Infectious Case of 'Possession' Spreads among Schoolgirls in Indian Town of Bhimtal
At least five girls attending a government high school in India's Nainital district were reported to be “possessed” in early February 2019, according to the Hindustan Times.
The incident began with a single girl who began to exhibit strange symptoms on January 31st while attending school in the town of Bhimtal.
“A class 7 student was possessed last Thursday and started doing bizarre activities like breaking chairs and shouting loudly," said Chhatrapal Singh, the school's principal.
From there, the behavior spread to her classmates, resulting in five girls being similarly “possessed” and “influencing” at least 14 girls by the following Tuesday.
“When other girls tried to calm her down and offered water, the influence spread to them as well. Over the next 3-4 days, five girls were possessed. They started shouting loudly, dancing, jumping here and there,” Singh said. “They were crying loudly as they were scared looking at the other girls.”
Officials with the town and school decided to bring in a priest, known as a ‘Jagariya,’ to perform a ritual using ‘Jagar,’ a type of ancestor worship, to exorcise the spirits.
“The girls calmed down after Jagar was conducted. They also informed that there is a problem with a room which functioned as the classroom for standard 8. So as of now, a picture of Goddess Saraswati and a lit earthen lamp were placed in the classroom and it has been locked," said village head Madan Singh Nauliya.
A vacant classroom has been repurposed to house the grade 8 students.
“Everything is peaceful now. We will wait till Sunday to see if any more such incidents take place. If everything is normal, a puja will be conducted in the locked room on coming Sunday to ensure no such incidents are repeated,” said Singh.
The school, with a coed population of over 180 students, has existed for decades without prior incident of possessions.
“When we asked the Jagariya as to why this incident took place now and nothing of this sort happened before, he told us that often spirits remain dormant for up to 20 years. He said even on the buildings constructed above a graveyard, the spirits may not cause any trouble for up to 14 to 20 years and reveal themselves only later," said Nauliya.
No reason has yet been given as to why only the female students were “possessed.”
Meanwhile, Brij Mohan Sharma, a rationalist and scientist at the Society of Pollution and Environmental Conservation Scientists, dismissed the spiritual activities associated with the incident as superstition.
“These activities are generally psychological. Children either get influenced by films or TV serials and get impacted psychologically. We have seen that in many cases, children act that they have been possessed and do not even have any psychological effect,” Sharma said. “The principal in charge is also condoning such activities. An educated individual should have the sense to distinguish between superstition and facts.”
District education officer Kamlesh Pal Gupta is asking for a full report regarding the incident.
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