How does a Nishi operate ? The Nishi calls out to its victim at night in the voice of a person known to the victim, appears as a form which the victim can’t fully see because it is always in the distance, or appears in the form of the known person whose voice it has used, and keeps beckoning the intended victim to follow it. It walks very fast and at a distance ahead of the victim and usually leads the way to a deserted area where it reveals its true form to the helpless victim, and then almost invariably kills the victim. The killing takes place through different means.
The important thing about the Nishi is that it cannot call out more than twice. That is why, just like the Chalawa which can also assume different forms and voices but can be identified because it cannot keep its eyes focused, the Nishi can be identified if it calls out a person’s name no more than two times and that too only at night.
Even today, many people in areas frequented by the Nishi — yes, such areas still exist ! — are aware that they must not respond unless even a known voice doesn’t call out three — or to be on the absolutely safe side, four times. However, Nishis’ can otherwise converse with the victim in a voice familiar to the victim. It is only rarely that Nishis’ kill a person very close to one’s home. Also, it usually picks only one victim at night and that too on dark moon nights. It is very seldom that anybody other than the victim can even see the hazy form of a Nishi.
It is believed that the Nishis’ are spirits of people who have not had a respectful or a complete release or pind-daan at the time of transition from earth to the astral planes. A tea vendor close to my house hails from Bihar and he tells me that in and around his village there is a Nishi who is always on the prowl. And they know the Nishi is the soul of a villager who died many generations ago but his family did not complete the rituals at Pret Pahar —Mountain of Spirits — in Gaya.
At first the soul which could not get mukti or release from earthly bonds haunted the family as a pret and when they still didn’t do anything, turned into a Nishi, and one by one, lured all the family members to their death. To this day, nobody, according to the tea vendor, goes out at night if called. And these days, he says, a Nishi’s call can even come on a mobile — there has been one such instance where a person was killed after responding to a call on his mobile to come outside. The way and speed with which he was killed was the work of a Nishi says the tea vendor.
People who are killed in road accidents, especially on a deserted road at night are also believed very often to have been killed by Nishis’ who need to kill to survive. And so, it is said, are those who die unnatural, unexplained deaths at night.
People who are killed in road accidents, especially on a deserted road at night are also believed very often to have been killed by Nishis’ who need to kill to survive. And so, it is said, are those who die unnatural, unexplained deaths at night. Many people believe that unless special rituals are performed for release and peace for the soul of a Nishi victim, the victim too will become a Nishi.
Apart from Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand, spirits with the characteristics of the Nishi exist in other parts of India too, and are known by different names in different areas. And in all cases, like the Nishi, they lure people by calling out their names in a loved one’s or a familiar voice and appear to resemble a known person till one comes up close. Even today, there are a handful of Tantrics, especially in Bengal, Assam and Orissa, who can control a Nishi and use it for black magic, either to ruin a family through death — this is generally done in land or property disputes — or to save a sick person, though often at the cost of others lives.
On a trip to the Sundarbans mangroves, we had set up camp for the night when we all heard our guide-cum-boatman’s name being called out from the swampy forest, “Kisno, Kisno”. The boatman was clearly very afraid and motioned to us to keep quiet and not even shine our torches. We were puzzled but after more than an hour he told us it was a Nishi that had been calling out his name. “My father told me that this Nishi is the spirit of a boatman who disappeared in this very forest and his body was never found. It has been trying to get me for a long time, even calling me in my father’s voice, my son’s voice, but so far I have been very alert”. Won’t saying mantras or a shakti kavach help ? “They may help to keep a Nishi at a distance for a while but if you have answered the call of a Nishi, only God or a good spirit can save you by diverting or destroying a Nishi”, the boatman answered.
How can a Nishi be destroyed and released ? By disintegrating its energies and making it evaporate through highly specialised counter-black magic/tantra siddhis, followed by rituals to ensure that it is guided to or finds its way to the astral world. Sometimes, if this is done without expert inputs, the Nishi gets simply shifted from one area to another. But alas, i my knowledge, there are just six people today who have the full power of destroying and releasing a Nishi — five of them in the Bengal-Assam-Bihar-Jharkhand region and one in Garwhal.