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Indo-Caribbean folklore spirits

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  • By Megha Sharma

Here is a video from the distinguished lecture series of Dr Kumar Mahabir. He is a renowned Anthropologist and is a professor at the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT). He has shared useful insights into the Indo-Caribbean Folklore spirits. Through the video, he discusses his book “Indian Caribbean Folklore Spirits” which provides details of the presence of a brood of spirits believed to roam the Caribbean since the abolition of slavery.” The book also discusses five kinds of spirits acknowledged in the East India.

The Anthropologist also presents a catalogue of works, on spirits and supernatural beings. Herein, he talks about the well-known movie “Harry potter” (An adaptation of the book series by J.K rowling), “the chronicles of Narnia” ( by C.S Lewis). Both the movies are given a mystical touch with a fantastic storyline having unusual characters like Papa Bois and Mr. Tumnus respectively. He recounts other Hollywood productions with and an Indian movie “Hisss”, where the centeral character plays the role of a Nagin (female snake).

The video also discovers how Indian festival Holi and the West Indies festival Phagwa, celebrate the good over evil, where the king hiranyakashyap and his sister Holika are demons. Further, the Moko-Zombie ghost and the blue devils are also traditional synchronicities. The Moko Zombie ghost moves on stilts and the origins of the word being derived from the West Indies, meaning spirit, and the blue devil, a ghost with “tails, mask, horns and pitchfork”.

The most interesting part is when Dr Kumar acknowledges the five spirits of India and the Caribbean Sea. He provides how the book, “Indian Caribbean Folklore Spirits” registers the presence of five widely known spirits in both the lands. Namely, the Raa-khas, the Chu-rile, dee baba, the snake woman: Nagin and the Jinn: sheikh sadiq.

All these are different manifestations of evil spirits with the Raa-khas being a new born evil child, born as a consequence to its mother’s evil deeds. The child has to be killed as soon as it is born by the midwife (chaamine) to get rid of the risk of becoming a victim.

The Chu-rile is a ghost pf a died pregnant women, who has suicided in the time period. It moves around in white dress with unmanaged hair and is often considered to harm people as she grieves for her lost child whereas, the Saapin, is an adorable woman who charms many men. She is a sign of near death and also a cause of her husbands’ death. She is said to marry seven times and has a snake along her spine. It is surprising to note that this mystic incarnation is undiscovered by the woman herself. She undergoes this transformation on a full moon night (Purnima).

a manifestation of the chu-rail image
a manifestation of the chu-rail image

Besides the embodiment of evil, there are spirits invoked in order to achieve harmony within the lives. These spirits are known to eradicate ill-fortune from one’s life. The dee baba is one such example, known as the protector of the farming land, in the form of a black dog or a colonial slave master on a horse. The farmers perform a food giving ceremony to this spirit and take blessings for a good harvest.

the spirit of a jinn
the spirit of a jinn

The Jinn can be either a good or a bad spirit. It is an invisible form, however, can be invoked to visibility by humans. The evil ones tortures and victimizes its subjects while the angelic ones take the woes away and give livelihood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Megha Sharma is a student at the University of Delhi. She is pursuing her masters in English and has also done her studies in German language. Twitter: @meghash06510344

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All You Need to Know About the Sport of Jallikattu

Jallikattu is certainly a dangerous sports, which poses a risk of life for the participants

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banned bull taming sport of Tamil Nadu
Jallikattu sport of Tamil Nadu. Wikimedia

By Ruchika Verma

  • Jallikattu is a traditional Tamil sport
  • The sport involves bulls and humans, the latter trying to control the former
  • The sport was banned in 2014, which created lots of controversies

Jallikattu or Sallikkattu, also known as ‘eru thazhuvuthal’ and ‘manju virattu’ traditionally, was in news last year, around this time due to the ban imposed on it by the Supreme Court. The ban was much hyped and gathered a plethora of media’s attention.

Jallikattu ban was much hyped. Wikimedia Commons
Jallikattu ban was much hyped. Wikimedia Commons

Jallikattu ban has also garnered lots of political attention due to the involvement of Tamil Nadu and Central governments. The issue is much hyped due to the political context involved in it too.

What exactly is Jallikattu? 

Jallikattu is a traditional sport and spectacle in which bulls of the Pulikulam or Kangayam breeds are released into a crowd of people, and multiple human participants attempt to control the bulls while they try to escape.

Jallikattu is seen as animal cruelty by many activists. Flickr
Jallikattu is seen as animal cruelty by many activists. Flickr

Jallikattu is practised in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu as a part of Pongal celebrations. The districts, Madurai, Thanjavur, and Salem are the most famous for conducting Jallikattu. The game dates back to Tamil classical period, which went back to 400 BC. Ancient Tamil Sangam literature described the practice as ‘Yeru thazhuvuthal’ which literally means “bull embracing.” With time the sport has become synonymous with valour and bravery.

Also Read: Tamil Nadu legalises Jallikattu with a New Law

What happens in Jallikattu and how?

The bulls participating in the game are all lined up behind a narrow gate and released one by one into the arena. The participants have to either control the bull by holding its hump or clutch away from a flag attached to the horns. Owners of the bulls often announce prizes for the man who gets the hold of their bull.

The objective of the game is not to kill or overpower the bull, but to hold onto their hump for a certain amount of time or distance.

The participants are only allowed to hold onto the hump of the Bull. www.in.com
The participants are only allowed to hold onto the hump of the Bull. www.in.com

There are three variants to the game. First, when the bulls are released from an enclosed area. Second, when the bull is directly released into the open ground. And third, when the bull is tied to a rope as the only restriction, and a team of 7-9 members has to untie the prize from the bull’s horns in 30 minutes of the time period.

The gate through which bulls enter the arena is called Vadi Vasai. The bulls charge at the men standing most near to the gate. One of the rules also says that a participant is only allowed to hold bull’s hump and no other body part. The other rules vary from region to region.

Also Read: Animal rights organisations challenge new law on Jallikattu

Jallikattu Ban and Controversy

Jallikattu is certainly a dangerous sport, which poses a risk of life for the participants.

In 2014, The Supreme Court banned the sport, endorsing the activists’ concerns according to which, Jallikattu is not only cruelty towards the animal, but also poses a threat to humans. According to the data provided, between 2010 and 2014, 17 people were killed and approximately 1000 were injured during Jallikatu.

The Jallikattu ban was protests by many Tamilians.
The Jallikattu ban was protested by many Tamilians.

However, the ban invited a lot of protests. Many Tamil communities called this ban a violation of their culture and tradition.

In 2017, many lawyers plead to remove the ban which was rejected by the court. After requests and arguments of Tamil communities, central government reversed the ban, however, after Supreme Court struck the order down, the ban was imposed again. However, the government of Tamil Nadu sanctioned the sport and brought it back into the practice.