Ghosts in Bengali culture

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The depiction of a Rakkhoshi (a female demonic being) at the courthouse of the king. This is taken from children's classic Bengali folk-lore collection Thakurmar Jhuli (1907) by Dakshinaranjan Mitra Majumder

Ghosts are an important part of the folklore, and form an integral part of the socio-cultural beliefs of the people living in the geographical and ethno-linguistic region of Bengal, which today consists of the independent nation of Bangladesh, and the Indian state of West Bengal. Fairy tales, both old and new, often use the concept of ghosts. In modern-day Bengali literature, cinema and also in radio & television media, the references to ghosts are often found. There are also many alleged haunted sites in this region. It is believed that the spirits of those who cannot find peace in the afterlife or die unnatural deaths remain on Earth. The common word for ghosts in Bengali is bhoot or bhut (Bengali: ভূত). This word has an alternative meaning: 'past' in Bengali. Also the word Pret (Sanskrit) is used in Bengali to mean ghost.

In Bengal, ghosts are believed to be the spirit after death of an unsatisfied human being or a soul of a person who dies in unnatural or abnormal circumstances (like murder, suicide or accident). Even it is believed that other animals and creatures can also be turned into ghost after their death.

Usually after the death there are some Hindu rituals that are used to follow in Bengal which ends with a holy food offerings (called Pindodaan) to the spirit of the dead person. This final ritual is done at Pret Pahar (Mountain of Spirits) in Gaya, Bihar. It is believed that if this final ritual remains incomplete the spirit cannot leave this mortal world for heaven and haunts their relatives to complete it.

Types of ghosts and other supernatural entities[edit]

There are many kinds of ghosts and similar supernatural entities that frequently come up in Bengali culture, its folk-lores and form an important part in Bengali peoples' socio-cultural beliefs and superstitions. Few of such supernatural entities are mentioned here:[1][2]

  • Petni: Pretni are basically female ghosts who died unmarried or have some unsatisfied desires. This word originated from the Sanskrit word Pretni (feminine gender of Preta). They can take any appearance. People say that they live in Shayora or Tetul trees.
Depiction of a Shakchunni spreading cow dung mixed water
  • Shakchunni: The word Shakchunni comes from the Sanksrit word Shankhachurni. It is a ghost of a married woman who usually wears a special kind of traditional bangles made of Shell (called ‘Shankha’ in Bengali) in their hands, which is a sign of married woman in Bengal. Shakchunni usually haunts the rich married women so that they can enjoy a married life and can satisfy all their desires just like a married woman. They are usually depicted wearing a white saree with red borders. They usually live near ponds and lakes.
  • Chorachunni: These are thief ghosts who are very mischievous, and usually believed to be the souls of dead thieves.
  • Penchapechi: An unusual form of ghost. The Penchapechi take the form of an owl and hunt in the forests of Bengal. It follows helpless travelers through the woods until they are completely alone, and then it strikes. Unlike other ghosts, the Penchapechi actually consumes its victims, feeding on their body in an almost vampiric way.
  • Mechho Bhoot: This is a kind of ghost who likes to eat fish. The word Mechho comes from Machh that means 'fish' in Bengali. Mechho Bhoot usually lives near to the village ponds or lakes which are full of fish. These kinds of ghosts urges the late night fishermen or a lone person who carries fish with him to give them their fish by saying in a nasal tone - "Machh Diye Ja" (meaning "give me the fish"). If the person disagrees to leave the fish for the Mechho Bhoot, it threatens to harm them. Sometimes they steal fish from kitchens in village households or from the boats of fishermen.
  • Mamdo Bhoot: According to the beliefs of Bengali Hindu community, these are believed to be the ghosts of Muslims.
  • Gechho Bhoot: It is a kind of ghost that lives in trees. The word Gechho comes from the word Gaachh, which means tree in Bengali language.
  • Aleya / Atoshi Bhoot: Marsh gas apparitions which sometimes look like a flying, glowing orb of fire (Will-o'-the-wisp) that confuse fishermen, make them lose their bearings and eventually drown.
  • Begho Bhoot: These are ghosts of the people who were killed or eaten by the tigers in Sundarbans, which is known to be the royal Bengal tiger Sanctuary of the Bengal region. The villagers living in the area believe in these kinds of ghosts. These entities are said to frighten people who enters the jungle in search of honey or woods, and try to bring them to face tigers. Sometimes they do the mimicry of tigers to terrify the villagers.
  • Skondhokata / Kondhokata: It is a headless ghost. These are believed to be the spirit of those people who died by having their heads cut-off by train accident or by some other way. This kind of ghost always searches their missing heads, and pleads others to help them to find it. Sometimes they attack the humans and make them slaves to search for their lost heads.
  • Kanabhulo: This is a ghost which hypnotises a person, and takes him to some unknown location. The victim, instead of going into his destination, goes to another place which is silent and eerie. After that the victim loses his sense. These types of ghosts strike at night. Lone travellers, or a person separated from his group becomes the victim of such ghosts.
  • Dainee: This is what we call "Witch" in English language. Dainee is not actually soul or spirit, rather is a living being. Usually in villages of Bengal, old suspicious women who know mumbo-jumbo and other witchcrafts or black magic are considered as Dainee. It is believed that the Dainee kidnaps children, kills them and suck their blood to survive a hundred years.
A benevolent Brahmadaitya saving a poor Brahmin man from a group of Bhoot (ghosts), while the man was cutting a branch from the yonder banyan tree or Ashwattha tree. An illustration by Warwick Goble (1912). Taken from the 1912 illustrated edition of Folk-Tales of Bengal by Lal Behari Dey.
  • Brahmodaittyo (Brahmadaitya): These are one of the most popular kind of ghost in Bengal who are believed to be benevolent. It is believed to be the ghost of holy Brahmin. Usually, they appear wearing a traditional Dhoti (Bengali dress for men) and the holy thread on their body. They are very kind and helpful to human being as depicted in many Bengali stories, folk-lores and movies.
  • Boba: The Bengali version of the "Old Hag Syndrome" which is believed to be caused by a supernatural entity called "Boba" (meaning "dumb"/unable to speak). The Boba attacks a person by strangling him when the person sleeps in a Supine position/ sleep on back, even though the scientific explanation is believed to be Sleep Paralysis. The person hallucinates in his REM sleep while his brain is functioning but the body is asleep. This actually causes the person to completely unable to move or speak, and results in to hallucinate weird entities such as an old hag. In Bangladesh, the phenomenon is called "Bobaay Dhora" (meaning "Struck by Boba").
  • Sheekol / Maal: This is a water-nymph like creature, which dwells in the rivers, ponds, and lakes. It drags unsuspecting people into the water, eventually drowning them. Usually, when a person (who knows swimming) takes a bath in the pond/lake, this kind of entity drags them into the watery abyss. In such cases, the scuba-divers never find the victim's body, yet the body floats up later when the search is over. The concept of such supernatural beings is similar to that of Rusalka from Slavic mythology.
  • Nishi: The Nishi (Night Spirit) lures its victim to a secluded area by calling to the person with the voice of a loved one. The Nishi only strikes at night, and once the victim responds to the call of Nishi, s/he becomes hypnotised, follow the voice, and are never seen again. So, it is unknown what happens to them. Some tantrics are said to nurture and conjure the Nishi, in order to use them to harm someone out of spite or revenge. The voice of Nishi (means 'Night') is known as "Nishir Daak" (Call of the Night). Bengali age old superstition suggests that Sleepwalking phenomenon is also caused by Nishi. According to folklore, the Nishi cannot call out more than twice, and so no one should answer a voice at night until being called at least three times.
  • Gudro Bonga: Even though these as worshipped as demigods by the Santhal community (an indigenous tribe in Bengal), many Santhal families are said to nurture and look after these small dwarf-like supernatural creatures. This is because Santhals believe that these beings are keepers of hidden treasures on earth and can make them rich. These beings are believed to steal newborn infants from people's houses. Gudro Bongas are believed to live in clans.
  • Dhan Kudra: Experiences with such of entities are found in the myths of Bengal(specially south Bengal). They usually are short in height. It is a belief that they stay in somebody's house and they help the house-owner to make money. They are believed to bring luck. They are possibly similar/same beings as Gudro Bonga.
  • Rakkhosh: A demonic fierce-looking being with pointed fangs, sharp claw-like fingernails, and superhuman strength. The stories of these creatures feature in the Hindu epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata. A lot of fairy-tale stories in Bengali folklore also speaks of this vicious demonic tribe which feeds on human. Bengali women traditionally put their children to sleep by narrating scary folk-tale stories of the Rakkhosh. The threat punchline by a Rakkhosh in traditional Bengali folk-tales is this couplet: Hau, Mau, Cau,....Manusher Gondho Pau (meaning: "Hau, Mau, Cau (nonsensical rhyming words),....I Smell a Human").
  • Khokkosh: These are dwarf-like malicious and grotesque monster, which is depicted as a smaller version of Rakkhosh. The stories of Khokkosh is frequently found in traditional Bengali fairy-tales and folk-lores. They are similar to the concept of Goblins.
  • Daittyo: They are monsters that have human appearance, but of prodigious size and extraordinary strength. Same as Giants.
  • Pishach: Pishach are flesh-eating demonic entity. They like darkness and traditionally depicted to haunt cremation grounds and graveyards. They have the power to assume different forms at will, and may also become invisible. They are also believed to 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. The female version of Pishach is called "Pishchini", which is described to have a hideous and terrible appearance, however she appears in the devious disguise of a youthful, beautiful maiden to lure young men. She drains their blood, semen, and virility. She dwells and prowls in places associated with death and filth. They are similar to the western concept of vampires.
  • Betaal: Betaal are defined as spirits inhabiting cadavers and charnel grounds. These evil spirits may use corpses as vehicles for movement (as they no longer decay while so inhabited); but a Betaal may also leave the corpse at will.
  • Hakini, Shakhini, and Dakini: Tantric practices and black magic have been very popular in rural Bengal in the past for many centuries. Some rural people from Bengal, obsessed with the occult, used to travel to Kamrup-Kamakhya in Assam in order to learn Trantic ways and black magic.[3][4] Many Sadhu (Ascetic Yogis), Tantric, Aghori, Kapalik and Kabiraj devoted their lives in pursuit of occult practices. Such people are said to have the power to invoke lower-level demonic/ ghostly entities such as Hakini, Shakhini (same as Shakchunni) and Dakini. Tantriks use these demonic spirits for soothsaying purposes, and also for causing harm to people. When superstitious rural people wanted to cause harm to an enemy, they went to the Tantriks to seek their help. A common practice was called "Baan Mara", a ritual by which the Tantriks used demonic forces to kill a person. In such cases, the victim is said to die by vomiting blood up their throat.[5][6]
  • Yogini: The two most higher-level tantric mantra are Kularnob and Moha Damor. A tantrik mantra called Bhoot Damor (a lower-level branch of Moha Damor) works with different demi-goddesses called Yogini or Jogini. In Tantrik philosophy, it is believed If someone can engulf himself into ascetic pursuit and worship through Bhoot Damor, the invoked Yogini will appear to that person, will associate with him, and help him throughout his life. Yogini (also known as Damori) are neither human nor incorporeal, but somewhere in-between. They are from some unseen realm, and can materialise in our perceived physical dimension. Their concept is similar to the western concept of fairies; or the Islamic or Persian concept of Pori / Pari (a female version of Jinn).[7][8]
  • Jokkho / Jokkh: A supernatural warrior-type entity who are the guardians and protectors of hidden treasures/wealth on earth. They are usually considered to be benevolent, and said to bestow fertility and wealth upon their devotees. There is a commonly used Bengali idiom - Jokkher Dhon (literal meaning: Jokkho's Wealth) which actually implies "protecting a beloved person" or "safeguarding precious wealth". The female version is called Jokkhini.
  • Jinn / Djinn: The Muslim community of Bengal strongly believe that any supernatural/ghostly/demonic/paranormal occurrence, phenomenon and manifestation is the work of Jinn. Jinns can be both benevolent or malevolent. Malevolent Jinns (Demon) can be really evil, and can cause haunting in human residences, empty houses, toilets, lakes, graveyards, morgues, hospitals, and in the wilderness. Some people are also believed to conjure Jinns, and use them to fulfil their evil purposes. When a Jinn is in the vicinity, a person might experience a strange perfume/flowery smell or terrible odour of rotten flesh, or burning odour even though no possible source of those smell/odour can be found. Jinns have no physical body of their own, and are creatures from an unseen dimension/realm. When they come to our reality, they need to get attached to an object or living being which they possibly use as a portal. Such objects can be very ordinary unsuspecting things (such as a coin, ring, mirror or just a piece of paper). Jinns are also believed to take the shape of a human or animal, and are shape-shifters, and often take the form of a snake, dog, or bull. When Jinn attaches itself to a living person, people call it jinn/demonic possession. Jinns are exorcised by pious people like Imam or Mawlana or Kabiraj who commands/forces the Jinn to leave the possessed person by reciting chapters from the Quran. Other exorcism rituals include the use of talismans/ Ta'wiz/Tabiz, or by conjuring a good Jinn to counteract the forces of the possessing evil Jinn. Jinns have the ability to predict future, can read people's thoughts, have extraordinary strength and powers; and a person possessed by a Jinn can also demonstrate such abilities. However, Jinns are dimwitted, foolhardy, aggressive, angry and deceives humans with their lies. There are also good and wise jinns who are believed to be pious and save/help human from dangerous/ fatal situations. Jinns are believed to eat raw fish/meat/bones and are fond of traditional Bengali sweets. The sweet salespeople in Bangladesh strongly affirm the idea that Jinns come to the sweet shops at late night in human form to buy sweets. Jinns live in clans, and every clan is headed by a King Jinn. There are several distinct classes of Jinn, such as Marid, Ifreet and Ghul (Ghoul) and Qareen.[9][10][11][12]

Alleged haunted places in Bangladesh[edit]

Lalbagh Fort, south entrance, south view (1875)

Lalbagh Fort, Golf Heights Banani, Airport Road, Uttara Sector-3 in Dhaka; Chalan Beel in Sirajganj, Foy's Lake, Pakri Beach, Mirsarai Highway Crossing in Chittagong and many other places in Bangladesh is claimed to be haunted.[13][14]

  • Lalbagh Fort, Dhaka: Lalbagh Fort near Dhaka is one of the most haunted place in Bangladesh. The Tomb of Pari Bibi (who was the daughter of Shaista Khan, Subahdar of Bengal, 17th century) is one of the three major parts of this fort. It has been a legend for a long time that in the full moon night, Pari Bibi appear on the fort, singing and dancing. Another well-known haunting myth of Lalbagh Fort is the ghost of a man on his horse, who gets in and out of the fort at night. They say this apparition actually goes for his prayers. Normally, prayer time starts around 5 AM. However, when people see this ghost, they hear the call for prayer coming from the prayer room at around 3 AM, which is absurd. When they rush to see what is happening inside the prayer room, they find it completely empty. In other rumours, there is a hidden passageway to Agra (presently in India) from this fort. Local legends say, whoever found this passageway and entered it, has never returned. However, the doorways that claimed to have connected to Agra had been sealed long ago by the British rulers after a mystical occurrence happened to an investigation team. The team was searching for the end of the hidden passageway with their dogs chained by the team members. First they sent their dogs to enter the dark passage but when they pulled their chain they saw the dogs disappeared. The British rulers also sent some elephants in this tunnel, but according to legend, none of them ever returned.[15]
Foy's Lake, Chittagong
  • Foy's Lake, Chittagong: The famous Foy's Lake in Chittagong is known for its long-standing reputation of being haunted. People experienced two different kinds of female entities around the lake. One of them is a spirit of black shadowy woman, who attacked on people. Another is a spirit of a young woman who warned people of the dangers about the black shadowy female entity. Black shadowy woman is reported to be seen mainly on the old side of the lake, sitting on the curve of two hills.[16]
  • Dhaka Airport Road: Dhaka Airport Road also have legends of haunting for a long time. While driving on this road, people see a lady suddenly appear out of nowhere at the middle of the road, and while they push hard break to stop, they loose control and face an accident. However, the women seem to disappear completely. The woman is spotted most of the time in this road between Nikunjo and Biman office at night.[17]
  • Dhaka Golf Heights, Banani, Dhaka: Dhaka Golf Heights, Banani is situated beside the Banani Graveyard. Many people claim to hear a baby crying in midnight from within the graveyards. Very unpleasant odour is experienced sometimes. Many have reported that they felt as if they were being followed by an invisible entity at night while walking beside the Banani Graveyard.[17]
  • Under-constrution apartment in Old DOHS, Banani, Dhaka: A group of paranormal investigators (Dhaka Paranormal Society) found all sorts of devil-worshipping signs and kind of scriptures written all over the walls at an under-construction apartment in Old DOHS Banani. One of the investigators had also been scratched by an invisible entity at that location. There have been unconfirmed rumors that lane 5 and 4 in Old DOHS were built over graves.[13]
  • Sukonna Tower, Mirpur Road, Dhaka: Flat number 8f of Sukonna Tower is said to be haunted by a little boy. The place has been empty for 3 years, and at times lights can be seen inside the apartment, but there is no electricity connection in that flat.
  • Apartment in Uttara Sector 3, Dhaka: There is an apartment in Sector-3 which harbors a very ill-motivated spirit. On the 2nd and 3rd floor apartments, people can hear screaming sounds at night time. Some are also awakened from their sleep by objects moving and also having their legs pulled by something invisible.
  • Purbo Nayatola Rail Crossing, Dhaka: With the common crisis of missing infants, the rail crossing in Purbo Nayatola sprouted a mystery to chill the bones. A woman is told to wander the lines frantically looking for her son, and actually asking those who are present in the vicinity. With no confirmations of disruptive behaviour so far, this tale was confirmed when the rail master of the crossing himself faced this mysterious woman, their encounter concluding with her instant disappearance once he followed her.[18]
  • Apartment Building in Road 27, Dhanmondi, Dhaka: An apartment complex on Dhanmondi, road number 27 is said to be the place where an exorcism has been conducted. Vacant for over many years now, new tenants were unable to stay in the apartment for long because of numerous unusual occurrences, physical and psychological. The humble rumours originally begin with the suicide of a woman inside the apartment itself.[19]
  • Mandir Wala Bari, Dhaka: Located at Bakshibazar in Old Dhaka, there is a very eerie-looking mandir (temple) in the boundary of a house. It is said that a white clad lady comes out of the mandir and roams around the house.[20]
  • Christian House in Monipuripara, Tejgaon, Dhaka: All people who rented this house have faced paranormal experiences. Many people have seen someone swinging in the swing at the downstairs balcony late at night (near 1-2 am). Moreover, sounds of people can be heard from the roof-top, when no one is there. It is heard, that many years ago the landlord's daughter who had metal health issues, committed suicide in this house and the paranormal incidents are happening ever since.
  • Farmhouse in Narsingdi: The house is over a couple of hundred years old, and previously belonged to a Hindu Nayeb named Jogoth Das. There are twin ponds called Bhobani and Rukshar, and rumour has it that there use to be a Hindu cremation ground in the spot of one of the ponds. With the land apparently being haunted by evil spirits, the whole compound is extremely infamous among the locals. People reportedly experience Nishir Daak (Call of the Night Spirit), and also seen a tall glowing figure of a woman with burning eyes climbing on a tree, who tends to attack her victims.[21]
  • Garments Factory in Gazipur: 3,500 workers stopped work in a garments factory at Gazipur on June, 2013. The workers protested by demanding rapid action to remove a ghost, which some workers claimed had attacked them in the ladies' washroom, making them terrified and hysterical. Medical experts contended that the workers were experiencing Mass psychogenic illness. However, special prayers were held, and food was distributed among the poor to 'drive away' the alleged ghostly entity.[22]
  • Highway Near Mirsharai, Chittagong: The highway connecting Dhaka and Chittagong near Mirsharai, Chittagong has very scary haunted stories. At night, the truck drivers have experienced a real chilling experience while travelling through that particular spot. They have seen a person at the middle of the road waiting to take a hitch, and they ended up experiencing some kind of paranormal incident.[23]
The temple on top of Chandranath Hill in Sitakunda, Chittagong
  • Chandranath Temple, Chittagong: the temple is located at the top of Chandranath Hill in Sitakunda, Chittagong. The temple is said to be guarded by a spirit being who takes human form and appear to unsuspecting tourist after dark, and claims to be the Priest of this temple. Locals believe people never come back after being hypnotised by this spirit being if they are alone after dusk in this area.
  • Pakri Beach, Chittagong: This silver sand beach has a reputation of being haunted. People complained that they have heard mysterious footsteps and eerie sounds of screaming near them. When they tried to follow, they found something actually trying to get them in the water. A couple explained their feelings of being watched all time when they were walking after sunset. The ghost of an old sailor has been seen by many tourists and local people. All of them saw the old sailor on his boat in the deep sea. Some people have claimed to see a number of sailors in their small boats in the sea at a distance. They claimed those to be apparitions as no one was reported sailing during those times.[24]
Kuakata Beach, Barisal
  • Kuakata Beach, Barisal: Rakhaine settlers believe this beach to be haunted. Fater Jungle in Kuakata is also a haunted location. Rumours among the Rakhaine people say that in the late 1980s a father and son from Musullipara village at Kuakata went into the deep forest of Gangamati by the Bay of Bengal to collect fuel wood. At one point the duo felt thirsty. Customarily, both started to dig the sandy surface with their hands and soon hit something hard. As they removed the sand over a small area, they sensed that they hit something precious for the emerging wooden structure glittered with golden decorative sheets. The duo, with their wood cutting machete dismantled the golden bits and then started to dig further for more. The more they dug, more of the metals emerged from what it looked like a very large wooden boat buried under the sand. As the sun was about to set, both decided to call it a day and left the place promising to return early morning the following day. But the daylight never came for the father and son. During the night both died under mysterious circumstances, prompting widespread gossip. Soon people learnt about the buried boat in the forest laden with gold. The unexplained deaths of the father and son, who had collected "gold" from the mysterious boat, triggered another rumour suggesting that the boat was cursed and haunted. Till today many people in Kuakata believe that anyone trying to explore the gold-laden boat would face the same fate of the father and son.[25]
  • Haunted Pathway/ Graveyard, Mollar Hat, Barisal: The pathway is said to be haunted by the people who were buried in the graveyard. There is a cremation ground in Mollar Hat, which is also believed to be haunted.
Chalan Beel, Natore, Sirajgonj
  • Chalan Beel, Natore, Sirajgonj: The marshy wetland is said to be a place of Jinns. There are three temples on the wetland, where different kinds of paranormal phenomenon happen.[26]
  • BARD, Comilla: The visitors of BARD get an eerie feeling. Some smell rotting flesh and an old man is said to haunt the grounds.
  • Farmhouse in Comilla: A huge farmhouse in Comilla is reported to have a lot of paranormal activities at night. Black shadow hits people and scratches them. Paranrormal entities are seen by paranormal investigators and EVP recordings have confirmed the place to be haunted.[27]
  • Sylhet Tea Estate: said to be haunted by the old caretaker of the tea estate.
  • Koyra, Khulna: said to be haunted by the hundreds who lost their lives there during Cyclone Sidr.
  • Aliapur Village in Chuadanga: In every new-moon, from 12 to 3 am, a group of dogs circle around the Aliapur village. Many people have seen these dogs, but the strange thing is that they can only be seen at nights of the new-moon. Once a group of young men from the village tried to investigate the matter, and two of them were seriously wounded by dog-bites. They reported that the dogs walked in a line with the same pace. The dogs were dark black in colour, and their eyes had a kind of bluish tint.

Alleged haunted places in West Bengal, India[edit]

Mullick Ghat and Zanana Bathing Ghat under Howrah Bridge, Nimtala crematorium, Rabindra Sarobar metro station, Royal Calcutta Turf Club, and National Library of Kolkata are claimed to be haunted.[28][29]

  • National Library of India: National library which is situated in Belvedere Estate premise is believed to be the most haunted place in Kolkata. It is only known for two things - first, its rare collection of books and the latter is - it's haunted incidents. Regular visitors reported some eerie incidents about this haunted place. Some has heard the sound of footsteps coming from no where while others felt close breathing noise near them, when they did not place the books at their right place. People believe it is the soul of governor's wife- Lady Metcalfe. She loved cleanliness and hated when somebody did not put things in its right place.[30]
Nimtala Burning Ghat, Calcutta, 1945
  • Nimtala crematorium: In central Kolkata, there exists one of the oldest ghats, where dead bodies are burned according to Hindu rituals. It is one of such haunted places in Kolkata where people fear to enter in nights of Kali Puja when Shamshaan Kali is evoked in late hours of night. Aghoris visit this place on late night hours and eat remaining flesh of burning pyre and use them to evoke occult powers.[29]
  • Begunkodor Train Station: Located in a remote village in West Bengal, this station is reportedly haunted by a white-sari draped spectral, the ghost of a lady who was run over by a train there. She has been seen dancing on the platforms and wandering along the tracks, and the sight has allegedly caused the death of a railway employee. However, these reports were rubbished by the government and the station was reopened in 2009 after being deserted for 42 years.[31]
  • Rabindra Sarobar Metro Station: Earlier known as Dhakuria Lake, Rabindra Sarovar Metro Station is a busy spot in Kolkata. One creepy fact linked with this station is that 80% of suicides that take place in town happens at this metro station. Metro drivers and passengers have reported to see eerie unclear figures passing the track, given, the track has a current of 4000 V. Legend has it that those are the spirits of people who passed away due to the suicides.[32]
South Park Street Cemetery, Kolkata
  • South Park Street Cemetery: Being one of the oldest cemetery and nature's beauty bestowed here, this place is a famous tourist spot in Kolkata. This burial ground was constructed in 1767, and most of the graves are of British soldiers. This place is considered spooky, but spirits do not annoy any visitor. There are only few reports in favor of this place being haunted. According to one, a group who went to take photographs, saw a shadow in white dress. Soon he got an asthma attack (even though not being Asthmatic) and the others had fallen ill.[33]
  • Lower Circular Road cemetery: While the South Park Street Cemetery is considered as one of the haunted places around, the nearby Lower Circular Road Cemetery, however, surpasses it. In that cemetery, there’s the grave of Sir W.H. Mac Naghten, whose body was ripped apart in Afghanistan. Later, his wife had assembled the remaining pieces of his body, brought to Kolkata and buried here in this cemetery. Apparently, if someone narrates this incident near his grave, then huge tree above his grave shivers.[34]
Royal Calcutta Turf Club, 1910
  • Royal Calcutta Turf Club: There is a story behind this place turning haunted. Story of a race-maniac George Williams, and his haunted pearl white mare called 'Pride'. Pride was queen of tracks, and won countless races and trophies for George. George loved him beyond anything. With passing time, Pride started turning old and weak. One day she lost the annual Calcutta Derby. The very next morning she was found dead on the tracks. Since then, on moonlit Saturday nights, people may spot a charming white mare galloping across the race course.[34]
  • Putulbari or the House of Dolls: Located at Ahiritola just opposite the vast Ganges, this huge building with dolls of archaic, Roman designs adorning the terrace is sure to send a thrilling chill through anyone’s spine just by a look of it. Although this building is still inhabited by some people, no one dares to live in the upper stories of the building, especially post-dusk. People feel creepy presence of the unseen everywhere while they are inside the palatial structure. Apparently, this place was originally inhabited by wealthy zamindars who would sexually exploit women in here—and, it is their souls which hover around this place.[33]
  • Hastings House, Alipore: This is one of the most ancient buildings in Kolkata. It was constructed by Governor General Warren Hastings, and later it became the Governor's residence. Now, Calcutta University runs a women's college here. Many students have complained about spooky incidents happening to them. Some claimed to see an old English man on horse asking for some files while others have spectated the ghost of a boy who died years ago in the campus playing football.[35]
Writer's Building, Calcutta, (Pre-independence photograph)
  • Writers' Building: Writers Building, which was earlier a residence of junior servants and administrative staffs, has many vacant rooms closed for decades. Although, today it is Secretariat of West Bengal Government, mysterious and paranormal activities has not stopped. None of the office staff take the risk of working late evening here. People who live near this building often listen the sudden outcry, giggles and screams during midnight. It is said that those vacant rooms has kept some secret hidden.[35]
  • Ghats on The Ganges - Under Howrah Bridge: Number of countless deaths- either due to suicide or drowning accidents, has left many spirits wandering in this sacred river. As their spirits are not yet satisfied and they did not get eternity, the wandering spirits haunt this place. Wrestlers who practice daily on Mullick Ghat and Zanana bathing ghat in early morning hours (3 AM), see someone's hands above water as if they are seeking help. People who fell in their trap and tries to help them never return.[35]
  • Dow Hill of Kurseong: Dow Hill in Kurseong is one of the most haunted places in West Bengal. Especially in the corridors of Victoria Boys’ School, and in the surrounding woods have a lot of paranormal activity been recorded. A number of murders have taken place in the Dow Hill forest that has left an eerie feeling in the atmosphere. Many locals have also heard footsteps in the corridors of Victoria Boys School during the December–March vacations, when no one is supposed to be inside. On the stretch that links Dow Hill to the forest office, woodcutters and labourers have reported seeing a headless boy walking for several yards and disappearing into the forest.[29][36]

Cultural references[edit]

Ghosts, other similar supernatural entities, as well as tales of paranormal powers (such as clairvoyance, psychic phenomenon etc.) are plots for many short stories and novels in modern-day Bengali literature. Some classic literature and folk-lore are also based on such plot. The number of Bengali films of this genre are small in number compared to the western world. Some radio and TV programs also feature stories of people's paranormal experiences. Common people of both Bangladesh and West Bengal love the supernatural thrills, and the personal stories of people's paranormal experiences are hot topics for gossip, rumours and hangout discussions among friends and family.

Ghosts & the supernatural in Bengali literature[edit]

Literary works involving ghostly/demonic beings is one of the most popular genres in Bengali literature. In the early days, ghosts were the only ingredients of Bengali folk-tales and fairy-tales. Lal Behari Dey has collected many folk-tales of Bengal, and translated them in English. His book called Folk-Tales of Bengal, first published in 1883, features many amazing folk-tales associated with ghostly and supernatural beings.[37]

Thakurmar Jhuli is the most classic collection of Bengali children's folk-tales and fairy-tales, which was compiled by Dakshinaranjan Mitra Majumder in 1907.[1] There we can find many different categories of supernatural entities (such as Rakkhosh, Mamdo Bhoot, Shakhchunni, etc.) featuring in different stories. Other such story collection from the same author are Thakurdadar Jhuli (1909), Thandidir Tholay (1909) and, Dadamoshayer Tholay (1913).

Many Bengali writers have practiced the genre of supernatural/horror in their short stories, novels, and others forms of literary works. Some are mentioned below:

Depiction of Betaal hanging by a tree and King Vikramaditya in the background. (from Betaal Panchabinsati)
  • Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar: This famous writer wrote the free adopted Bengali translation of 11th century Sanskrit horror stories/tales collection within one frame story called Betaal Panchabinsati (meaning "Twenty-five [Tales] of the Phantom") in 1847. The hero of this series is King Vikramaditya, the legendary emperor of Ujjain, India. He tries to capture and hold on to Betaal (Demonic/phantom being) that tells a puzzling tale and ends it with a question for the king. But the condition is the kind should walk without uttering a word, otherwise Betaal would fly back to its place. The king can be quiet only if he does not know the answer, else his head would burst into pieces. Unfortunately, the king discovers that he knows the answer to every question; therefore the cycle of catching Betaal and letting it escape continues for twenty-four times till the last question puzzles the king.[38]
  • Rabindranath Tagore: Nobel Laureate poet and writer Rabindranath also authored some short stories featuring ghosts like Konkal, Monihara, Mastermoshay, Nishithe, Khudhito Pashan etc., which are considered classics of this genre.
  • Troilokyanath Mukhopadhyay: He used ghosts in a humorous and satirical way in his novels and stories; and created a new genre in Bengali literature, which was pioneering, and is still followed today by many Bengali writers. Bhoot O Manush, Nayanchandrer Bebsha, Lullu, Damru Charit, Kankaboti are few of his classics.
The dance of ghosts in the film Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne, which was adapted from Upendra Kishore Roychowdhury's book of the same name
  • Upendra Kishore Roychowdhury: He is one of the most talented author of children's literature of his time, and also noted for his ghost stories where the ghosts are harmless, fun-loving, and benevolent entities. Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne, Jola O Saat Bhoot, etc. are his famous stories involving ghosts.
  • Sukumar Ray: This acclaimed writer has written some humorous literary pieces (e.g. short stories, humorous poetry) for children featuring weird and fictitious paranormal/hybrid animals, and even ghosts.[39]
  • Satyajit Ray: Satyajit Ray, the famous Indian film maker, was quite popular in Bengal for his short stories. His favorite genres were fantasy and supernatural stories.[40] His stories featuring Tarini Khuro, who is an aged bachelor, tells interesting stories based on his weird experiences, and many of these stories border on being horror or spooky, while some of the stories depict the smartness and quick wit of Tarini Khuro. Satyajot Ray's one of the most famous character is Professor Shonku, and some stories featuring Professor Shonku are also based on paranormal or supernatural mysteries.
  • Sailajananda Mukhopadhyay: This noted Bengali novelist wrote a few horror short-stories such as Naamaskar, Ke Tumi, etc.
  • Manoj Basu: Well known for his novel Nishikutumbo, prolific writer and poet Manoj Basu also wrote several classic ghost stories such as Jamai, Paatal-konna, Lal Chul, etc.[41][42][43]
  • Parashuram (Rajshekhar Basu) is the writer of the ghost story Bhushundir Mathe which is a comedy in the mould of horror. Parashuram wrote many other ghost stories like Mahesher Mahajatra which also impart an undertone of humor.
  • Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay: Another notable writer, predominantly famous for his detective series featuring Byomkesh Bakshi, has also authored a series called Baroda series. Baroda is a Bengali guy who is very much interested in the paranormal and likes to share his adventures and experiences of supernatural incidents with his friends. Sharadindu has also written some horror stories such as Kamini, Dehantor etc.
  • Manik Bandopadhyay: This literary legend of classic Bengali novels has also written many short-stories among which a few are horror stories, such as Holudpora, Chobir Bhoot etc.
  • Tarasankar Bandyopadhyay: Leading novelist Tarasankar also wrote a few horror short-stories such as Daaini, Bhuler Chholona, etc.
  • Leela Majumdar: Leela Majumdar wrote many ghost stories for children. Her ghost story collection features in her book Sob Bhuture.
  • Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay: Although known for his social novels set in rural Bengal, such as Pather Panchali, Adarsha Hindu Hotel, and Aranyak, this acclaimed writer also wrote some excellent short-stories involving the supernatural, such as Medal, Rankini Devir Khorgo, Maya, Obhisapto, Chele-dhora, Kashi kobirajer Golpo, Bhoitik Palonko, Kobirajer Bipod, Ashoriri, and the first two short stories featuring Taranath Tantrik, etc. Taranath Tantrik is a classic character in Bengali literature when it comes to supernatural and paranormal stories. Taranath Tantrik is a mystic figure and practitioner of the occult. He is an astrologer by profession, and had many encounters with the supernatural in his extensive travels throughout the towns and villages of Bengal. He shares these experiences with a few friends in his Mott lane house over cups of tea and cigarettes.[44]
  • Taradas Bandyopadhyay: Taradas Bandyopadhyay's father, the legendary literati Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay created the character 'Taranath Tantrik', but he wrote only two short stories featuring this character.[44] Rest of the stories featuring Taranath Tantrik is written by Taradas Bandyopadhyay in two acclaimed books called - Taranath Tantrik (1985),[45] and Olatchokro (2003).[46]
  • Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay: This exceedingly famous writer has also authored some humorous ghost stories. The specialty of his ghost stories is that his ghosts are innocent, kind and funny characters who always help the poor and needy, and punish the wicked person. Goshaibaganer Bhoot (The Ghost of Gosain Bagan) is one of his famous children's fiction, which was later adopted as a film in 2011.[47] Popular Bengali film Goynar Baksho (2013) and Chhayamoy (2013) was also adapted from his novels. His ghostly short-story collection is featured in his book, Bhoutik Golposhomogro.[48]
  • Sunil Gangopadhyay: Famous for his modern-day classic novels, this famous writer has also written some ghost stories for children. His book Rahashamaya Bhuter Galpa features some of his ghostly short stories.[49]
  • Syed Mustafa Siraj: Basically known for his famous detective series featuring Colonel Niladri. Siraj is also the creator of a series involving paranormal, featuring Murari Babu. Murari Babu is depicted as an innocent and nervous person living in Kolkata city, and his hobby is to collect old furniture from antique shops. Yet, his hobby always finds a way to get him into troubles relating to the paranormal. Siraj's horror short stories collection is featured in his book Bhoutik Golposhomogro.[50]
  • Syed Mujtaba Ali: This acclaimed writer brought ghostly flavour in his novel Abishwasyo.
  • Humayun Ahmed: Humayun Ahmed, arguably the most popular writer in post-liberation Bangladesh, wrote some ghost stories along with paranormal stories and novels. His famous character Misir Ali is depicted as a part-time professor of Parapsychology, who also solve baffling cases associated with the paranormal. Some of Humayun Ahmed's novels features Himu, who is depicted to have supernatural abilities, is haunted by post-mortal presence of his father who guides him to follow the way to become a modern-day saint. Humayun has also written many ghost stories, both for adult and children.[51]
  • Muhammed Zafar Iqbal: Although well known for his science fiction novels, he has also written a few novels of the supernatural/horror genre, such as Pret (1983),[52] Pishachini (1992), Nishikonna (2003), Chayalin (2006), O (2008), and Danob (2009).[53]
  • Sasthipada Chattopadhyay: He wrote many detective fiction, adventure stories, and horror stories for children and young adults. His ghost story collection features in his books - Ponchasti Bhuter Golpo (2001),[54] and Aro Ponchasti Bhuter Golpo (2015).

Other than the writers mentioned above, many other prominent writers of Bengal have also written short-stories involving ghosts and the supernatural, such as Provatkumar Mukhopadhyay, Mahasweta Devi, Achintya Kumar Sengupta, Satinath Bhaduri, and so on. However, at the present day, some young Bengali horror story writers are being somewhat influenced by the western horror literature, and their writing lacks the originality of the classic Bengali horror literature and ghost stories.

Ghosts & the supernatural in Bengali cinema[edit]

Poster of the movie Bhooter Bhobishyot (2012)

Classic Bengali films with horror/supernatural plot are only a handful. Konkal (1950),[55] Hanabari (1952),[56][57] Monihara, (1961)[58] Kuheli (1971),[59][60] were quite popular horror/supernatural thriller flick in the era of Bengali black and white movies.

In many Bengali films, ghosts are depicted in a lightly comical mood, sometimes in a friendly way. One of the examples is Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne as mentioned earlier is adopted from the story of Upendra Kishore Roychowdhury and directed by Satyajit Ray. In this film the king of ghost gives three boons to 'Goopy' and 'Bagha', the two poor village boys who aspired to become a singer and drummer respectively. And with the help of those boons they did many adventures. The film is the first film of the Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne series, followed by a couple of sequels - Hirak Rajar Deshe was released in 1980; and Goopy Bagha Phire Elo, written by Ray, but directed by his son Sandip Ray, was released in 1992.

Nishi Trishna (1989), directed by Parimal Bhattacharya was possibly the first Bengali vampire movie, starring Dhiman Chakraborty, Shekhar Chatterjee, Prasenjit Chatterjee and Moon Moon Sen.[61][62]

Poster of the movie Goynar Baksho (2013)

In recent times, ghost-centred Bengali films are being made. Probably the most well-known film of this genre in recent times is Bhooter Bhabishyat, directed by Anik Dutta. It tells the story of a haunted mansion 'Choudhury Palace', where ghosts from different ethnic backgrounds and eras reside (a Bengali zamindar of 18th century, an actress of the 1930s, a modern rockstar, a soldier of Indian Army who died in Kargil, etc.). The film with its simple but humorous story went on to become a massive blockbuster of 2012.[63]

Goynar Baksho (2013) is another popular film involving the supernatural. The film, directed by Aparna Sen, is an adaptation of Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay's famous tale of 3 generations of women & their changing position in society as seen in relation to a box of jewels, handed down from one generation to the next.[64]

Ghosts & the supernatural in Bengali radio and television media[edit]

A live radio program called Bhoot FM is being aired by Bangladeshi radio channel Radio Foorti 88.0 FM at 12:00 am, every Friday night.[65] The program is being aired since August 13, 2010; and is hosted by RJ Russell. In this program, people from all over Bangladesh come and share their real-life experiences associated with ghosts, demons, jinns and the paranormal/supernatural. The Bengali community from all over the world also share their supernatural experiences by sending audio clips and email that is played/read in this program. Other such radio program is Dor, aired by ABC Radio 89.2 FM. Similar kind of programs are also aired on TV channels, such as Moddhorater Train (meaning 'Midnight Train') by Maasranga Television.

There are some radio programs which feature recitation of horror stories written by acclaimed writers. Such radio program is Sunday Suspense by Radio Mirchi, aired from Kolkata, which features recitation of horror stories, as well as stories of other genres such as detective fiction, fantasy, and Sci-fi, etc. Similar such radio program is Kuasha, aired by ABC Radio 89.2 FM from Bangladesh, which features horror stories written by famous writers, and also stories sent by listeners of the program.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]