Do Vampires Exist in India?

by Issabella
(India)


Question:
Do vampires exist in India either in the present or in the past?

Answer:
I seem to get this specific question quite a bit. I had thought I was addressing the topic by answering the questions Where Can I Find a Real Vampire and Do Vampires Exist, but then I realized there might be more to the question, because no matter my response, I keep getting asked specifically if vampires exist in India.

Refer to the previously mentioned Q&A articles for general information about vampire existence. The gist is that we can't really prove that vampires exist, and probably won't be able to in the future, but there are reasons to believe that they could. The question I want to answer here is - what role does India play specifically in vampire history and culture, and do Indian vampire legends correspond to what we believe about vampires throughout the rest of the world?

India does indeed play a large part in vampire history. Some scholars believe that vampire mythology actually began in India and spread throughout Eastern Europe to Greece and back along the spice and silk trails. It's hard to know if this is true or not, but what we know for sure is that as European, Indian, and other Asian cultures began to interact more, their stories got shared between the cultures and began to influence one another.

Practically every culture in the world has some sort of ancient story about a blood-sucking creature that relates to the vampire. India is no exception. In fact, Indian mythology has several creatures that could easily be considered "vampiric" in relation to the modern view of the vampire. Some match our modern description better than others, but all play a role in vampire mythology.

Creatures known as Betails (or Vetalas) were said to be evil spirits inhabiting the bodies of the dead. Betails would seek to feed on the living. Some legends describe them as being half-bat, half-man, which may explain how bats became closely related to vampire mythology over time. These aren't exactly vampires as we know them now, but there are elements that relate to the modern concept of the creature.

A bit closer to the known legend is a creature called Pisachas (or Pacu Pati), whose appearance more closely resembles zombies or wendigo than modern vampires, but they have the distinction of thirsting specifically for blood.

The goddess Kali was known to drink blood, but was not considered a vampire, while beings called Bhutas attacked infants - but to feed on the milk they had just consumed. A malevolent female spirit called the Chedipe rode naked into homes on the backs of tigers and drank men's blood through their toes while they slept. This is indeed vampiric behavior, but the resulting effect have the man drained of energy rather than killed or transformed. This behavior is much more closely associated with the Western Succubus, than with the modern vampire.

Of all of India's legendary beings, the ones that gets closest to today's vampires are the Rakshasas. Though described slightly differently from different regions and times, Rakshasas were generally considered demons in humanoid flesh who had long fangs and drank the blood of the vulnerable, especially pregnant women and infants. Rakshasas lived in cemeteries and would disrupt prayers, rituals, and rites. In addition to their bloodlust, these beings were also said to be vulnerable to death through sunlight and fire, which puts them very close to the modern day vampire.

The remaining question is: are they still around today? While I will refer part of that answer to the previously answered Q&A articles (mentioned above), there is one caveat for these Indian vampires that deserves mentioning.

In the west, particularly in Christian mythology, vampires are said to live eternally until killed, when they will disappear forever as their souls are already forsaken. Hindu mythology suggests a different ending for the Indian vampire. Though it also lives an "immortal" life, if killed the Hindu gods are likely to consider the soul worthy of reincarnation, potentially into human form. It is also suggested that those who live evil lives as humans could be reincarnated as vampires, meaning there is a potential that the vampire may never become truly extinct.

-Mike

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