Saturday 8 December 2012

The ghost busters fair

I am sure all of us have come across festivals, fairs and melas in India and even abroad. Many of these events are famous and are known all over the world. The Kumbha Mela is the largest gathering of  people in the world. Other melas such as the Ramaleela Mela in Delhi and other fairs are equally well-known.
But have you ever come across a mela held in honour of Ghosts and paranormal beings. It is called the Bhoot Preth fair and it is held once an year in a remote village in Madhya Pradesh.
The fair begins on a full moon day of  Magha Vasanth Panchami and continues for three days. It draws people from the states of Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Rajasthan, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and even Karnataka.
The origin of the fair goes back 250 years ago. It is held in Maljapur, a small village in Madhya Pradesh which comes alive during this festival of ghosts.
Guess who constitute the biggest chunk of visitors to this fair. People who are possessed or had been rid of ghosts and bhoots came in droves and this year, more than  a lakh attended the last day of the fair.
There is no fixed fee for exorcising the ghosts and the priests’  charge is arbitrary. Some of the Bhoots need complicated cases of exorcism and the priest charges more. However, most of the time, a simple broom would do. The broom, when lashed, sweeps away the insulted bhoot which then climbs a nearby tree.     
The Guru Deoji Sant Mandir is the centre piece of the fair and the thousands who come here make a beeline to the temple. The temple is famous in the area for ridding people of spirits and ghosts.
The priest of the temple follows an elaborate ritual to exorcise a person of the spirit. He sprinkles holy water on the person and asks the spirit who he or she is. When he gets the answer, he commences the exercise of ghost busting.
He begins thrashing the person with a broom. All the while he recites mantras. Those possessed circle the temple in a particular direction. Other devotees circle in the opposite direction.
There are two huge banyan trees within the compound of the temple and the head  priest Chandra Mahant Singh says they are home to lakhs of Bhoots, all of whom have been exorcised.
Deoji was a Rajput who came to the village from his native in Rajasthan. He settled down here with his family around 1700 AD.
Deoji had supernatural powers and he is supposed to have performed many miracles.
Guru Maharaj Deoji, as he is popularly known,  performed many miracles. He could turn water into ghee. Once he made candy out of dust to charm the village youths.
Another legend says he threw open the village grainary and fed birds. When the villagers protested, he asked them to take out whatever they needed from the one remaining sack of grain. However much they took, the sack never ran out. It was the villagers who ran out of the grainary, praising the Guru’s miracle.
The Guru is also said to have given sight to the blind. A British officer once  asked told the guru to carry his bags. The Guru picked up the luggage and threw it atop a tree, where it hung upside down.
He settled down at the temple and began exorcising the ghosts.
One day, he called the villagers and asked them to bury him alive. He asked them to open the grave only after eleven months. After nine months passed, the anxious villagers opened the grave to find the foetus of a baby. They buried it again and since then the ritual has been modified over the years to exorcise ghosts.
Today there are more than 200 specialists in this village to exorcise you of ghosts. The mela is known as bhooton ka mela, or “the fair of the ghosts”.

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