Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Exorcism in India

"Balaji temple at Mehandipur in Rajasthan is very Powerful place. It is believed that the deity in this temple has divine power to cure a person possessed with evil spirit. Hundreds of 'Sankatwalas', as the possessed people are refereed to in local lingo, throng to the temple everyday to offer prayers and have 'darshan'. The temple has also become a home and the last respite for the victims. The 'Mahant' of the temple, Shri Kishor Puri Ji, prescribes the treatment. It can include reading holy texts, following a strict vegetarian and simple diet, and even afflicts physical pain to one's body. One can witness people going through various physical therapies like keeping heavy stones on their body , on arms, legs and chest , to ease their pain. There are others who inhale the smoke that fumes out of the sweet Patasa's kept on smoldering cowpats. The ones with serious case of spirit possession, who tends to get violent, are even shackled in chains within the temple premises. This may appear a bit anachronistic at the first glance, but thousands of people are believed to have been cured in this way. Festival time (Holi, Hanuman Jayanti and Dusshera etc) are regarded as the most auspicious time to emancipate from the evil spirit" - says the website. (It warns: "Ladies, insane and evil spirited person must be accompanied by a attendant", among else).
Dausa itself could compete for the title of dirtiest town in Rajasthan because the stench and filth, in which stray pigs seemed to be more in their natural habitat than the schoolgirls with their tidy blue-white school uniform, was overwhelming.
Photography is prohibited inside the temple but curiosity always prevails, and the demon inside my head told me to photograph. I had my camera with the 17-40/4 hanging from my neck on its strap, attached a release cord and hid the release button in my pocket. Amidst all the noise and chanting no one could hear the clicking of the shutter. ISO @1600, F=11 and go.

The possessed patiently wait for treatment in the temple's courtyard...
...while the devotees throng inside through a narrow corridor.

Inside one can see the sankatwallahs in their various stages of possession; some just sitting and waiting as if on a railway station, others lurching on the marble floor in the state of total despair.

I found a video on YouTube that catches the temple atmosphere very well, taken by an Argentinian traveler. The creepy part starts at 4.10.

The main altar.

I don't believe in demons but the more I live, the less I know. There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.


Balogh Zoltán said...

Ezek nagyon jók lettek,főleg az ablak előtt álló emberekkel és sziluettel üt nagyot szerintem.

Pataki Balázs said...

Helló Zoli! Az szerintem is nagyon szerencsés kép, de remélem megért egyrövid sorozatot is. Amúgy sajnos elég kevés téma volt amiből igazi sztorit lehetett faragni, miután a leh-i eseményekről lemaradtam sajnos.

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