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Indo-Caribbean folklore spirits

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the cover page of the book

  • 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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Puja for The Spiritualism, Not for Vulgar Entertainment

The westerners practicing Hinduism have learned a pretty well from our "scriptures" and are becoming more spiritual while we just locked up those "holy books" only in the drawers of the altar. Thus we only love to shake our “butts to the boom-boom of Bollywood”.. right in front of the Gods' idols !!!

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Hinduism
he westerners practicing Hinduism have learned a pretty well from our "scriptures"

By Salil Gewali

Any auspicious days in Hinduism are expected to be observed with a complete purity of action and thought. The same holds true for other religions too. As per the Hindu scriptures, the believers are required to stay away from any kind of sense gratifications, particularly when the specific days are dedicated to Gods and Goddess such as Navratri, Laxmi Puja, Krishna Janmashtami, Shivaratri, to name a few. The pathway to devotion and spiritualism should not be “desecrated” by the blot of the brazen entertainment. The scriptures logically explain why it is antithetical, and its adverse consequences.

Hindusim
Incidentally, the Bhagavad Gita describes such situation as the rise of “tamasic vibes”.

 But, what a huge irony, rather a blasphemy that many people these days have started to choose the auspicious days of Gods to satisfy their base senses. Without a wee bit of regret, a certain class of people holds almost every auspicious day as the most “unmissable” occasion to booze with the friends, and what not, and stagger back home, lol! Such bizarre practices are fast catching now than ever.  Sadly, hardly any conscious people and spiritual organizations stand up and take the right measures to check such godless deviations.

What is quite unpleasant is that such a kind of unholy practices are often being facilitated by certain “Hindu intuitions” as well. On this past Laxmi Puja, the “propitious time” to perform the ritual had fallen between 6 PM to 7:53 PM. Yours truly decided to use that span of time for meditation. But hell broke loose. Apart from fireworks around, the Bollywood songs in high decibel burst forth from a certain Hindu institution quite frustrated the mission.

Hindusim
Sadhu Sanga Retreat, 2016

 One senior citizen laments – “Nothing could be irreligious than the fact that a favorable time for “puja” is also being used for the wrongful purposes. We rather expect the “Hindu institutions” to teach our children Bhajan, Kirtan, and other spiritual activities, not the loud and feverish parties and disturb others.”

Another college student adds “Having been much disturbed by the noise pollution, I have persuaded my parents to shift our place of residence to elsewhere, not at least near holy places with an unholy mission. I have started to see such institutions with the eyes of suspicion these says.” Is it that our institutions are unable to use their “discretion”, and as a result, they fail to differentiate between right and wrong?  One is deeply apprehensive that Bollywood songs and vulgar dances might as well be included as a part of the “puja ritual” as we have long accepted the fun of fireworks bursting as an integral part of Laxmi Puja which in fact is just an entrenched “misconception”.

Hinduism
Hinduism is expected to be observed with a complete purity of action

Needless to say, our roar for consumerism has almost drowned the whisper of inherent spiritualism. We are only just sending out the wrong messages. I’m afraid, the whole culture itself might be looked down with derision by other faiths. It might just become a subject of ridicule! It is no exaggeration, such negative notions against the “wrong practices” are all what we often read these days in several newspapers and social media. Do we want others to demean our profound spiritual heritage thus?  I believe it calls for a serious soul-searching.

Incidentally, the Bhagavad Gita describes such situation as the rise of “tamasic vibes”.  It warns in the strongest terms that mankind should absolutely be careful not to fall under the influence of any short-lived sense gratifications. Or else, our endeavor to “practice and preserve” the sanctity of a religion/spiritualism will be a futile exercise.

However, on the other hand, the westerners practicing Hinduism have learned a pretty well from our “scriptures” and are becoming more spiritual while we just locked up those “holy books” only in a drawer of the altar. Thus we only love to shake our “butts to the boom-boom of Bollywood”.. right in front of the Gods’ idols !!!

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’.

Twitter:@SGewali.