all types, forms and varieties of black magic are to be expected in
a superst- itious country like ours, Bhanamathi the form of Black Magic
supposedly practiced in Nizam’s Hyderabad state takes the cake - sorry
the bakery! While this area was liberated from the rule of the Nizam
by the Indian Army, the people are yet to be liberated from this scourge.
with Bhanamathi is nothing new. In fact, about two decades back, a special
committee had been appointed by the Karnataka Legislative Assembly to
probe this under the leadership of Dr H Narasimhaiah. This committee
had come to the conclusion that
it was a non-existent entity! A number of unconnected events had been
all ascribed to this.
I had the opportunity to visit the districts of Hyderabad Karnataka
- Gulbarga, Bidar, Raichur and investigate this. My first visit was
to Bidar where I was to deliver a lecture demonstration at a local college.
The chief guest was the Superintendent of Police of that district, Mr
Sanjay Bir Singh. He was insistent that I conduct a programme for the
police - he informed me that, his force was deeply into superstitions
and sometimes, he said policemen used to disappear for months and then
join for duty - the excuse was somebody had done Bhanamathi. That afternoon,
a programme was duly conducted. When it came to the question answer
session, one policeman asked me how I managed to acquire miraculous
powers. When I told him that I had no such powers, his reply was that
it was the hallmark of all people who had them - to claim that they
do not have any such! Despite my denials I had miraculous, supernatural
powers thrust upon me!
this very same visit, I had delivered a lecture demonstration at a Bhanamathi
affected village. When it was over, one villager informed me that Bhanamathi
was happening in his house. It was that a teenaged girl was lying on
a sapling which was only an inch thick; a heap of saris was burning
etc. When I asked him to take me to his house where I could check it
out, he was taken aback. He had never expected me to react that way.
But, he wanted a way out. He told me that people who were belonging
to Rakshasa Gana could see it. Since he knew that I was one born under
Deva Gana I would not be able to see that!
my experience each and every time. Another time when I had visited that
area, there was the incidence of rape, hair cut, assault and nude parading
of a lady nurse who was working in nearby village. The vested interests
of the village alleged that she was a witch practicing Bhanamathi and
all this was done to nullify her alleged magical powers. When proper
investigations were done, it emerged that this lady had resisted the
amorous advances of some of the high and mighty of the village who had
branded her as a witch to “teach her a lesson”.
areas where Bhanamathi is said to be rampant every mishap is ascribed
to Bhanamathi - whether a physical illness, mental or anything happening
to animals. Some people also believed that they could gain many powers
by following prescribed rituals which include bizarre things like consuming
one’s own excreta and ritualistic sacrifices.
first week of July, we had an advanced training camp for activists of
our anti-superstition campaign, for those who had been already trained
by us. Last year,we had training camps for activists who wanted to educate
people about Bhanamathi and its evils. These activists were trained
to do a number of apparently miraculous things like producing objects
from thin air, swallowing fire, walking on fire etc. They would demonstrate
these to the public and explain to them that they were not miracles
and any one could perform them.
been to Gulbarga a week before, so that I could visit villages and speak
to those affected by Bhanamathi.
The first village
we went to was called Devantagi about 40 kms from Gulbarga. A small
crowd had gathered at a meeting hall as the announcement had been made
that people affected by
Bhanamathi could tell us about their problems. The first one to narrate
his tale of woe was the pharmacist of the primary health centre. Since
it had no doctor or nurse, he was the sole representative of the medical
services of the administration. He narrated a long story about how he,
his brother and sister were affected by Bhanamathi for two decades.
That he was a Muslim made no difference to this supposedly Hindu superstition.
The strange thing was that though the perpetrators and victims of Bhanamathi
were predominantly Hindus, those who would exorcise the spells were
this story ended, another local person a shopkeeper showed his swollen
legs and oedematous face and claimed it was also due to Bhanamathi.
When further questioned it turned out that he was a hypertensive not
taking his medication properly. The next was a farmer and his son who
had epilepsy. Though the boy was symptom free under medical treatment
the father wanted to get the root cause treated. Bhanamathi! He was
followed by a native of the village who had been married to a nearby
villager. Her problem was that of a mentally challenged daughter - again
the cause was said to be the same. In fact none of them had the courage
to utter the word Bhanamathi - they use the Kannada word for the
black magic done - madisyara as they were too scared to utter
the word Bhanamathi!
afternoon, we went on a round of the village to meet those who
had to be visited in houses for various reasons - the first visit was
to the house of the young man who had invited us to the village -
he was a dalith but popularly called as Shastri. His problem was that
his sister-in-law was getting stigmata locally known as kera. There
were black scars in the shape of crosses all over the body, mainly on
limbs-but none on the face or back. It was quite obvious that they were
self-inflicted. At that juncture the local MLA B.R. Patil arrived and
joined our team.The lady was willing to be photographed and on that
pretext we called her out. When she was out, our team member searched
her belongings and found about a dozen black date sized seeds called
Kera Kai. They were used to make a home brewed remedy for coughs and
contain a black corrosive liquid. With them, a needle was also found
with traces of the resin
on it. Our hunch was proved. Now, it was to establish the reason of
this hysterical behavior. On persistent question the truth was out -
her husband was a drunkard, a gambler and this attention seeking behavior
was a reaction to his misdeeds. This was something which could not be
discussed in public, so she was advised counseling.
house was that of a quadriplegic whose husband was so poor that he could
not afford to take her to hospital for medical aid. In the neighbourhood
a Muslim suffering from leucoderma ascribed his skin disease to the
usual madisyara. A few others complained that on waking up in
the morning, they had on their doorsteps, the typical sign of madisyara-lemons
smeared with turmeric and vermillion! It was obvious that the whole
village was obsessed with black magic. It was potent mix of illiteracy,
poverty and lack of medical facilities that had caused this and this
village was a typical example of hundreds of its kind in the Bhanamathi
affected districts of Hyderabad Karnataka - Bidar, Gulbarga, Raichur,
Bellary and Koppala.
our rounds we had a lecture demonstration to educate the people as how Bhanamathi like things could be done. They were also told about the
need for medical treatment, the local member of the legislative assembly
also promised to do his bit to improve the situation. It helped because
he too was a rationalist willing to work for change. When the programme
was to be over one of the members of the audience, a middle aged woman
started getting symptoms of “possession.” She jumped on one of our
activists and clung to his neck. But, he managed to extricate himself.
We told the villagers to refer her to a psychiatrist.
visit was to a village called Khajuri. It was here that a young girl
was kidnapped flayed and her beheaded body thrown in a field. Her parents
were inconsolable. They feared for the life of their son and had
taken out their eldest daughter from her school so that he could be
looked after. Both of them being landless labourers, had to work from
dawn to dusk to scratch out a bare subsistence living. The assembled
villagers informed us that a gang of Bhanamathi perpetrators had carried
out this gory ritual in search of hidden treasure. Though they
were arrested, were out on bail and one of them who was residing in
the village had run away. The empty house stood as a mute witness to
the gory rituals in the name of Bhanamathi.