One of the most frightening things I have ever seen in my life is a person being spiritually possessed and each time I witness this possession I become more and more curious about spirituality.
A traditional Hindu custom and religious practice amongst the Gujrati community is to celebrate Randal Ma who is said to have taken the form of a child on earth. Households will hold a Mataji after the marriage of a son for blessings or at least once during their lifetime to bring good fortune and forgiveness for any wrong doings.
A shrine to Randal Ma is created for the day and the household has to feed a certain number of females (usually young or unmarried girls). After lunch, garba songs (specifically for female deities) are sung and often during this time, if a Bhui Ma (the human in whom the goddess’s spirit rises) is present then she will become possessed.
This Pagan like ceremony is like a horror movie before your eyes. The spirit dances heavily, panting and screaming as the crowd chant and sing. Their eyes glaze over, their voice becomes quite high pitched and their speech quite abrupt. The put diyas on their heads and bare hands and ask their hosts to perform a number of rituals.
The spirits know what has happened in a family, both good and bad, and have been known to publicly humiliate families by airing the households dirty laundry amongst their guests. Some have identified affairs, alcohol abuse and gambling.
Whilst possessed the crowd flock to bow down to the Mataji to receive blessings. Fortunes can be read in wheat grains and her blessings provided in this which must be swallowed by those who need her solace.
Slowly, they calm down and spirit leaves them. Their human body is tired and dehydrated, but not phased. Normality resumes and conversation takes place. The Bhui Ma who came to my Mum’s Mataji last weekend is a nursery teacher with two young children. On the outside, they seem like a normal family who do really normal things and they were happy to answer any of my rather personal questions.
The children spoke about how they overcame their fear and the Bhui Ma showed us the bracelet she wears that enables her to contain the spirit from appearing anywhere and prevents her from just blurting out personal things about a family. Most of all, when possessed, she remembers nothing.
In Western society, I am sure the Bhui Ma who came to my Mum’s house last weekend would be sectioned as someone with a split personality. A few years ago, I witnessed the spirit present itself in a young lad who we learnt was gay. He told my brother and I that his female alter ego would always present herself whilst he was on a date and sabotage every date. He had no control and again could not remember a thing.
I have often wondered how real some of this is, but the more I see, the more I am inclined to believe that some form of possession takes place. nevertheless, the fact that millions of people believe in them gives them a forum to perform and live on.
(unfortunately I was not allowed to film the Bhui Ma so cannot provide footage or photographs of the event)