Life lessons from daiyans and other Indian supernaturals
Turn their cautionary tales into your playbook
Cricket, celebrities and curious, sordid information that has absolutely nothing to do with us. No matter how sincerely we deny it, the three C’s have united Indians for eons now. There is another mysterious C that finds its way into hushed conversations between people squished together far closer than the concept of personal space allows.
Get your mind out of the gutter. It’s chudails — the mother of all Indian supernaturals, the leading ladies of most horror films and sleepovers. Like a pimple you can’t stop popping, they lure us in with their strange stories, and curious methods of revenge. And the lingering thought of what if…
We may have debunked the real-life existence of these Indian supernaturals and their sisters, but there’s a lot that women can learn from them, as we take a deep dive into their origin stories.
While these legends paint women as revenge-seeking demons from hell, all their origin stories point to sexual frustration and unhappiness in their personal lives.
AKA Pretni, Pichal Peri, Daiyan. A derogatory term for witches, chudails are mythical creatures, or the ghost of an ‘impure’ living thing. A pregnant women who dies during the five days of Diwali, during childbirth, or an unnatural death returns as a chudail.
MO: This hideous creature is blessed with the power to shape-shift into a beautiful woman, so the femme fatale can lure “handsome” men and suck up their life force/ virility. Found chilling in cemeteries, on highways, thresholds of houses…toilets?
Life lesson: Let’s be honest, all she’s trying to do is rid the world of people stupid enough to follow a woman in the dead of the night and into the loo. It’s basic self-defence.
Her geographical origins point to southern India, where she haunts old wells, trees, forest and lonely roads. Women who commit suicide without experiencing love, or physical pleasure turn into these long-haired lasses.
MO: Sanskaari, and the epitome of femininity even in death, she uses the tinkling of anklets, bangles and giggles to lure in her victims, and cooks for them like a good Indian bahu before destroying them.
Life lesson: Taking on the role of de facto cook for the men in your life might doom you to an afterlife spent in a vicious loop of making aloo parathas until you’re frustrated enough to eat them (parathas, and men).
Also, and most importantly: Masturbate. It will set you free.
Say hello to Countess Dracula. This legend lives atop tall palm trees, and is the malevolent form of women who died a violent death. Dating back to a courtesan from Tamil Nadu who was murdered by her lover in an act of revenge for killing his wife.
MO: Gruesome and hideous in her OG form, she is also equipped with the magic ability (and Bobbi Brown’s makeup skills) to transform in to a seductress who draws innocent men into trees to drink their blood.
Life lesson: Kindly focus on your Vitamin A intake (think sweet potatoes, dark green leafy vegetables) to increase your RBC count, and start ingesting foods like cayenne pepper, onions and pomegranates) for better blood circulation. Also, love triangles are often more trouble than they’re worth.
Made infamous by 2018’s Stree, this Karnataka-based legend is basically a witch or a ‘bridal ghost’ who is a mystery woman and keeps her whereabouts secret.
MO: Chasing after the sole earning member of households (the men, naturally) so that they can make her unrequited bridal dreams come true, she appears at night, calling out in the voice of people familiar to the victims. Upon answering the call, they’re never to be heard from again.
Life lesson: Having trouble getting your in-laws to agree to your union or want your to-be husband to move out from under his parents’ thumb? Feign a kidnapping and elope with your beloved.
Also, patience: it’s alleged that writing nale ba on the wall ensures the nale ba comes back the next day, cyclically. If she’s not a poster-child for polite perseverance, I don’t know who is.
From West Bengal, the Sheekol Buri is, surprise, surprise, the ghost of a woman who committed suicide by drowning, due to an unhappy marriage. Other versions paint her as a victim, being violently drowned. Naturally she lives in, and around, waterbodies.
MO: Nehle pe dehla. The long haired, iris-less lady drags men back to her swampy lair where she proceeds to drown them. Because revenge is a dish best served wet.
Life lesson: If your spouse or in-laws start to cause you unhappiness, move out. The only thing that should be drowning are your sorrows, over a few glasses of the finest wine, shared by your female allies.
A deep dive into these legends may have exposed us to the lack of knowledge about mental illness and the deep-rooted patriarchy in Indian society, but mostly, that life lessons are lurking everywhere. And armed with these origin stories, you’re going to kill it, at the next ghost story night.