[ Background information: The following stories are biographical narrations by the author, Atmatattva Das. This was originally meant to be published as a book, but after completing the first eight chapters, the author chose not to continue, and thus we are left with the stories in their present incomplete form. Most of these stories took place around 1970. The areas discussed in these stories have changed greatly in the last 40 years and may not match what we see today. All of these stories are factual. There is no plan to ever publish this book, so if you want to know more, or if you want to know about other events that occurred, you would have to meet the author personally. He currently stays in Chennai. ]
In that little town under the foothills of the western ghat in Kerala, there was just one real building which was a small temple with a tile roofing. The temple was surrounded by huts and shanties. When I arrived, there was a competition going on in the market place between two tantrics who had selected an onlooker from the crowd to be their medium. They had him standing stiff as a bamboo in trance. One tantric pointed a stick at him and said “lay down” he fell flat! The other pointed and said “get up” he rose up straight without bending a limb! A thing about six inches long made from flour which had loose hay for hands and feet with half an egg each for it’s eyes and a knot of real hair stuck on the top was lying on the ground nearby. One of the tantrics recited an incantation and the thing rose up and started moving towards him, rocking back and forth on its own, moving its hay legs sideward.
This town was near the famous Durga temple-town Chottanikkara (where midnight tantric rituals are conducted treating hundreds of haunted people). This used to be a kind of show by the local tantric voodoo priests.. they will put up a small challenge to the competitor and usually they meet in front of some old temple in an empty ground .The names of competitors will be announced in the local market place , community bathing lake, and in the temples. So there will be two or three villages gathered around for the fete. About 200 people will be there, and the priests don't have any stage or microphones or anything like that. They just start shouting at each other and the people will stand in a circle. I was just sitting back in fear. I heard some of them murmuring, "When these things start to happen it means it is getting dangerous." One of the tantrics cuts the tongue of the medium with a gross looking blade, there is blood all over . He covers the medium with a blanket and starts screaming out some questions to him, while going in front of different people in the audience. The questions are like what is the color of shirt this man is wearing, what vegetable this lady has in her bag, where is this old man coming from etc. The tongue cut medium screams back answers from under the blanket. Then the other tantric sticks the tongue back in its place, but now the guy cannot talk! In the zeal to outdo one another tantrics call more people out of the crowd. asking them to perform as mediums. No one comes forward fearing that they may possibly perform injurious acts.
Finally, to the relief of everyone they declare a draw to the challenge and announce that they will meet everyone again on another date. The crowd broke up. I walked around the little bazaar near the temple. There I saw one of the tantrics going from stall to stall. This is a weekly kind of market there. There is no building or anything like that, people will come, may be spread a mat or spread a long blanket and then they will put their things on and start selling, while shouting loudly the prices. It will go till sunset time in the evening. Just before they close, the local criminals will come and collect their tax. After they left, everyone was afraid of this magician who went around collecting his toll. After he left I asked some of the shop keepers why they allowed this to go on. One man says if I don't give he will change all these vegetable into creatures. He said, “ He can make snakes fall from the sky”. Another said anything may happen , this man has no heart. He can do what he likes and no policeman will dare touch him. A third man told me he will change the color of my wife's skin. He has chatan (a type of spirit) working for him. Chatan is derived from the Sanskrit word chetana or consciousness. Whether there is a relationship between this name and the Arabic saitan or Hebru's Satan is a question for etymologists.
I was eager to get to the bottom of what I have seen and heard. Without wasting more time in the bazaar I headed for the woods outside the village. At the end of a long paddy field in the eucalyptus woods is where I was told I will find the tantric showman’s residence. after a time consuming hike through the thick village I finally reached the place. The small shelter in the middle of the clearance was assembled with crude wood, with a cut rock that deemed the roof and the ‘hut’ was built under a banyan tree. The roof was not full because one could stand up and see part of the tree where one side there was no or very little roof (rock). It had all around animal bones and human skulls and hair and all kinds of disgusting paraphernalia.
A charming, fair skinned, young lady sat just inside the doorway, if you call it a doorway, that was again a broken side of a wall. She was not yet 20 and looked fresh and virgin. Her hair was worn long , half wet and loose. She had on a simple ankle length maroon red gown which had a long open neck in the front, revealing her flesh.. There was a vacant look in her eyes that did not change when I spoke to her. Asked about the man I was looking for she slowly mumbled, “ please wait he said he would come” which really didn't tell me what I wanted to know . I replaced the question and got the same reply!. Now like a recorded message repeated over and over I could see that see was under some kind of influence. Curiously , I slowly landed my palm on her right cheek, I was right, she didn’t seem to know that I was touching her. Every couple of minutes, she slowly moved her head down a bit, like a newsreader. There was a bewitching smile on her lips too.
I sat down outside the stone shelter. I heard someone moving through the forest. A man stepped into the clearing and I recognized him as the tantric I have seen demanding goods in the village market. Now he didn't look so wild eyed or fearsome. In fact it could have been any common fellow from the street, a rickshaw-driver for instance. Still one could see in his face a strange sort of controlling mood. Not that of a gross sensual lusty person. But someone who had some lust for power. One might say he had the same sort of air about him as a very successful business man - a mixture of ruthless ambition and a cocky confidence. But his success was not in business it was in the black arts. Soundless, he led me into his hut.
The foreside of its dark disjointed interior was taken up by a stove that was simply an arrangement of bricks housing a wood fire. Upon that squatted an oversized copper kettle with two earlike handles on either side. Steam spooled out from under the jug, filling my nose with a stomach unsettling odor. Just a bit short of disgusting and causing me to throw up. Against the other two walls were a flat stone with a highly polished mirror-like surface, a small book case with a thick bundle of palm leaves crowding the shelves and an old, half broken harmonium. In the other corner I saw more of the now familiar rice flour “figures” chilling in their combined morbidity and childishness. As I walked in stooping, my head brushed against bones tied with knots of hair hanging from the timber rafters above. With the stove's fire he lit a couple of candles and we sat down.
By this time it was getting dark. Nervously I began explaining myself, and my new found interest in Tantra. He gazed at me steadily with a cold thin smile until I broke in, in haste, “Can you teach me? Do you think I can learn from you?”
Then he asked in a deadly calm voice, “That job is mine, but tell me, how far do you want to go?” A scary giggle followed his question.
“To tell you the truth, my real interest is to develop faith in spiritual things by actually seeing something like this”.
“Did you see the show I did today”, he asked , maintaining his reptilian smile.
“Oh yes it was very impressive. How do you perform such feats?”
He thoughtfully stared at me for a moment. Then he replied, “I can tell you where you can get a little deeper look into the mystery of Shakti, (power). This will be a sort of test for you. But it will have noting to do with me. I will tell you where to go and give you some advice in preparation. But you will be on your own after that. I have selected a venue very close to the house of your Muslim friend." It was bewildering to me how he knew about my Muslim friend.
"If what you see convinces you that this is not parlor magic, you may return here for some serious instruction. Are you interested?" I nodded eagerly - I was very interested. He told me about a small Muslim settlement near a stand of trees known by the name Chavuk, similar to Pine. In the midst of Chavuk woods was a clearing. I was to go to that clearing on the next full moon night and sit and simply watch for something to appear.
“Don't fall asleep whatever you do. You should bring with you a pocket full of small white stones - if you get frightened spit on these stones one at a time and throw them behind you as far as you can and then run. This will help you to get away. Try this encounter , then you may return here”.
I left in no small state of excitement eager for the next full moon night. The afternoon before the full moon night I returned to the region with my Muslim friend. We soon found the little village, that the tantric had told me about and made discrete enquiries about the chavuk forest. Around sundown we located it. Just in case we might need some help, my friend made a quick acquaintance with a Muslim family living some 100 meters across the road that skirted the edge of the trees. These people confirmed that certainly there could be danger and told us they would keep the lamp burning in the window so that we could find our way there easily. We had our pockets full of white stones.
After some hours of killing time in the village we returned about 11 o'clock in the night and entered the woods. The moon was high in the cloudless night sky flooding everything with its pale shine. After a brief walk down a gentle incline we came to an area where some trees had been felled. In the midst of the clearing we saw a broken circular wall that rimmed an old well.
We sat down on a fallen trunk some 20 meters away from it not knowing what to expect .Our attention was drawn to each and every rustle of the woods. For long time nothing happened. Finally after midnight my friend nodded into sleep. I remembered the tantrics warning and remained alert. My back to the well and my gaze moving like a searchlight along the line of trees all around. You could hear every single turn of breeze that was going through the thin leaves of those chavuk trees.
Ten minutes after my friend fell asleep, I trembled, as a cold tingle crept up my spine. Leaping to my feet and turning around I saw something that made my heart almost stop. Bathed in the moon shine a tall statuesque women stood on the well’s rim. I was sure she didn't walk to that place because I was watching. Her eyes were closed. For a moment I wondered if she was a sleepwalker. In face and physique she did not resemble an Indian woman . She had a long loose hair that hung down over the front of her body to her knees - otherwise, she was naked. She was hauntingly voluptuous in a way that was both enticing and frightening.
Staring open mouthed at this apparition I nudged my sleeping friend with my foot. He sat up with a shock, turned to see what I was looking at, then gasped and scrambled to his feet. At once her eyelids lifted revealing twin orbs from hell to penetrate the darkness with a glare like the eyes of a tigress. She fixed those terrible eyes upon mine and stepped off the well alighting to earth as if she was not heavier than a wisp of cotton. The woman’s legs propelled her forward. I cannot say she walked or ran or floated for these words will not simply be able to give you an accurate picture as how she advanced upon us. Her legs moved without bending at the knees making swift little steps of such fluid effortlessness that I was reminded of the locomotion of a centipede. It was almost as if below the waist her body was motorized for when her legs started her head and upper torso with her limbs snapped back slightly from the sudden forward motion at least to our vision.
My friend shaking violently and gibbering caught my hand and tried to pull me with him in a dash for the road. But I was rooted to the spot transfixed by the mysterious eyes of the women. I tried to tell him I couldn’t run but no sound would come from my contracted throat. He left me and fled for his life just as she halved her distance from us. What deadly hypnotic power an automobile’s head lights will have over a deer standing in gaze on it’s path - her eyes had over me. She closed the last few feet between us and I heard my friend shout from behind me “get ready to run!” something flashed through the air and landed behind the woman. She broke off her mesmerizing stare and turned to see what it was. As soon as she looked away I regained control of myself. I bolted in sheer terror to catch up with my friend who was now in the woods on his way up to the road. He turned took something from his mouth and threw it past my head. It was then that I remembered the stones! Still running like a mad man I fumbled in my pocket and pulled one out. Popped it in my mouth for an instance then passed it over my shoulder without looking back.
Hearts pounding we burst out of the groove, crossed the road and entered the field at full tilt on our way to the Muslim’s house. I turned and saw the woman emerge from the trees and skitter over the road right behind us. An awful thought crossed my mind - that’s it! we will never make it. Slow into a stumble I plunged my hand in my pocket to snatch a whole fistful of stones. I licked them ravenously before hurling the lot right at her, then sped off again at full speed. Looking over my shoulder I saw her stoop to examine some of the stones, picking them up one by one. but as if in sudden fury she flung them down again and rose to resume her pursuit.
By this time we had reached the house. We entered breathlessly and bolted the door behind us. A man and his old mother came out of another room and made us to sit down as they quickly drew the blinds on all the windows. That done, the man handed my friend and I each a large shiny bladed knife. He rubbed some limestone paste on the sides of the blades and told us to hold the knives ready. In the mean time the old lady read aloud from the holy Koran. Whoever or whatever the mysterious woman was, she did not try to enter the house. After an hour or so the man and his mother retired. My friend and I still trembling with fright did not dare drop into sleep before the first rays of dawn.