, I have wetted my pants”- The smallest boy in our group whined.
We burst in to peals of laughter as we heard this.
“But the Satan is even bigger and most dangerous. He has the power of wreaking havocs and acts at the command of Gods and Goddesses. A person, who committed a crime against the dictates of Goddess, was robbed of his riches in one night. He was sleeping in his palatial house but woke up in a hovel in slums. Satan simply took him in the air and put him in an unknown place in a hovel. He could hardly return from there and gradually lost his mental balance”- The old man’s words were mesmerizing.
“Have you seen one”- One of us asked?
“Yeah, I saw one in the dead of night. It had a shadowy appearance. It sat on the branch of a tree and kept its both legs on another tree, situated at least another kilometer away”- He grunted while pausing in the end.
“Well, these are small acts by ghosts. But these stand nothing in comparison to the severe works of the witches”- another septuagenarian added.
“Witches”-This had sprung another puzzle for us!!!
“The witches walk on their hands while keepings their legs up. They eat night soil, while moving in the night in that pose”- The words of the old mouth was appalling.
“But what harm they can do to us”- Another old man put the question?
“Horrible and mind-blowing for all of us who watched them, hiding behind a tree! They just crept into the house of the man, whom they loved to kill. The act was dreadful. The man was handsome and a tough police officer. He had just finished his dinner and was getting ready to sleep. As he put his body on the mattress, he heard a knock on the door. It was soft enough to arouse his curiosity. He went nimble-footed to the door, fearing an attack on him. But lo! There she was; one of the most beautiful witches, posing as though offering an invitation to him physically”- The septuagenarian gasped while pausing.
Our gaze was fixed on his face.
“Witches are not dead women. But they practice black magic. To empower themselves, they at times kill humans. Sometimes, they move in the night with legs up and hands moving on the ground. They eat filth. In villages, people kill women, when they doubt that they are secretly practicing black-magic and harming people unnecessarily to gain from it”- He paused.
“But tell us what happened to that man”-Again we demanded in unison?
“Yeah, the man was unfortunate and the witch in his house was a competent seductress. She made him sleep on the mattress comfortably after their physical union. While he was sound asleep, she went and opened the front door of his house. All witches came one-by-one. Witches make use of straws to suck blood. One-by-one, they drained all his blood to the last drop, leaving him to sleep for good”- He brought his narration to the end, gawking at the recess of darkness in the night.
As the night advanced, all the children went to their beds, lying sleepless for a long time under the quilts. When it dawned, most of them had the first thought of demons, ghosts and witches.
“Granny, tell me, do they really exist”- One of the kids was rigidly asking her grandmother?
But like all other occasions, she was reticent. She was one-of-a-kind in a herd of women of her age, who liked to keep quiet about her man.
“Tell me”-Her grandson shook her up, while all of us watched.
She smiled and rose from the floor to bring out a small case of tin. This was usually found in the pockets of most of the septuagenarians and octogenarians.
“Just see how your grandfather has imprisoned demons, ghosts and witches in this”-She told putting the small case before all of us!
“What is it? What does it contain”-We asked together?
She took off the cap of the case and brought out the stuff on her finger tip. We watched it, holding breath and hoped ghosts, demons and witches would appear soon.
She put some of it on her palm and rubbed the black substance with her thumb.
“As your grandpa snorts a little of it or takes a bit of it in his mouth, soon demons, ghosts and witches materialize in his words”-She told us!
“But what is that”-We pressed our query?
“Afima, you will learn about as you grow up”-She again put the stuff inside the case.
As we grew up, we came to know that afima was the dreaded ‘opium’ and once taken in any form, it weaves the imaginations about demons, ghosts and witches.
How nicely it brought the after effects in words to give us nights of story-telling!!!


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