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PICS: The FRIGHTENING ghost busters from Madhya Pradesh

Last updated on: February 21, 2013 15:27 IST

PICS: The FRIGHTENING ghost busters from Madhya Pradesh

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Photographer Danish Siddiqui travelled to Malajpur village in Madhya Pradesh to photograph the ghost fair at the Guru Deoji Maharaj temple where people who believe they are possessed by evil spirits come to be exorcised.

They are usually brought by relatives and they are most often women. They come on the occasion of Paush Purnima (the full moon) as it is seen as the most auspicious night of the month. The fair has been taking place for the last 250 years, the head priest said.

Rediff.com brings you these fascinating photographs from the ghost fair.

A devotee who is believed to be possessed by evil spirits cries in a state of trance while being confronted by her relatives at the Guru Deoji Maharaj temple.

All photographs: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

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A devotee who is believed to be possessed by evil spirits shouts slogans as she runs in a state of trance around the courtyard of the temple during the fair.

Says the photographer, "Malajpur is a small but not ordinary village in central India. In fact it is probably the only village in India which has been hosting a ghost fair for the past several years. People from across the country come to this fair to get rid of 'evil spirits' that they claim to be possessed by."

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A devotee, believed to be possessed by evil spirits, cries as she performs a fire ritual on the sacred platform at the temple.

"As night falls on Paush Purnima (full moon night) the 'possessed' are taken to the local shrine to be exorcised. People who bring their relatives here feel the latter's bodies have been 'taken over by ghosts of the dead' and that exorcism is the only release for them. Interestingly, most of those who come here to be exorcised are women. When I asked the priest the reason he said, "They are emotionally weak and hence easy target for spirits," says the photographer.

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A devotee who is believed to be possessed by evil spirits lies in a state of trance on a sacred platform at the temple.

Says the photographer, "On the first day when I went to the temple, it looked to me like any other temple complex. But suddenly from the middle of the crowd I heard a woman scream as she started running around the temple courtyard. According to priests the ghost inside people becomes weak the more they run around the courtyard in an anti-clockwise direction. For those who don't run voluntarily (which is the case often) relatives or priests make them do so by pushing or kicking."

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A priest offers holy water to a devotee who is believed to be possessed by evil spirits as another shouts in a state of trance at the temple.

"After a few rounds the possessed person is confronted by the priest on a sacred platform and if the answers are not satisfactory (questions include the name of the ghost and why he/she is hounding the person) the running continues," says the photographer.

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A man holds a devotee who is believed to be possessed by evil spirits by her hair while confronting her as she goes into a state of trance while lying on a sacred platform at the temple.

Says the photographer, "Some people suffer 'ghost attacks' which means they are fine one minute and the next they start jumping, screaming, crying or even attacking people. The temple becomes really chaotic just before dusk when more and more people are 'attacked by ghosts'."

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A devotee who is believed to be possessed by evil spirits smokes a bidi as she walks around the courtyard of the temple.

"As night falls, the final stage of ghost-busting begins when the main priest confronts the possessed in a violent manner. He holds the hair of the person, asks them questions and then beats them with a broom which has a metal handle. Sometimes the possessed attack the priest," says the photographer.

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People watch a devotee, believed to be possessed by evil spirits, dance while holding an iron chain in a state of trance at the temple.

"When the priest thinks the ghost is finally in his control he makes it swear that if it returns, it will have to drink water from a lower caste resident's home. Caste plays a prominent factor in Indian society and is used mostly to discriminate," says the photographer.

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People watch a devotee who is believed to be possessed by evil spirits dance in a state of trance at the temple.

"As the ghost leaves a body, the until now 'possessed' person falls back unconscious for 10-15 seconds. After he/she gets up, the priest offers holy water and the person walks away as if nothing happened," he says.

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A man tries to hold a devotee who is believed to be possessed by evil spirits as she goes into a state of trance.

"At the fair, I had my own strange experience with 'ghosts' when a possessed woman tried to grab my camera! I don't believe in ghosts but it is true that people who come to the Malajpur temple feel really satisfied with the treatment. I believe it's all a matter of faith," the photographer concludes.




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