A Ghost Funeral: The Last Mughal King haunts Red Fort

story from Hindustan Times image from wikimedia

It is said that on many Thursday nights, a ghost procession led by the last Mughal king and his beautiful consort went around the Red Fort. The procession was possibly that of one of Zafar’s children who died at the hands of the British.

In the 19th century when hundreds of minor principalities had divided India, Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last Mughal king, was reduced to preside over the dwindling empire in Delhi. The last ruler of the Timurid Dynasty, he was the son of Akbar Shah II by his Hindu wife Lalbai.

A published account in media says: “The apparition of the King was of average height, with broad shoulders, long arms but unusually short legs. The queen was tall like the letter Alif, as graceful as a cypress tree, with long raven-coloured hair; she had a narrow waist and short feet fitted in sandals adorned with pearls, which glittered in the moonlight.”

The people witnessed to this ghost procession say, “The King always wore loose pyjamas and the queen invariably spotted a long, gold-laced gharara, with a golden cummerbund, which reached almost to the ground and rustled in the breeze.”

Both apparitions appeared to be grief-stricken, because of the sudden demise of their child. They walked along the procession in measured steps, almost regally. The King’s head always mournfully dropped on his shoulder.

While some part of Bahadur Shah’s opus was lost or destroyed during the unrest of 1857-1858, a large collection did survive, and was later compiled into the Kulliyyat-i Zafar. Zafar’s poetries were about love and mysticism, with Delhi as the backdrop. Some say since Zafar was in love with his writings and that he revisits his preserved writings in the moonlight.

Zafar’s gazal from bestghazals

Desi Ghosts, spirits, and other things that float about in the night…

Some Desi ghosts and spirits share some characteristics with vampires such as having the capacity to drain out a person’s life-force and to generally carry about causing trouble for human beings…although some can be trained to behave…

Djinn:

In Islamic mythology, the Djinn are fiery spirits, one of which was Iblis. From the Arabic junna, “angry, possessed.” The Jinn pre-existed in middle eastern folklore before Islam, and were incorporated into the religion. The djinn are creatures who lived on earth before man; they were made up of ‘smokeless fire’ whereas men were made from earth.

Djinn are often disruptive, but can sometimes be of service to mankind. The Djinn shunned daylight and were responsible for disease and insanity. Unlike other devilish creatures, however, the Djinn are creatures of free will, even having a chance at redemption through Islam. The three classes of Djinn are:

* Ghul, mishchievous shape-shifting spirits associated with graveyards. “Ghul” is the origin of the English word “ghoul.”
* Sila, Djinn who can appear in any form
* Ifrit, evil spirits.

In Middle Eastern magical practice, Djinn are invoked much like the spirits of the Goetia in Western magick.

The word “genie” is a corruption of Djinn. Both ‘Djinn’ and ‘Genius’ probably share a common root. Djinn are said to avoid salt and steel, and to be afraid of the sound of singing.

from link

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The Vetala:

In India, tales of vetalas, ghoul-like beings that inhabit corpses, are found in old Sanskrit folklore. A prominent story tells of King Vikramāditya and his nightly quests to capture an elusive vetala. The vetala legends have been compiled in the book Baital Pachisi. The vetala is an undead creature, who like the bat associated with modern day vampirism, hangs upside down on trees found in cremation grounds and cemeteries. (from wiki) They were also called Punyaiama, meaning pure race, as in the Veda. It looks like an old woman, which was deformed with long slits for eyes, discolored skin, poison fingernails and was known for canabalism. It sucks the blood of sleeping, drunken or mad women. It would enter the home by passing a magic thread down the chimney of the home. The Vetala also had the ability to possess corpses. These corpses would have their hands and feet pointing backwards. (this excerpt and rest of quotes below from theshadowlands)

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The Masan:

from India, is said to be usually the ghost of a child that delights in tormenting and killing children. The Masan was able to curse a child that walks in its shadow. It will also follow a woman home should she allow her gown to drag on the ground over his shadow.
from the shadowlands

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The Bhuta:

from Indian Mythology is the soul of a man who died an untimely death, usually violent in nature. This is an ill-intentioned spirit that wandered around at night animating dead bodies and attacking the living like a ghoul. They can also be found in cemeteries or other deserted places, feeding on excretion and intestines. An attack by one of these creatures would usually result in severe sickness or death. The Bhuta also have a problem that they lack shadows and therefore cannot settle on the earth.

from the shadowlands

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The Gayal:

Is classified as a vampiric spirit that is usually created due to the death of a man who has no one too properly performs the burial rites at his funeral. When he returns the Gayal reeks his revenge upon the sons of others and upon his own relatives. The threat of a relative returning from the grave is usually enough to ensure that proper burial rite are performed.

from the shadowlands

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Vikram Aur Betaal! (retro ghost teleserial)

here’s some childhood t.v. Doordarshan nostalgia for you…personally I never watched this series but I used to read the story-book about the corpse hanging from a tree that King Vikram needs to collect for a tantric to use in his magickal workings… you need to watch the clip halfway to see the ghost flying and don’t miss the special effects skulls at the very end.

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The series was about a righteous king ,Vikram who goes in search of a ghost, Betaal. Each time he succeeds in trapping him but has to listen to a story on his way back. There is also an impending condition set by Betaaal that he would accompany Vikram as long as he kept his vow of silence, never uttering a word. These were simple stories which contained a moral, and a question at the end posed by Betaal to Vikram. Betaal also warned the king that if he knew the answer and failed to answer it, he (Betal) would have his head. The cunning Betal knew that the king was too clever not to know the answer, and each time Vikram fell for the trap followed by the inevitable …tu bola aur main chala…voooooo.

from nastyworld

so here’s the intro from the t.v. serial with Satish Shah (ghost Betaal) clinging on Arun Govil’s back telling him a story and asking questions at the end and then flying away giggling…

and here’s a new cartoon version of the same…not very good but it gives you some idea of the story…altough I’d kind of like to punch the narrator…who talks about the “strong bodied and fair skinned” Vikram in one of those “for good times make it santori times” whisky commercial accents….anyway…

by the way, because of the trouble with translating Sanskrit into phoenetic english, Betaal can also be read as vetaal, or vetala. Just so as we can be clear on this species of ghost because the Baital, was a supernatural being in india that is half human and half bat, not to be confused with this species of ghost that likes to hang from trees upside down, possess corpses, and has hair like an old woman.

In India, tales of vetalas, ghoul-like beings that inhabit corpses, are found in old Sanskrit folklore. A prominent story tells of King Vikramāditya and his nightly quests to capture an elusive vetala. The vetala legends have been compiled in the book Baital Pachisi.

Professional Ghost

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Scary living for India’s ghost man
Sunday, 02 October , 2005, 07:50

Pakurtala: Mothers use his name to scare their children, while adults hope they don’t bump into him in the dark. For more than 40 years, Gopal Haldar has been making his living in India’s Sunderbans mangrove region as a ghost.

Measuring a mere 1.21 meters (four feet) and weighing a slight 24 kilograms, Haldar—now near to retirement age—says he has been malnourished all his life.

“My mother was very weak. So am I,” said Haldar, who lives in the Sunderbans village of Pakurtala, about 90 kilometres south of Kolkata. “I have hardly had the money to buy good food or visit a doctor. I have been suffering from malnutrition since childhood and am unable to work in the field”

Because of his poor health and stick-like physique, neighbours had said he was “born to play a ghost”.

Haldar took to the idea and his reputation began to spread through the myriad islands that make up the Sunderbans.

“Wherever I go children call me ‘Uncle Ghost’ and peep at me through windows,” a smiling Haldar said. “Women and children are even scared of going out at night in case they meet me.”

His friend Sunil Chakraborty helps him perform on candle-lit stages in villages. He says it takes him only 10 to 15 minutes to do his makeup and transform his emaciated self into a ghost-like creature—mainly by painting his sunken face, protruding ribs and skeletal limbs with soot.

“I see it as acting,” said Haldar, adding that while he roams from village to village scaring the daylights out of people, his wife and son work in the fields.

“I have no regrets,” he said of his spooky profession. “I enjoy it.”

He mainly does his shows during the festive seasons and earns Rs 40 to Rs 50 a time, said his wife Malati. But she added resignedly “he is addicted to smoking hemp and spends all his money on this habit”.

Lighting up a hemp cigarette in front of his wife, Haldar acknowledged his love of the herb.

“[But] when I indulge myself in smoking hemp and playing chess, I wonder if I am a real ghost or a human being,” he said philosophically.

from sify.com

Ahmadabad’s Restaurant of Death…

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image from pirategirl

AHMADABAD, India (AP) — In India, death is a part of life – and, at one restaurant in western India, a part of lunch. The bustling New Lucky Restaurant in Ahmadabad is famous for its milky tea, its buttery rolls, and the graves between the tables.

It’s a spot where old men page through newspapers and argue politics in the morning while young couples share candlelit meals and hold hands at night. That the candles sit atop graves only adds to the ambiance.

Krishan Kutti Nair has helped run the restaurant built over a centuries-old Muslim cemetery for close to four decades, but he doesn’t know who is buried in the cafe floor. Customers seem to like the graves, which resemble small cement coffins, and that’s enough for him.

“The graveyard is good luck,” Nair said one recent afternoon after the lunch rush. “Our business is better because of the graveyard.”

The graves are painted green, stand about shin high, and every day the manager decorates each of them with a single dried flower. They’re scattered randomly across the restaurant – one up front next to the cash register, three in the middle next to a table for two, four along the wall near the kitchen.

The waiters know the floor plan like a bus driver knows his route, and they’ve mastered the delicate dance of shimmying between graves with a tray of hot tea in each hand.

“We’re used to it,” said waiter Kayyum Sheikh. “There’s nothing odd about it.”

The graves probably belong to the family or associates of a 16th-century Sufi saint whose tomb is nearby, according to Varis Alvi, a retired professor in Ahmadabad.

The restaurant dates to the 1950s – before honking traffic and tall buildings surrounded the site – when K.H. Mohammed opened a tea stall outside the cemetery, said Nair, who helped run the place and became Mohammed’s partner. Business was good, and the stall kept expanding until its tin walls encircled the graves. Mohammed died in 1996.

In India, where three times the population of the United States is packed into an area one-third the size, it’s common for cemeteries to serve multiple purposes, said Alvi. Newcomers to cities set up tents inside graveyards, and businesses set up stalls next to graves.

Besides, the Hindu notion of death as merely an opportunity for rebirth makes the prospect less frightening than it is in the West, Alvi said. Although the tea shop cemetery is Muslim – Hindus cremate their dead – most Indians would feel comfortable relaxing in a cemetery, he said.

“Graveyards in India are never scary places,” Alvi said. “We don’t have a nice literature of horror stories so we don’t have much fear of ghosts.”

Most customers said they don’t mind sitting next to graves.

“We spend all day here,” Mohammed Tafir said between cups of tea. “The graves are holy, they’re good luck. They bring us good luck too.”

Some, though, say the restaurant is disrespectful.

“They should maintain the decorum of the graveyard,” said a history professor who asked that his name be withheld. When asked why he didn’t want to be identified, he smiled and said, “Because I have tea there.”

story from link

A ghost in Kolkata…

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Oct. 7, 2007

KOLKATA: The scare of ghosts is haunting 345 Class V students of Degri Girls High School in Domjur, Howrah. On Saturday, the school authorities were forced to suspend classes for the day after terror-struck students claimed seeing poltergeist activity.

Just before classes began, a rumour spread among Class V students that many of their classmates were witnessing scary sights.

“I suddenly saw the duster and chalks floating in the air, right in front of me,” said Poulami Surat. Many students claimed that they saw a nearby tree “on fire” — although none of the leaves were burnt. Others saw smoke billowing from the tree trunk. And yet others were terrified by scary noises that seemed to come nowhere. Soon, every child started having some ‘ghostly experience’or other.

Panic spread within minutes and the students ran out of classroom in fear. Teachers rushed in to assure them that nothing had happened, but the terror-struck students refused to believe. None of them would go back to the classroom. So, classes had to be suspended for the day.

“A month ago, one of their classmates, Priyanka Khara, died after a sudden illness. Since then, an unknown fear has crept in among the students. On Saturday, when they ran out in terror, we decided to take no risks. The guardians were called and classes were suspended,” said headmistress Somdatta Sarkar. Classes were held as usual in the other classes. info via weird India

A British Ghost in India: Your tea and cake or your life!

This news is exactly one year old (July 17, 2006) but is just too scrumptious not to be retold…

Owen Tomkinson was a British soldier who died of cholera in the northern Indian state of Bihar in 1906.Nothing unusual about that, but people of Ekbalnagar in Gaya town where Mr Tomkinson is buried, believe that his ghost stops residents and passers-by and demands tea and cake. (and biscuits)

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So much so that to placate the dead soldier’s ghost, they offer tea, biscuits and home-baked cakes at Mr Owen’s grave at a two-acre burial ground, where he lies buried with hundreds of other Britons who died in the area.Most of the graves are of children, aged between three months to eight years, and who died between 1833 and 1877.Mr Tomkinson was among the last people to have been buried here – ‘In loving memory of Owen, The dearly loved husband of Annie Tomkinson who died at Gaya (sic) on 19 September 1906, aged at 47 years’, reads the epitaph.

But 100 years after his death, locals of this Muslim-dominated neighbourhood still say that the “angrez bhoot” (English ghost) is a restless soul who can be only pacified with tea and cakes.Gaya is rife with stories about how Mr Tomkinson’s ghost “stops people” and “asks for tea and cakes”.

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“When darkness falls, the English ghost appears. He is dressed in a very English suit and boots. He stands in the middle of the road demanding tea and biscuit,” says local school teacher Mohammad Zamiuddin.Sexagenarian Mohammad Basir says he had an encounter with the ghost some five years ago early one morning.”He stopped me but after shaking my hand became invisible,” says Mohammed Basir, a small time businessman.

Mehmood Ali, caretaker of the ‘European’ graveyard where the Englishman lies buried, is not sure of Mr Tomkinson’s ghost, but says there is a “ghost in the area who likes tea and biscuits” . “I have never met the English ghost. But I believe there must be some restless soul roaming around the area with his penchant of tea and biscuit,” he says.

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Faiyaz Ahmed, a local resident, says it is a small price to pay to keep the Englishman’s ghost happy.”He is quite unlike other ghosts. He is harmless. Even if you do not serve tea and biscuit, he leaves you if you promise to get it any other day,” he says.

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story from bbc