I attended one religious function recently at someone’s home. It was a Pooja, a prayer to invoke a Goddess with request to ensure that the family remains blessed. It was the last ritual in a series of functions in that family. This was a 50 minute ceremony. Suddenly 2/3rd of the way, a 45 year old lady attending the Pooja, from middle class background and educated family, started behaving what can be called in Marathi as “Angat Yene”. She suddenly went into a trance and it appeared that she was possessed by the religious chanting that was being sung in rhythm, accompanied by instruments. I had never seen such paranormal behavior in close quarters and definitely not in a known person. She started swaying to the musical rhythm and later she started sweating. Other ladies present stood surrounding her so that others could not observe her fully. Later, when the music and singing stopped the lady slowly came back to normal. By normal, I mean that she came out of swaying and out of trance. She was sweating profusely and looked very tired.
I was quite uneasy in mind and started surfing the net to look for articles explaining such events; naturally there was not much scientific material and probably not much scientific research has been done on the subject. Research may be there but it is more about traditions or “Pratha” and not the science behind it. In one or two places I read something which indicated that people do not want to challenge the old traditions for the fear of backlash. One thing I realized that, this may have been “business” till last century and even today in the rural areas. It is assumed that during “Angat Yene” or “Devi Ana” the Devi or Goddess’s spirit enters the body of that human being. It starts with assumption that the Goddess physically exists! I came across one thorough article by Dr. Prakash Pangu written about four years back. It is in Marathi so all may not be able to read it.
After reading this article I started getting some insight. I have used some references from this article but most of the take on this subject is mine. First let us look at the facts. This phenomena occurs in ladies and never in Men. The ladies who are affected by this can be generalized in the age group of those who have active menstruating cycle. This never occurs in young girls or old ladies. It was claimed that these ladies sometimes chant hymns and talk in language other than their mother tongue, during this spell. Some are supposed to climb coconut trees effortlessly. Dr Pangu says that he has never heard of ladies from Maharashtra speak Italian in this spell. Those who did not know swimming are not known to suddenly start swimming under the spell of the Goddess! Probably they speak a language which may be known to them but is not spoken by them regularly! Maybe some of the ladies were already conversant with the skill of climbing coconut trees. I want to share one experience with you. My cousin had a nose surgery years back. While he was coming out of Anaesthesia, he started talking a bit irrelevantly. To our surprise he spoke in English all the time! He knows English quite well but prefers to talk with family and friends in Marathi. It appears that effect of Anaesthesia made him speak in English. Anaesthesia and “Angat yene” appear to have same effect on humans!
All of us get very happy and excited when we see certain events like a concert, a cricket match, or a football match. Sometimes we get overly excited and exuberant. I am sure that there is a switch in our brains which operates when our exuberance level goes beyond a certain limit. It trips or works like a fuse, at the right moment and brings us back to reality. Similarly we react in certain ways in the event of sad things or when we are in grief! I am sure the switch is common for both happy and sad events and it all depends on how the brain gives signal to this switch. In a Hindi movie Munnabhai, the hero says that there is chemical “locha” taking place in his brain. Meaning of “locha” is turmoil! This turmoil causes the human beings to react in abnormal or Paranormal ways.
With this back ground I am trying understand what decides the intensity of the different behavior? Why the intensity goes above normal tripping point? One of the reasons could be that the ladies mentioned probably are suppressed in their day to day life. Though they are educated, they are forced to suppress their natural thought process and they live under some kind of pressure which does not allow them to express their thoughts openly. Combination of this suppression and the brain switch not tripping correctly, probably causes this problem of Para normal behavior.
Lack of knowledge and blind faith is a deadly combination. In olden days when the “Para Normal” behavior started, people must have been surprised initially with this event. But later on some smart people decided to take advantage of this scenario and got control over people! They started telling people that the Devi herself had entered the body of the lady! They glorified the event and started taking advantage of the situation. It was Win-Win situation where the ladies could come out of their suppression, cunning people around got control over surrounding people and created fear psychosis. Maybe the people started giving offerings or alms to the “Goddess” within the lady!
This phenomena was never analyzed scientifically but slowly this may change. Probably some German or American scholar, who has no Hindutva baggage to carry, will be able analyze the event correctly. Another explanation of this type of event is that like psychosomatic illnesses, where people actually get the symptoms, the paranormal behavior does make bodily changes like change in blood pressure or profuse sweating and so on. So what we see is actually happening but the reasons for this event are psychological. Post this event, the person is physically as well as emotionally drained. Hence the tendency of the general population is to believe what is happening is normal and true. It is true but not normal, it is para normal. There is weakness of mind within these ladies which affects them to such an extent that the “Angat Yene” process is kicked off!
Friends, I have tried to understand the so called religious tradition. My take is that the even today nobody is seriously trying to understand or analyze. Such so called traditions are not good for the society and need to be abolished. This is a very serious matter and suppressed women folk should be helped to overcome their inhibitions and their problems. Is it not some sort of exploitation that society doing? Your take please.