Tag Archives: indian

Text: A gold idol that might be cursed is placed in Mahadev Mandir (temple) in India and the idol has been stolen 7 times but mysteriously always returned within 24 hours.

Context:my friend from Kolkata shared a fascinating tale about the Mahadev Mandir in his city, nestled in the eastern part of India. This temple houses an intriguing gold idol, rumored to be cursed. The enigmatic charm of the idol has led to it being stolen not once but seven times. Yet, each theft is shrouded in mystery as the idol inexplicably finds its way back to the temple within a mere 24 hours. This recurring phenomenon has not only deepened the mystique surrounding the idol but also led to widespread speculation and lore among the locals, who regard the idol’s inevitable return as a divine or supernatural intervention, ensuring its presence within the sacred confines of the Mahadev Mandir.

Analysis: This tale encapsulates more than just an intriguing story; it embodies the intricate interplay of faith, mystique, and cultural heritage that pervades many Indian communities. This narrative, shared among friends and locals, transcends the boundaries of mere folklore, touching upon the deep-seated belief in divine intervention and the supernatural that often characterizes Indian spiritual and cultural ethos.

The idol’s uncanny ability to return to its sacred abode within 24 hours of being stolen, a phenomenon that has occurred seven times, resonates with Domino Renee Perez’s observation that folklore figures or objects wield power by making “often incomprehensible and at times contemptible choices” (Perez 155). Here, the idol, though inanimate, assumes a persona imbued with a divine or supernatural will, challenging the rational and inviting speculation about higher powers and the sacredness of objects within religious contexts.

Furthermore, the community’s reaction to the idol’s return, viewing it as a divine or supernatural intervention, underscores the cultural and historical value placed on such artifacts. It reflects a collective belief in the sanctity and divine protection of religious symbols, underscoring the role of faith in shaping communal narratives and practices. This shared belief system, woven into the fabric of daily life, serves not only to affirm faith but also to bind the community together through shared stories that underscore a common cultural heritage and identity.

Text: If you pass a sharp object such as a knife or scissor without placing it on a flat surface, it means a bad omen

Context: “Anytime I go back home to India and I’m passing cutlery or like silverware to my friends, specifically a knife or a sharp object, they always tell me to place it on a flat surface or like a surface before they take it, just because if I pass it to them directly, there’s a myth that I’m gonna have a fight with them or they’ll walk out of my life or something bad and negative will happen to them.” This is what my friend told me when I interviewed him. He’s Indian and his friends back home believe in this, but although he doesn’t believe in this, he’s forced to follow this tale. On the positive side, he said that his friends’ beliefs about this make him question if there is “another force in the universe.”

Analysis: This folklore tale delves into deep cultural and interpersonal dynamics. This practice, while seemingly rooted in superstition, underscores a broader cultural wisdom emphasizing caution and respect in human interactions. It resonates with Ülo Valk’s insight that folkloric entities are “shaped by the perspectives…of storytellers” (Valk 31), suggesting that such tales reflect communal values and the social fabric of a culture. Similarly, Domino Renee Perez’s observation that folklore figures like La Llorona “wield power by making often incomprehensible choices” (Perez 155) highlights how folklore governs individual actions, even beyond personal belief. This tale, therefore, is more than a superstition; it’s a ritualistic expression of mindfulness and a nod to the collective wisdom that guides social conduct. It connects individuals to their cultural heritage, fostering a sense of continuity and respect for the unseen forces that shape human relationships. Moreover, this tale interestingly highlights the permeation and resilience of cultural beliefs through social networks and friendships, even among individuals who may not personally subscribe to these beliefs. My friend’s adherence to this practice, despite his skepticism, underscores the compelling nature of cultural norms and the respect for the beliefs of others within one’s community.

Indian Wedding Ritual: Sisters Demanding Money

Context: The informant, AV, is an 18 year old student with parents who immigrated from India, specifically Gujarat. She’s been to multiple weddings in India, and observed this at her first cousin’s wedding. She remembers being somewhere around 5th grade-aged, and so she recounted what she remembered, with a general explanation. She doesn’t know if this is an Indian ritual or just a Gujarati one.

Text: AV said “When our cousin got married, he didn’t have any sisters, so me and my sister stood in front of his horse and didn’t let him through until he promised us money and silver chains. We were really young so I don’t remember it as well, but I remember it happening” and explained that essentially, when either your brother or a close cousin who has no sisters is getting married, you’re supposed to stop them from going into the wedding. They usually enter on a horse or in a car and they’re meant to walk into the venue, but before they can, you physically get in front of the horse/car, stop him, and tell him he’s not allowed to pass. He then is supposed to bargain, offering you money or gold or silver to let him pass. When it’s enough, you let him pass — usually now, it’s ritualized in the way that you push back like three times and on the second or third time you let them through.

Analysis: This ritual feels somewhat similar to the pranks traditionally played on couples during weddings, as a way of disrupting that liminality, except it’s specific to the groom and his side of the family. It’s a ritual for the groom to also leave the family; as the groom goes to the bride, the sisters will no longer be the most important women in his life, and they cede that position in a joking ritual that requires the groom to bribe them, proving how much he wants the bride. It’s a wedding ritual that rearranges the structure of the families that will be combining, and visually reorders the groom’s priorities. For the sisters, it’s also a form of letting their brother go, knowing that their relationships will fundamentally change, but disrupting that transition with this joking ritual.

Loss of Knowledge Conversion Superstition Ritual

Context: The informant, A.V., is an 18 year old student with parents who immigrated from Gujarat and practice Jainism. This isn’t necessarily specific to North India, as she has seen South Indian people do it. However, she’s never seen anyone non-Indian do it. She was taught to do this from a young age by her parents, and continues to do it even when on her own/living away from home.

Text: The informant explained that every time she accidentally touched anything containing the written word with her feet, she would have to touch the item and, with the same hand, touch her forehead immediately after. These items could include books, loose papers, and iPads, as long as the written word was directly on the item.

Growing up, she was told that the reason they did this was because if anyone touched the written word with their feet, they were disrespecting knowledge. If knowledge was disrespected, the goddess of knowledge, Saraswati, would take it as an offense and leave; knowledge would abandon you. By this, her parents meant that one’s intelligence and opportunities would disappear. Touching your hand to the item and then to your forehead would allow you to apologize, making it clear that you had not intended to do that.

Analysis: This is a conversion superstition ritual, done to rectify or invalidate actions that would normally result in bad luck in the future. Feet are considered dirty, and touching something with one’s feet is seen as a way of saying that whatever was touched doesn’t matter enough for you to treat it well. Knowledge, being a goddess, is held sacred in Indian culture, and books/words are seen as an extension of her. Much in the way that like produces like in homeopathic sympathetic magic, disrespecting items of knowledge with one’s feet is an imitation of disrespecting knowledge itself and will convey that message unless some apology is made.

Gujarati/Jain Death Rituals Regarding Food

Context: The informant, A.V., is an 18 year old student with parents who immigrated from Gujarat; her family practices Jainism. Recently, her grandmother passed away, and this is what she observed immediately afterwards. Her grandmother, known as “Ba” lived with her family, and passed within the home.

Text: “When Ba passed away, a bunch of family friends came over almost immediately and when they asked my mom what they could do to help, she told them to start throwing out all the cooked food in both the refrigerator and freezer. I was really confused, so later I asked her, and she told me that if someone dies in the house, none of the cooked food is safe to eat anymore because like something about bad energy spoiling the food? Or like the aura of death in the house? I don’t remember. My cousin said it was probably because in olden times, they didn’t have much separation between the kitchen and where the death happened and also probably didn’t have good food storage, so whatever emanated from the body might end up getting in the food and making it unsafe.

The other thing was, until Ba was cremated, we weren’t allowed to make any food in the house. Family friends had to bring us food, like we couldn’t cook at all. My mom said it was partly because of the bad aura, because the house was like impure, but also partly because the spirit could linger and you want it to pass on. She said that like practically it was probably because people were supposed to have time to grieve without having to think about food, plus if people brought you food, you would have a strong community around you. Either way, it’s just kind of something you do. It doesn’t really matter if you believe in reincarnation or spirits or anything it’s just something you have to do.”

Analysis: Beyond any scientific reason that has to do with spoiled food and body-related fumes, the disposal of cooked food seems like an extension of contagious magic; as the body has died in the house, the food is no longer safe to eat because it contains that same aura of death. Rather than having an object that is once in contact always be in contact, with one having the ability to affect the other, it’s that two objects in contact with the same object (house) can affect each other. It’s almost a contagion syllogism if anything. One passing away makes the food no longer safe to eat. If anything, it’s contact magic in that the body touching the house affects the house’s purity and anything made within the house is unclean until the body is cremated, or purified.