Pishachas (Sanskrit: पिशाच, Piśāca) are flesh-eating demons according to Indian mythology. Their origin is obscure, although some believe that they were created by Brahma. Another legend describes them as the sons of either Krodha (figuratively "Anger") or as Dakṣa’s daughter Piśāca. They have been described to have a dark complexion with bulging veins and protruding, red eyes. They are believed to have their own languages, known as Paiśāci.
Piśācas like darkness and traditionally are depicted as haunting cremation grounds along with other monsters like bhutas and vetālas. Piśācas have the power to assume different forms at will, and may also become invisible. They feed on human energies. Sometimes, they possess human beings and alter their thoughts, and the victims are afflicted with a variety of maladies and abnormalities like insanity. Certain mantras are supposed to cure such afflicted persons, and drive away the Piśāca which may be possessing that particular human being. In order to keep the Piśāca away, they are given their share of offerings during certain religious functions and festivals.
The origin of Piśāca is unknown, although it maybe be the personification of the will-o'-the-wisp. or the demonization of some Indian tribes by Aryans who lived in the Piśāca Kingdom. Pāṇini, in his Aṣṭādhyāyi, described the Piśāca as a "warrior clan". In the Mahābhārata, the "Piśāca people" (equivalent to the modern day Nuristani people) are said to live in Northwest India and they are descendants of Prajāpati Kaśyapa.
In the Yoga Vasishtha Maharamayana translated by V.L. Mitra(1891),Vol 4., CHAPTER LXXXXIV.DESCRIPTION OF A PISACHA, AND THE UNITY OF THE WORLD WITH BRAHMA, there is the following description of the Pisāchas:
“31. The Pisāchas are a sort of aerial beings, with subtile bodies of theirs (as we see the empty forms of persons in our dreams); they have their hands and feet and other members of the body as thine, and see all things as thou dost.
32. They sometimes assume the form of a shadow to terrify people, and at others enter into their minds in an aerial form, in order to mislead them to error and wicked purposes. (They like devils waylay unwary men, and tempt them to evil).
33. They kill persons, eat their marrow, and suck up the blood of weak bodied people; they lay a siege about the mind, and destroy the vitals and viscera and the strength and lives of men.
34. Some of them are of aerial forms, and some of the form of frost, others as visionary men, as seen in our dreams with airy forms of their bodies. (And they are at liberty to take upon themselves whatever forms they please).
35. Some of them are of the forms of clouds, and others of the nature of winds, some bear illusory bodies, but all of them are possessed of the mind and understanding.
36. They are not of tangible forms to be laid hold by us, or to lay hold on any one else; they are mere empty airy bodies, yet conscious of their own existence.
37. They are susceptible of feeling the pain and pleasure, occasioned by heat and cold; but they are incapable of the actions of eating, drinking, holding and supporting anything with their spiritual bodies.
38. They are possessed of desire, envy, fear, anger and avarice, and are liable to delusion and illusion also; and are capable of subjection by means of the spell of mantras, charm of drugs and of other rites and practices.
39. It is likewise possible for one at some time or other, to see and secure some one of them by means of incantations, captivating exorcisms and amulets and spirit in chanting invocations.
40. They are all the progeny of the fallen gods, and therefore some of them bear the forms of gods also; while some are of human forms, and others are as serpents and snakes in their appearance.
41. Some are likened to the forms of dogs and jackals, and some are found to inhabit in villages and woods; and there are many that reside in rivers, mud and mire and hell pits.
(...)70. Now among the scattered seeds of souls, there were some that grew mature, and put forth in the forms of gods; and those that were of a bright appearance, became as intelligences and saints.
71. Those that were half mature, became as human beings and Nāga races; and such as were put forth themselves in the forms of insects, worms and vegetables.
72. Those seeds which are bloated and choked, and become fruitless at the end; these produce the wicked Pisāchas, which are bodiless bodies of empty and aerial forms.
73. It is not that Virinchi (vir incipiens) or Brahmā, made them so of his own accord or will; but they became so according to the desire which they fostered in themselves in their prior existence (which caused their transformations or metamorphoses in the latter ones). (Because the lord is impartial, and makes [not] one more or less than another).
(...)79. In this manner, there are many races of object beings of whom we are utterly ignorant; and such are the Pisāchas, Kumbhandas, Pretas, Yakshas and others.
80. As the waters upon earth, are collected in lowlands only; so do the Pisāchas and goblins dwell in dark places alone.
81. Should a dark Pisācha dwell at bright midday light, upon a sunny shore or open space; it darkens that spot with the gloominess of its appearance.
82. The sun even is not able, to dispel that darkness, nor can any one find out the place, where the dark demon makes his abode; on account of its delusiveness to evade human sight.
83. As the orbs of the sun and moon, and the furnace of burning fire, appear bright before our eyes; so on the contrary the abode of the Pisāchas, is ever obscured by impenetrable darkness, which no light can pierce.
84. The Pisāchas are naturally of a wonderful nature, that vanish like sparks of fire in daylight; and become enkindled in the dark. (The Pisāchas bear analogy to the sons of darkness or fallen angels in the black Tartarian regions)."
According to the Royal Institute Dictionary, the Thai term "ปิศาจ" (pisat), from Sanskrit, Piśāca, is defined as "ghost" (ผี). Although not strictly Thai ghosts, the Pishacha are present in some stories of the Thai folklore. They are one of the spirits from the Hindu-Buddhist tradition in Thailand and are represented as well in some paintings of Buddhist temples. Pisaj or Khon Phi Pisat (คน ผี ปีศาจ) is a movie of Thai cinema based on a Pishacha story.
- Sanskṛit-English dictionary : etymologically and philologically arranged with special reference to cognate Indo-European languages (Corrected ed. ed.). Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. 2005. p. 628. ISBN 81-208-3105-5.
- The Piśāca languages of north-western India, Sir George Abraham Grierson, Royal Aisatic Society, 1906
- Royal Institute Dictionary, 1997 Edition
- Pisaj (2004)
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