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Daayan, Ḍāin or Ḍāini is often mistakenly regarded as a Bandariya for a witch (human female practitioner of black magic) in Indian folklore, the term has been derived from the Sanskrit word dakini, which refers to a female paranormal entity from patala (the netherworld). Dakinis have been described in medieval Hindu texts such as the Bhagavata Purana, Brahma Purana, Markandeya Purana and Kathasaritsagara as female fiendish spirits in the train of Kali who feed on human flesh.[1]

Daayans are comparable to malevolent female spirits such as the succubi of Western folklore, they also resemble vampiresses by their alleged feeding behaviours that requires the blood or life-force of their victims. It is also said that powerful and older daayan is also referred to as ekayan. The primary source of a daayan's power is her unusually long braids (choti) that is used as an additional limb, it can be flexed, stretched retracted and regenerated to do whatever the daayan pleases. The daayan is also described as having long and monstrous black nails, and feet that face backwards. It is said that once a daayan lays her evil eye on someone, it is a bad omen for the whole household of that person. She is regarded as the most powerful paranormal being.[2]

History

The daayan cult refers to a secret society which emerged during the 15th century in Harangul, a village in the Parbhani district of Maharashtra. The concept of daayans has permeated Indian culture, and may be seen on popular television programs. Belief in daayans has existed in most regions of India, particularly in Jharkhand and Bihar. "'Victims of witch-hunting are usually old or widowed women. These women are victimized for their property, or due to problems in the family or for sexual exploitation" says Vasvi Kiro, a member of the Jharkhand State Commission for Women.[3] The legend is prevalent in rural and semi-rural areas, with "witch-hunts" causing women to be killed or ostracised.[4]

In Harangul it is believed that daayan live in an area of the village, and an evil spirit resides within them. Villagers believe these women destroy everything that is good. Daayans are allegedly found in and around cemeteries, abandoned battlefields, crossroads, toilets and squalid places.[5][6][7]

Folklore

Folklore suggests that a woman treated badly by her family or who died in childbirth as a result of family neglect returns as a daayan, haunting the family and drinking the blood of male family members.[8] Beginning with the youngest male in the family, draining his blood changes him into an old man before she progresses to the other men.[9]

A daayan is also said to target young families, young women and other family surrogates.[10] Assuming the form of a young, attractive female, she hunts for young men on roads and seduces lone travellers into accompanying her. Imprisoning a man, she feeds on his age and blood.[6][9] One legend says that a daayan will hold a young man captive until he is old, using him sexually until he dies and joins the spirit world. Another says that a young man seduced by the daayan who eats her food returns at dawn to the village as an old man.[11]

Some women are believed to be daayans, and (along with young children) are sometimes tortured and killed in rural areas.[12] Witchcraft is a major social problem in Jharkhand (a state in India that ranks 24th out of 29th in literacy), a large number of women are accused as witches and are killed. The state is known for an indigenous religion called Sarna. Similar to the puritan society of the 17th century, women here are not treated as equal to men. Hence single women, especially widows, are easy targets of witchcraft accusations.[13]

Daayans worship evil, "black magic spirits".[14] Many believe they are the handmaidens of goddesses, and are known as yoginis in local lore. The word daayan is used in many Hindi films, short films, Indian and Pakistani TV serials as well as in social media as a female, who does things that are not for the good cause or promote evil in society.

Differences between dayaans and churels

Daayan is sometimes used interchangeably with the term churel (Hindi: चुड़ैल cuṛail), although conceptual and cultural differences exist between them. A churel is a vengeful ghost that arise from the death of a woman during pregnancy or childbirth, with preternatural powers similar to a witch. Indian witch stories vary across the country; the north Indian states believe that the churel (which lives near graveyards or in forests) can change its form and lure young men, who they will kill if they have physical contact with them. While in the western and eastern parts of India, it is believed that a churel looks like an old hag who lures small children away from their families to kill and eat them so as to keep herself younger.[15]

References

  1. ^ monier-williams, A Sanskrit dictionary 1899
  2. ^ Blezer, Henk; Ardussi, John; Zadoks, A.; Buffetrille, Katia; Diemberger, Hildegard; Huber, Toni (2002). Religion and Secular Culture in Tibet. Brill. pp. 113–129. ISBN 90-04-127763.
  3. ^ "'Witches' haunt women empowerment in Jharkhand". The Times of India. 10 December 2012. Archived from the original on 20 September 2013. Retrieved 10 October 2013.
  4. ^ "'Witch' attacked in Rahe village". The Times of India. 11 December 2012. Archived from the original on 28 September 2013. Retrieved 10 October 2013.
  5. ^ Fane, Hannah (1975). "The Female Element in Indian Culture". Asian Folklore Studies (Nanzan University) 34 (1): 100. JSTOR 1177740.
  6. ^ a b Raymond Buckland (2009). The Weiser Field Guide to Ghosts: Apparitions, Spirits, Spectral Lights and Other Hauntings of History and Legend. Weiser Books. p. 33. ISBN 978-1-57863-451-4.
  7. ^ "Paid to poo: Combating open defecation in India". BBC News. 29 August 2015.
  8. ^ Cheung, Theresa (2006). The Element Encyclopedia of the Psychic World. Harper Element. p. 112. ISBN 978-0-00-721148-7.
  9. ^ a b Janet Chawla (1994). Child-bearing and culture: women centered revisioning of the traditional midwife : the dai as a ritual practitioner. Indian Social Institute. p. 15.
  10. ^ Bane, Theresa (2010). "Chedipe". Encyclopedia of Vampire Mythology. McFarland. pp. 47–8. ISBN 978-0786444526.
  11. ^ Melton, J. Gordon (1999). The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead. Visible Ink Press. p. 372.
  12. ^ "Double child sacrifice casts spotlight on witchcraft in India". The Sydney Morning Herald. 26 November 2010. Retrieved 10 October 2013.
  13. ^ Singh SS. The 'witches' of Jharkhand. The Hindu. Published 27 December 2016. Accessed 23 April 2017.
  14. ^ Chapter 25, Beloved Witch, HarperCollins Publishers India, 2000
  15. ^ "Chudail (Daayan) - The story of Indian Witch & Witchcraft". 18 August 2021.