Bengali Legend: Shakchunni


Shakchunni is a spirit commonly seen in Bengali Folklore. She’s commonly depicted as a young ghostly woman, dressed in a white sari, who could be commonly seen frequenting isolated highways, graveyards, and the like. She is the ghost of a married woman who was scorned/abused by her husband before dying from said abuse at a young age. She wanders the material world looking to exact her revenge on men and women in happy matrimony. Her most common story features her attempting to kidnap and replace a Brahmin woman who has a good relationship with her husband, in an attempt to live the life she never got to experience.


Informant: “My Bengali mother used to constantly scare me into behaving as a child by telling me that this ghost woman named Shakchunni was going to come and scold me if I didn’t do my homework, finish my dinner, etc. For most of my other Bengali cousins and friends, this seems to be a shared experience.

The version of the story that I had heard as a child was that she haunts the Earth, looking for men and little boys who misbehave. I’m not going to lie, I never really knew why. She is know for the ‘shankas’ [coral/shell bangles] that she wears, and honestly the sound of bangles clinking used to scare me as a kid.”


In much of South Asian folklore, there are many legends surrounding women who have been wronged seeking to exact their revenge. Given how women have long been mistreated in South Asian culture, it shouldn’t surprise most that many of these stories are about women who have been abused by the husbands, fathers, families, etc. It’s interesting to note that my informant, a male, was told the story of Shakchunni by his mother as a cautionary tale; in many retellings of the legend, Shakchunni is seen as a protector of women—especially younger women or those being abused—and a punisher of immoral men. In her legend, she is often wrongfully demonized for her actions; even her main story, where she attempts to kidnap and replace a woman, is pitiful, as it just shows the pain of a scorn woman who wants the life she always deserved. Shakchunni is not only a martyr for many Desi woman but a cautionary tale for those who wrong them.