Occult rituals for the dead keep superstition alive
Villagers forcibly enter govt hospitals in Rajasthan, often with tantrics, to perform rituals to ‘liberate troubling souls’Updated: Apr 29, 2018 21:49 IST
In January this year, a few people from Peepliya village in Rajasthan’s Bundi district tried to enter the government Maharao Bhim Singh (MBS) Hospital in Kota, singing religious songs and carrying ignited incense sticks and a basket covered with a red cloth.
Hariram Gurjar (23) of the village died of burn injuries during treatment at the hospital around three years ago. The villagers believed that the soul of Hariram was troubling a woman of his family. They wanted to perform rituals at the hospital building for, what they said, the liberation of the soul, so that the woman would be saved from the troubles.
Many religions, including Hinduism, postulate that a soul, unlike a body, is unscathed by the death of a human, and is destined to suffer in hell or stay in bliss in heaven depending on the karmic (related to action) impressions. A tantric twist to this postulation gave rise to occult practices involving mystical or magical powers to bring solace to the soul.
When the Peepliya villagers were stopped by the police from entering the hospital building, they performed rituals with incense sticks and earthern lamps outside. The villagers collected stone pebbles from near the hospital before leaving.
“When our family approached a religious guru (called Bhopa) in the village about the troubles the woman was facing, the Bhopa told us to visit the hospital and take back the departed soul of Hariram for its salvation through performing rituals on the hospital campus,” said Chhotulal, brother of Hariram.
The Bhopas are the priest singers of folk deities in Rajasthan. They perform in front of a scroll, known as phad, that depicts the episodes of the narrative of the folk deity. The Bhopas are invited by villagers to perform in their localities during times of sickness and misfortune.
Apart from the MBS Hospital, such incidents – performing superstitious rituals – have been reported from the New Government Medical College Hospital and Government Jay Kay Lon Hospital in Kota. Mostly poor patients are admitted to government hospitals. Many a time, a tantric (sorcerer) accompanies the villagers for the rituals at the hospitals.
Ramesh from Saavar region in Ajmer district died at MBS Hospital after he was injured in a road accident about three years ago. His family members forcibly entered the intensive care unit (ICU) of the hospital despite objections by security guards, carrying lemons, earthen pots, a steel can and a lighted lamp. They performed rituals to pacify, what they called, the troubled soul of Ramesh.
Devdas, a family member of Ramesh, had said, “The departed soul did not get solace and was troubling family members, so such ritual was performed in the hospital in the presence of a tantric.”
In April last year, family members of a dead patient had sacrificed a rooster in the presence of a sword-wielding tantric at the ICU of New Government Medical College of Kota. They did this in their attempt to, what they called, revive the dead.
Such superstitious rituals are reported from other parts of the state as well. Though no confirmed data is available, sources said about 2-3 such incidents were reported from government hospitals in Rajasthan every month.
“Rural people believe in such rituals to take back departed souls, which is nothing but a superstition,” said Dr Karnesh Goyal, deputy superintendent of MBS Hospital. “After a couple of such incidents last year, security guards have been instructed to not allow villagers inside hospital building as entry to the sensitive places like ICU can infect admitted patients.”
Dhannalal Saini, a Bhopa from Theekarda village in Bundi, said, “When villagers inform me that a dead man/woman is troubling them and making them ill, I suggest them to visit the place of his/her death and bring pebbles from there for the salvation of the soul.”
Madan Meena of the Kota Heritage Society, who has done research on occult practices, said, “This ritual of villagers is part of the ‘Jujhar’ tradition in Rajasthan, in which villagers first bring small stones, as a symbol of a soul, from the place where their family members died untimely death.”
The family members then make a structure (thanak), in which idols of the dead are kept, near their house in the village, and perform worship on every festival, Meena said. “Villagers in Hadauti region still believe that performing religious rituals at the site of the death of a person can provide salvation to the departed soul.”
Dr Devendra Vijayvargiya, a psychiatrist and the superintendent of the New Government Medical College in Kota, said, “Modern science does not approve of such rituals or the presence of human souls; villagers’ rituals to take back the departed soul of a person, who meets untimely death, are based on local beliefs and customs, instead of rational thinking.”