In this book the learned author has brought together tome of such stories about evil forces and the belief and practice of magical rituals drawn from the mythologies and folklore of ancient India. This is an interesting compilation especially as the appendix provides the textual support to the stories. The many different kinds of negative forces provide a range of amusing incidences as well as a repertoire of possible variations and types of beings who have been imagined and represented in literature and the folk imagination.
The author, M.L. Varadpande, has penned about 25 books on Indian art, literature, culture and religion. He is honoured by the Sangeet Natak Akademy, New Delhi with Tagore Akademy Sanman and by the Government of Assam with prestigious Mahapurusha Shankardeva Award for his scholarship and profound knowledge.
Priemeval tribal religion was basically animistic, having belief in spirits of various disposition. This belief in spirits percolated to later religions, may be in different forms and rituals procedures.
Prof Surajit Chandra Sinha says : ‘The idealogical system of tribe is characterized by supernaturalism. Supernatural powers are classified into two categories - those who are habitually friendly or benevolent and those who are malevolent. There is a belief in reincarnation and transmigration of souls into various forms of life, namely trees, birds, animals, etc. Animal sacrifice is essential part of rituals and magic and witchcraft predominates. Man, nature and supernatural are connected in terms of intimate relationship.’
Apart from nature spirits the human souls transmigrate in Ghost yoni under certain circumstances.
Bhimbetka caves near Bhopal were habitat of primeval tribal communities. Their beliefs in spirits are reflected in the paintings they did on the walls of their cave shelters. We see there a Shaman in trance possessed by spirits. Deified animals or animal spirits are portrayed prominently. Locally the Adivasis and village folk call these cave paintings ‘Chudelonks tol’ or creation of evil spirits. In this cave shelter complex there is a large cave which is locally known as Paishachya Gumpha or cave shelter of evil spirits named Pishachas. It is believed that it was inhabited by evil sprits. It was believed that spirits rituals used to be conducted here since Mesolithic period.
This tribal belief in the spirits became part of later cultures giving rise to rich mythology of evil, the part of which is narrated here.
According to Rig Veda the primary function of Agni, that is fire, is to dispel or destroy evil spirits. May be hence, the fire ritual or Yajna, occupy central position in Vedic religion. In the Atharva Veda there are mantras to annihilate evil spirits such as Yatudhana, Kritya and Asura.
Gita says: ‘The Satvik pays homage to Devas, the Rajasic to Yakshas and the Rakshasas and Tamasic to Pretas and Bhutas, the evil spirits.
Taittiriya Brahmana refers to Bhuta Vidya which according to Ashvalayana Grihya Sutra was Pisacha Vidya or demonology. Shatapatha Brahmana mentions Asura Vidya or witchcraft.
Bhuta Vidya is brench of Ashtanga Ayurveda system. It pertains to treating patients with imbalance of mind caused by supernatural powers like Bhutas, Pretatma, Sammandha, Pishschya, Vetal, etc. In short in Ayurveda Bhuta Vidya is a science that deals with causes and ill effects that are more mental than physical. It deals with the powers that are not visible to human eye and thus prescribes that a patient needs a Devarishi or Mantrik who knows how to deal with these evil powers and escape from their possession and ill effects. The treatment of curing the patient is aimed at esatisfying these evil super powers.
Mythology of Evil is a vast subject, some vital glimpses are provided in this unique work.
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