The Ritual Of Spirits – School Girls And Possessed Women Whipped To Ward Off The Evil Spirits In Them
For 13 yr old Vanita, the concept of good and bad, divinity and evil are mere concepts thrown around by her mother, to have her study every day. Why would a god or a devil be interested in her studies? Why would the spirits feel bad, if she doesn’t complete her homework? These are the questions in her mind as she tries contemplating the conservative family beliefs seething around her. In the months to come, her grades drop, lower than usual, and she flunks three more exams, this time even Biology, in which she was promising erstwhile. This makes her parents truly sad and disappointed.
They zero in on the cause and effect and conclude that this is all the doing of evil spirits lurking on the back of Vanita. Those are to be blamed, and not the child herself. She used to study really well, how else does one explain the sudden lack of interest in academics. Thus, they approach the local Tantrik, who fails to eradicate the spirits apparently. He then suggests the clueless parents bring Vanita to the annual festival of ancient Achappan Temple at Bavithram Vellalapatti, a remote village situated on the border of Trichy and Namakkal districts, on the auspicious day of Vijaya Dasami.
The Lashing Ground At The Achappan Temple – A Spirits Playground
On the day of Vijaya Dasami, Vanita isn’t the only one to attend the festival, burdened by the misgivings of the spirits. Thousands of women, of all ages, flock to the temple grounds, to achieve a cure for their misfortune. All have been convinced that their terrible life is a result of evil spirits brewing inside them. They are here to get rid of them, once and for all. The women are divided on the basis of their severity and age. Severity being the immediate apparent physical effects of the evil spirits, causing into manifestations and fits. Thus, the 13 yr old Vanita is placed in a line of thirty odd school girls.
“One whip from the priests will cure you of your every illness, malady and curse. Trust the God. You will be better than ever. Pray to him. Pray to her. One whip from….” goes the announcement, as the chief priest paints his face with absurd seeming designs and vermillion running over his forehead. He will be responsible to “capture and pluck out the evils inside” these women. Interestingly, the wide known belief within the Achappan Temple is that evil providence is pretty gender specific. Demonic spirits latch onto the women, and they need to be bloodily whipped, to free not just her, but the household of any and all cosmic maleficence.
Of course all the maladies, Loss in business, Academic failures, Failure to attain Puberty beyond an age, Unemployment to a man in the house, Impotency or incapability, lack of rains and failure of crops, and every other problem in this world. The priests here in Achappan Temple believe that ‘whipping the women’ will be an answer for everything.
Every year thousands of people, gather around for this barbaric cure of wellness. In doing so, they have come to believe and establish a system of redundancy.
The Whipping Ritual Ensues As Has Been For Decades Now
Kulla Goundan, the chief priest and the organizer of the whipping ritual readies himself in the demonic stance. The lines of possessed women are already here, waiting for the ritual to begin. He prays to the deity of the temple and starts out with his assistants in addressing the crowd. One of his assistants carries with him an earthen pot, within which holy water awaits its role in washing away sins. The chief priest, sprinkles out this holy water, by a fistful, on the face of the devotees, ridding them of milder sins. Then he turns to the columns of women, possessed women, who he needs to cure. All these women are crouching on the ground, and feverishly praying to the Deities to mark them pure. One by one they stand up, and the chief priests take the lash, swings it with all his strength, and whips them. The women shriek in pain but accept their supposed treatment. Some are cured instantly. Some require additional whipping.
Next, he turns to the next column of young girls, of which Vanita is one. They stand up and the whip hits their young and tender skins, and immediately leaves a scathing scar. They are asked to stand straight but, they don’t, the whip hits their cheek or right across their face. Again that’s not their fault. It’s the demon inside which is making her turn.
Vanita speaks after she has been whipped black and blue for her failure to study by the holy priests. She goes into self-pity where she considers that perhaps truly something is gravely wrong with her. “Now my friends will look at me suspiciously once they know that I attended the festival, known for curing mental disorders,” she says. Her companions, some younger to her, are whipped and undergo the whole ordeal, to drive away the supernatural beings which stop them from studying well.
Another 16 years old, is whipped four times in the ritual, mostly on her shoulder but one horrifyingly across her stomach. Her fault per se is that she can’t bear children. Her in-laws for obvious reasons believe that she has been possessed. Due to this, she lays bare on the ‘lashing ground’ in pain, as the cured women around her, stand up and leave with a dazed look on their faces.
The Origin Of This Whipping Ritual – The Spirit Within
Since the construction of Achappan temple, a folklore has been promoted across the state. As is the case with any other folklore, this tale speaks of possessed women, who were slapped by the Deity of the temple, and blue foggy air coming out of the women. The air, of course, was an ominous spirit, harming the host woman. Eventually, the word spread that the temple could cure any possessed women, just by slapping them. This ritual slowly evolved into a more brutal and barbaric form of punishment. Whipping the women seemed to show some results, and in time the ritual gained prominence.
Even today, every year, thousands flock at this temple and offer their bodies to be beaten up. A lash here will cure all these ills, physical and mental, that afflict women,” said a 60-year old Chelli, according to a statement given to The Hindu. She says pain liberates her, although her whole body is ripped with scars and wounds, owing to the fact that she visits the ritual every year. Apparently, her body isn’t free of evils for long. Pain has become necessary for her being. After all, as the chief priests say here, it is not a crime to voluntarily asked to be whipped. Torture or Pain is, after all, consented upon.
The Ritual Practise As Shown Below. The Video below shows gory imagery and viewer discretion is invited.
And so our world goes on, with ignorance and rituals. We hope the officials within the state consider the inhuman nature of such rituals and take the necessary action. Where does it all start? After all, aren’t religions cults at some point. And aren’t most Cults designed to appeal the deepest and darkest horrors of our minds?