A Glimpse of Occult Practice in Bhuiyan Villages

People who live with nature develop a kind of relationship with it, beyond the physical reality. The nature is animated. The hill peaks, streams and trees not only have life but also are the abode of supernatural powers in the form of god and goddess. The tribal and neighboring non-tribal people, who are less benefited by the technological facilities, keep more faith in nature. For these reasons they seek blessings of the supernatural powers, delivered to the needy by some mediating persons. These individuals are believed to have acquired special powers, either through rigorous learning or divine authorization at certain times. To science-dependent communities, this practice is known as Occultism. These practices are on the border of religion and magic.

The present report is based on such practices in a village of the Bhuiyan tribe, near the district town Keonjhar in Orissa, India. The Bhuiyan is one of the major tribes of Orissa and occupy an expansive area, both on the hills and in the plains. Although they have their own system of beliefs and modes of propitiation, those living near the non-tribal habitation have inducted many Hindu gods and goddess. It can also be argued otherwise, that many tribal rituals and beliefs have been incorporated into Hindu religion. Thus, 'Mangala' is a goddess propitiated by the Hindu, as the benevolent divine power. This 'Mangala' goddess appears through a Bhuiyan pious woman to do benefit to the persons who repose faith on the goddess with deep devotion. To the people it is not magic but kindness of the supernatural's divine power.

An elderly woman received a divine power in her dream. Goddess 'Mangala' asked the lady to attend to various problems of people by invoking Her blessings. She resides in a 'Neem' (Azadiachta) tree near by. The lady woke up and searched for the tree. She found a small sapling and identified as per indication. This 'neem' tree has now grown to height and the villagers have erected a small room, under it for worship and other activities.

The woman occasionally invokes 'Mangala' and sinks into trance. She maintains austerity and is assisted by some devoted persons. Persons, (not only of Bhuiyan tribe community but others also) seeking relief from their problems come to the woman for getting an answer or suggestion. What she tells, are the words of the goddess, spoken through her. She represents Mangala and as a result, is addressed as "Maa" or Mother.


The temple of Mangala has come up with the help of the Hindus of the area.The Brahman priest carries on regular worship. During the statewide observation of 'Pana Sankrati' (mid-April), Mangala is worshipped in a grand way with three-days 'yangna' or lighting holy fire. Seven earthen pots, decorated and filled with water, are installed and worshipped. The whole area becomes festive. Many younger persons, who maintain austerity for the period, may get divine power. After immersion of the pots at the end of the festival, the trance condition is over. But the "Maa" (Mother) eternizes the power.



Some of the Problems for which the people come to Maa:

  • Seeking cure from chronic illness

  • Relieves from severe burn or injury

  • Relief from chicken pox

  • For getting a child by a couple

  • For getting a son after successive daughters

  • For successful wedlock of daughter

  • Success in examination or interview for job

  • Escape from mental agony and social problems

  • Rescue from effects of witchcraft by the enemy.

Beside these, many people seek the help of Maa for many complex problems.

Curative Action:

The power-posed woman (Maa) listens to the miseries of the persons and acts accordingly, by invoking the goddess Mangala. The prescriptions have specificity and generalized actions. Tuesdays are very auspicious for initiating actions.

In case of medical problems, she herself performs puja (worship) and also asks the person to observe some practice. In these cases, she plucks some leaves of the sacred 'neem' and asks the victim to use it either in extract or paste from to be consumed or applied on burn/ pox affected surface. In other cases, the Maa will propitiate in their names with 7 betel nuts, vermilion and uncooked rice, candling a lamp in he temple. The affected person is also advised to offer edible materials to Mangala.

An interesting observation during my work was that a young couple came to Maa for offering gratitude after giving birth to a baby removing the social disruption of barrenness.

Similarly, many persons have got positive results, which has increased their faith in the action of the supernatural power through this medium of 'Maa'.

In the absence of scientific or rational ways of curing or solving problems of wide range, the Bhuiyan and non-tribal rural people, fall back upon the divine unseen power as remedial measure. The boundary between ethnic group becomes obscure, when people are in distress.

Photographs : Author

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