As you probably know, I’m Indian, though I’ve lived in Dubai most of my life. I’ve been to India too many times to count, and have even lived there for a few years for under-grad and then work. But every time I go there, I experience something new! It may be places I never knew about, food I’ve never tasted before, or customs and traditions that I never knew existed.
For instance, have you heard of the Indian Devil Tree? In Kerala, they call it the pala maram. It is said that a yakshi (female demon) lives in this tree and likes to drink the blood of men and eat up children! At least, that’s the folklore I’ve heard. They apparently have really long hair to hide their back, which is hollow and they don’t walk, but glide across the ground (which is lucky cos their feet are placed backwards :P). They are supposed to be really beautiful and lure the men in with their beauty and finally kill them (not sure why!). They come out of the tree when the flowers bloom and the smell of the flowers is supposed to be quite intoxicating.
Now, my bedroom in my house in Trivandrum has a balcony which is shaded by a massive version of the Indian devil tree! Though I’m not usually bothered by the tree or any tree-hugging demon that may be living there, I occasionally wonder about all the myths and legends behind it, and then scare myself to the point that I can’t sleep at night! Yeah, I’m a wuss like that. It’s kinda also why I never watch horror movies! :P
So imagine my surprise when I saw this little procession walk by!
Mom said they looked like they were on a pilgrimage of some sort.
Then this wild looking guy comes up…
… stops in front of the devil tree…
…and smears kumkum on it!
I think he then said a little prayer, then they all walked away, still playing the drums and singing phrases I couldn’t understand. I asked my mom what was happening, and she explained to me that the yakshi was also worshipped as a goddess! There are even temples for yakshis in Kerala, which was quite a revelation to me!
What is strange an exotic to some may seem absolutely normal for others. But in India at least, I can bet that even Indians are sometimes flummoxed by the traditions and customs that exist within their own communities!
I guess that’s the magic and allure of India! The exotic and unknown awaits you, right around the corner, even if it’s around the corner of your own backyard!