Animals and birds have long been very closely linked with both the supernatural and the divine, in both satwick and tamsic ways. It is interesting that in Hindu traditions, the food first cooked in a home is supposed to be given to a cow, a dog and a crow. All the Hindu Gods have their own very prominent animal “vahans” — Lord Ganesh has a mouse, Durga Maa has a tiger, Vishnuji flies on a Garuda, Laxmiji has a white owl, Bhaironji has a dog, Goddess Saraswati has a swan and so on. Each deity’s animal has special attributes, strengths and significance.

All animals can connect with the supernatural effortlessly because their sixth sense is very highly developed. Dogs and cats and ducks, for example, can not only see spirits, but they can sense approaching death. They can also sense events and impending danger much before they happen, as in the case of the Gujarat earthquake and the tsunami.

It is because of the extra sensitivity of animals that those who deal with the occult sometimes use them as “mediums” to achieve certain ends. Many years ago, in Delhi, in the venerated and very popular Hanuman Mandir complex adjoining Connaught Place, there used to be a wandering mendicant — a fakir—with a langoor which seemed to possess supernatural powers. For a fee, you could ask the langoor a question and he would answer first by affirmative or negative nods, and then suddenly his owner would start speaking in a strange, stilted trance-like voice and provide the answer.

Winning his trust was not easy but after I’d won it, I asked the owner whether it was all hocus pocus — just a carefully and cleverly rehearsed act or did the langoor actually possess supernatural abilities? He was quite offended by my question and was very hurt that I doubted his integrity. After I’d placated him, he confided that for five or six hours every day, the langoor was possessed by the atma of another fakir who had been an expert at inserting animal spirits into people.

After his death, the fakir, who had been a friend of the langoor’s owner, could manifest himself only through an animal. However, animals — in this case the langoor — cannot speak, so a human medium was needed to voice thoughts and answers, which accounted for the stilted voice emanating from the langoor’s owner during question-answer time.  However, the langoor’s owner could act as a voice-medium only if he was under the mildly intoxicating influence of bhaang or hafeem — opium — which was why his eyes were always a bit reddish and he spoke in a drawl even when not doing a voice-over. Though I dared not ask, I suspect he gave some to the langoor too. The langoor and his owner were a big draw and the crowds which milled around them at the complex on Tuesdays and Saturdays — Hanumanji’s days — were most disappointed when the police barred the langoor and naturally his owner from frequenting the complex.

Villagers told me the spirit of an elephant calf which had died after being carried away by a flash flood and which was later found downstream had been “inserted” into the man. 

There are several well documented cases of people being “possessed” by animals — both naturally and intentionally, of animal’s spirits taking revenge, of animals being reborn in the same home in which they died, and of people being reborn as animals. I’ve written about a case where a person who could not repay a debt was re-born as a buffalo and worked — pulling a cart — for the person who had to be repaid. The day the debt was fully paid, the link between the “owner” and the buffalo came to an end because the owner, unaware of the link, wanted to sell the buffalo to the butchers as it had a wounded hump.

To save the buffalo from such a fate, my family bought the buffalo, thinking he could live peacefully in “retirement” at our orchard. That night, the buffalo came in a dream to his previous owner and to us, and related the whole story. The previous owner was amazed but confirmed the details. We too made enquiries and found it was true. The “buffalo” who repaid his debt lived at our orchard till he died of old age.

In a few villages in Jaunsar Bawar in the north western Himalayas, an animal spirit is often “inserted” into a person who has been very ill, so that the person can gain strength from the animal spirit and recover faster. I have seen this done through a horse’s spirit and a bull’s spirit. In both cases, the “pinjara”— skeleton — of the dead animal was used by the “ojha” to invoke the animal’s spirit and using closely guarded rituals and mantras, was “inserted” into the body of the person recovering from the illness. The recovery was indeed almost miraculous. In many villages in Jaunsar Bawar even today there is at least one person who can change into an animal form — usually to take revenge— and then revert to being a human.

Once inserted, it is very important to keep the animal spirit in “control”, otherwise the person in whom the animal spirit has been inserted can take on the attributes of the animal in him or her and reach a point of no-return. I saw such a person in the same village where I also saw a chained madman — a few hours drive above Silyara, the village of the famous environmentalist, Sunderlal Bahuguna.

Villagers told me the spirit of an elephant calf which had died after being carried away by a flash flood and which was later found downstream had been “inserted” into the man. But something went wrong, and the elephant calf’s spirit could not be evicted and the man had to be kept in very strong chains, just like the madman, otherwise he destroyed huts, crops, and much else just like a wild elephant on rampage.

Controlling an animal spirit requires expertise of a very high order because it carries great risks, largely because unlike a human spirit, you cannot easily reason or bargain with an animal’s spirit. Therefore, even for healing purposes, it should be avoided. If an animal’s spirit has been “inserted” into someone intentionally with evil intentions — there are several cases of this, an expert’s help should be sought without delay.


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