Self-Possessed, 8


Vampires, Prostitutes, and Poe:ts

pp. 317-344


Culture, Fiction, and Spirit-Possession



Spirit-Possession in Samskr.ta Fiction



Aisthetic of Spirit-Possession



Culture, Fiction, and Spirit-Possession


p. 318 evidence for deity-possession

"In the absence of data on direct visual experience of spirits, deities, or subtle bodies ...,

{There is no absence of witnessing "of spirits, deities, or subtle bodies" in skilled psychics, whose mutually independent testimony is highly corroborative.}

the parameters ... have concerned ... the evaluation by the audience of the quality of the observed possession experience."

{Where (as in West African deity-possession caerimonies) many membres of the audience have themselves undergone spirit-possession experiences, this mode of evaluation may be quite reliable.}

pp. 318-19 spirit-possession in didactic literature

p. 318

"[Spirit-]possession in premodern public culture ... appears in ... drama (nat.aka {nartaka}), collections of didactic tales (such as the Katha[-]sarit[-]sagara [KSS], Br.hat[-]katha, Pan~ca[-]tantra, Hitopades`a [Hita-upades`a], Prabandha[-]cintaman.i), ...

p. 319

and novels (e.g., the Kadambari and the Das`a[-]kumara[-]carita)".

p. 320 aisthetic theory

The Indian discipline of aesthetic theory (alamkara[-]s`astra) is, in fact, constructed around notions of audience response; it engages literary and dramatic works in terms of their ability to cultivate in the audience specific emotions (bhava) and moods (rasa).”



Spirit-Possession in Samskr.ta Fiction


pp. 320-1 Pars`va-natha Carita

p. 320

"[Spirit-]Possession, especially of the dead, ... was discussed at length by Maurice Bloomfield ... in 1917 ... .

p. 321

... In his study, Bloomfield summarized ... Jain texts, including the Pars`va[-]natha Caritra and Merutunga's Prabandha[-]cintaman.i (Wishing Stone of Narratives). ... Bloomfield devotes most of his study to … providing a delightful translation of … the Pars`vanatha Carita.

note … : the manner in which the king learns the secret art of possession (parapura[-]praves`a[-]vidya), the teachings of dharma that emerge from the mouth of the possessed, and the depiction of possession sequentially so that no other body remains without a jiva”.

Bloomfield 1917 = Maurice Bloomfield : "On the Art of Entering Another's Body". PROC OF THE AMER PHILOSOPHIC SOC 56:1-43.

pp. 321-2 Prabandha-cintaman.i (sequence of soul-occupancy events)

p. 321

Bloomfield cites Tawney's [1901, pp. 9-10] translation of [the Prabandha-cintaman.i by Meru-tunga], in which the yogin Bhairav[a-]ananda relates to King Vikrama an account of the transposition of jivas :

p. 322

The king … entered by his science the body of an elephant;

The Brahman entered the body of the king;

then the king became {entred} a pet parrot.

The king transferred himself into the body of a lizard;

then considering that the queen was likely to die,

The Brahman restored life to the parrot,

and great king Vikrama recovered his own body.”

Tawney 1901 = C. H. Tawney : The Prabandhacintaman.i, or Wishing-Stone of Narratives. Royal Asiatic Soc of Calcutta.

pp. 323-5 Vetala-pan~ca-vims`ati

p. 323

(quoted from Parpola 1998, pp. 278-80) “The hero is a brave king called Vikram[a-]aditya, or (in Somadeva's version) Tri[-]vikrama[-]sena. A mendicant … called Ks.anti[-]s`ila donates a fruit every day … until accidentally it is found out that

each fruit contains a precious jewel. …

{Cf. the jewel-tree having jewel-fruit, both in the 1001 Nights and in the Amitayus-dhyana Vaipulya-sutra.}

The king immediately promises his help, and the mendicant asks him to come to a big cemetery (s`mas`ana) on the fourteenth night on the dark half of the month. The mendicant would be waiting there under a banyan tree (vat.a). …

p. 324

He asks the king to fetch the dead body of a man that is hanging from a sissoo [s`ims`apa] tree at some distance to the south. … Falling to the ground, the corpse makes a cry. Suspecting the body to be still alive, the king … starts …, but then the body bursts into loud laughter, from which the king understands it to be a vampire. … Now the vampire tells a story to … the king … . The story ends in a riddling question … . … The king arrives at the banyan tree … . …

p. 325

When pleased hosts of ghosts applaud, the satisfied vampire says to the king from the corpse : “overlordship of the (deities called) … (“vidya[-]dhara”) {'Lore-Support'} … will be yours at the end of your … rule on the earth. ...” … The vampire grants … that whoever tells or hears … these stories with respect, will … obtain immunity from …, Vetalas,, D.akinis, and Raks.asas.”

Parpola 1998 = Asko Parpola : “Savitri and Resurrection”. In :- Asko Parpola & Sirpa Tenhunen (edd.) : Changing Patterns of Family and Kinship in South Asia. STUDIA ORIENTALIA 84:167-312.

p. 326 enlivenment of the corpse

the sacred thread of human hair …,

the donning of the clothes of the deceased,

the offering of guest water (“arghya”) from a … human skull … ---

conspired to create … enlivenment of the corpse; and … it obliged.”

[p. 341, n. 8:11 : "See Svoboda 1986:ch. 1."]

Svoboda 1986 = Robert E. Svoboda : Aghora. Albuquerque : Brotherhood of Life.

pp. 326-7, 341 a story from Jambhala-datta's variation of the Vetala-pan~ca-vims`ati

p. 326

(based on Emeneau 1934, pp. 106 sq) “in the country of Kalinga there was a city named Yajn~a[-]sthala. There dwelt a brahman named Yajn~a[-]soma. His wife was Soma[-]datta. She bore to him a son named Brahma-svamin. Though he understood … all sciences [sarva-s`astra-tattva-jn~a], … he died. … At that time an ascetic ...

p. 327

through the power of yoga abandoned his old body and entered [“pravives`a”] the body of the dead brahman youth. … “Why did the ascetic dwelling in the cemetery lament and why did he dance? ...” The king said : “Listen, goblin.” … As the king was saying this, the goblin hung again on the s`ims`apa tree.”

p. 341, n. 8:12

Compare this with tale 22 of Vetala[-]pan~cavims`ati of S`ivadasa, “Of the Yogi Who Went from One Body to Another” (S`ivadasa 1995:164-167). … here it is a brahman named Narayan.a who had studied the art of entering the body of another. … Both Jambhaladatta and S`ivadasa postdate the KSS version (1070 C.E.).”

Emeneau 1934 = Murray B. Emeneau : Jambhaladatta's Version of the Vetalapan~cavins`ati. AMERICAN ORIENTAL SER, Vol. 4. New Haven.

S`ivadasa 1995 = S`ivadasa (transl. by Chandra Rajan) : The Five-and-Twenty Tales pf the Genie (Vetalapan~cavins`ati). New Delhi : Penguin.

p. 328 story concerning Indra-datta, from the beginning of the Katha-sarit-sagara

Indra-datta, the brahman disciple of the grammarian Vyad.i, enters the corpse of the recently deceased s`udra king Nanda in order to procure a million pieces of goldwhich he intended to use for tuition for a very costly course in Sanskrit grammar.” (Bloomfield 1917:9 sq)

Bloomfield 1917 = Maurice Bloomfield : “On the Art of Entering Another's Body”. PROC OF THE AMER PHILOSOPHICAL SOC 56:1-43.

pp. 328-9 Bhagavad-ajjuka-prahasana-m written at the behest of the Pallava king Maha-indra-varman

p. 328

the early seventh-century drama Bhagavadajjukaprahasanam (The Farce of Saint-Courtesan) … is composed not just in Sanskrit but in one or more Middle Indic (Prakrit) dialects as well, based on the social ranking of the characters. … .

p. 329

an unnamed mendicant (parivrajaka) … needs to prove his yogic skill to a … disciple, S`an.d.ilya … . He thus enters the body of …

a harlot (ajjuka, gan.ika, vr.s.ali) who had just died of poisoning from a snakebite … .

{“when he [Aristaios] had made love to her [Euru-dike] …, she had fled from him and had been been bitten by a serpent.” (GM 82.h)}

As the play progresses, then agent of Yama (yama[-]purus.ah.), who is holding the soul (atman) of the harlot, realizes upon receiving a message from Yama that her death had been a mistake. … However, in seeing the effect of the snakebite reversed, effectively reviving her,

{“from Hades … he [Orpheus] won leave to restore Eurydice to the upper world. … Eurydice followed Orpheus up through the dark passage” (GM 28.c).}

he … deposits her life-breaths … in the temporarily vacated body of the mendicant.” (Lockwood & Bhat 1994, p. 34) {A mendicant is a wanderer undertaking a self-imposed exile. /VRAJa/ ('mendicant') is etymologically cognate with Old English /WRAEK/ 'exile'.}

{Aristaios did “emigrate” (GM 82.j) into a self-imposed exile.}

Lockwood & Bhat 1994 = Michael Lockwood & A. Vishnu Bhat : Metatheater and Sanskrit Drama. Tambaran Research Assoc.

p. 330 mid-seventh-century Das`a-kumara-carita by

a maiden called Bala[-]candrika is possessed (adhis.t.haya, adhis.t.hitam) by a yaks.a.” ("Purva-pit.hika", pp. 42, 44)



Aisthetic of Spirit-Possession


pp. 332-3, 342 soteriological value of the rasa-s

p. 332

"The classic texts ... agree on ... eight principal rasa[-]s, often adding a nin[e]th. These are ... soteriological states ... constructed from thirty-three stable and transitory emotions (sthayi- and vyabhicari-bhava[-]s) and are therefore categories superseding these emotions.

The eight rasa[-]s upon which all the texts agree are

erotic love (s`r.ngara), comic laughter (hasya), compassion arising from grief (karun.a), ... and wonder (adbhuta). [p. 342, n. 8:27 : See Bynum 2001:39 ff., for an inquiry into wonder[ment]".] The nin[e]th rasa, which many texts include, is tranquillity (s`anta). ...

The classical texts almost universally declare that a properly staged and acted dramatic performance or a beautiful poem can evoke in the observer a pure experience of rasa, thus framing a salvific experience of enlightenment. The observer, however, must be a cultured appreciator, an aficionado (rasika), "one with a sympathic heart (sa[-]hr.daya)." [p. 342, n. 8:29 : "This is the translation by Ingalls et al 1990:68 ff. Abhinavagupta brings out the character of the word [/sa[m]-hr.daya/] itself, which should be translated literally as "one with a shared heart." On sa[-]hr.daya, Abhinava says that it "denotes perons who ... the mirror of their hearts has been polished by the constant study and practice of poetry, and also who respond to it sympathetically in their own hearts" (ibid.:70). See also Hardikar 1994."]

p. 333

In these ..., the classification of sentiments and moods (notably ... the introduction of s`anta, and later bhakti, as rasa[-]s) ... transforms these sentiments and moods into recognizable (cognizable) vehicles for moks.a."

p. 342, n. 8:28

"With respect to the salvific value of rasa, Bhoja says of s`r.ngara {literally, 'horniness'} : ... (it is itself the peak and takes ... to the peak of perfection). The third stage of rasa is called by Bhoja uttara[-]kot.i, which synthesizes all the scattered bhava[-]s within the ahamkara and turns them into preman, a stage of divine love."

Bynum 2001 = Caroline Walker Bynum : The Resurrection of the Body ... . NY : Columbia U Pr.

Ingalls et al 1990 = D. H. H. Ingalls; J. M. Masson; M. V. Patwardhan : The Dhvanyaloka of Anandavardhana with the Locana of Abhinavagupta. Harvard U Pr.

Hardikar 1994 = A. R. Hardikar : "The Aesthetic Appreciator or Sahr.daya". ANNALS OF THE BHANDARKAR ORIENTAL RESEARCH INSTITUTE 75:265-72.

p. 333 according to the Sarva-buddha-samayoga-d.akini-jala-samvara ['Every-Awakened-Connection Witch-Net Magic'] -- vajra-yana buddha-s of the 8 rasa-s


its dhyani-buddha

s`r.ngara (eroticism)


vir[y]a (heroism)


karun.a (compassion)


hasya (humor)


raudra (ferocity)


bhayanaka (terror)


bibhatsu (disgust)


adbhuta (wonderment)


pp. 334-5 deified dead children

p. 334

"in coastal Andhra Pradesh ... possession may be of {by} any one of a number of goddesses (local tradition enumerates 101) or deceased children who become established as household deities though [spirit-]possession. Significantly, deceased children are known locally as virabhadra, while the subsequently deified girls are known as virakanyaka and the boys as viranna or virud.u. ... Such possession of {by} the goddesses is inevitably oracular, "for divination, propitiation, celebration ..." [Knipe 2001, p. 344] ... . ... Finally, from the ... [deity-]possession, authenticated by fire walking, holding lit camphor and burning charcoal embers in their mouths ..., "they are brought down to a

p. 335

state of s`anti ... through eating fresh limes ...," [Knipe 2001, p. 348-51] ... ."

Knipe 2001 = David M. Knipe : "Balancing Raudra and S`anti ... in States of Possession". In :- Klaus Karttunen & Petteri Koskikallio (edd.) : Vidyarn.avavadanam : Essays in Honour of Asko Parpola. STUDIA ORIENTALIA 94:343-57.

p. 336 the audience's esteem for the theatrical actor

Thus, in ecstatic or divine possession, dialogue and authority tilt toward the possessed. The reasons for this are embedded … with regard to a person whose possession has gained … legitimacy : a … sense of revelation or manifestation … . This could produce learned appreciators or sahr.dayas in the audience”.

p. 338 whirling tantrik diks.a

classical tantric initiation … employs {kineticly} descriptive terminology (e.g., ghurn.i [“whirling”]), rather than terms for emotions”.

p. 339 Yas`as-dhara Carita

"the didactic Yas`odharacarita by the Jaina author Vad.iraja, dated to around 1025 C.E. ..., replicated In Janna's thirteenth-century [Chr.E.] Kannada text of the same name. In this ... lesson on nonviolence (ahimsa), a ... king, Yas`odhara, is ordered by his mother to offer a rooster as sacrifice to the goddess. Although the rooster is made of rice-flour (s`alipis.t.amaya-kukkut.a) ..., the skillfully painted ... artificial rooster proves a tempting home for a wayward spirit (atimanus.a). The spirit possesses the rooster, which ... is then slaughtered by the king with the worst possible karmic consequences for him". [p. 344, n. 8:54 : "for the English translation of the Kannada version, see Janna 1994:32-34."]

Janna 1994 = Janna (transl. by T. R. S. Sharma) : Tale of the Glory-Bearer : the Episode of Candas`asana. New Delhi : Penguin Bks India.

p. 344 agni-cayana rite

n. 8:48

Minions of Rudra : “spirits, dogs, thieves (Taittiriya Samhita 4.5.1-11). See Stahl 1983:1:512-525, for a description of the rite in the agnicayana”.

n. 8:49

The offering to Rudra in the agnicayana consists of a stream of milk on the left-wing tip of the completed bird-shaped altar”.

Staal 1983 = J. Frits Stahl : Agni : the Vedic ritual of the fire altar. 2 voll. Berkeley : Asian Humanities Pr.


Frederick M. Smith : The Self-Possessed : Deity and Spirit Possession in South Asian Literature and Civilization. Columbia U Pr, NY, 2006.