Bhoot or Bhut is a supernatural creature, usually the ghost of a deceased person, in the popular culture, literature and some ancient texts of the Indian subcontinent. Interpretations of how bhoots come into existence vary by region and community, but they are usually considered to be perturbed and restless due to some factor that prevents them from moving on (to transmigration, non-being, nirvana, or heaven or hell, depending on tradition). This could be a violent death, unsettled matters in their lives, or simply the failure of their survivors to perform proper funerals.

Characteristics Edit

Bhoots are able to alter and assume forms of various animals at will, but are usually seen in human form. However, their feet often reveal them to be ghosts, as they are backwards facing. As the earth is regarded as sacred or semi-sacred in many traditions of the Indian subcontinent, bhoots go to lengths to avoid contact with it, often floating above it, either imperceptibly or up to a foot above. Bhoots cast no shadows, and speak with a nasal twang. They often lurk on specific trees and prefer to appear in white clothing. Sometimes bhoots haunt specific houses (the so-called bhoot banglas, i.e.bhoot bungalows), which are typically places where they were killed or which have some other significance to the bhoot.

Many ghost stories in the region combine these elements. For instance, they might involve a protagonist who fails to flee or take countermeasures when they run across a bhoot. Instead, they unwittingly accept the bhoot's companionship (e.g., makes the ghost a companion as he/she walks through a forest, picks up the ghost in his car because it looks like an attractive woman waiting by the roadside at night). They become progressively aware that their companion is dressed entirely in white and has a funnily nasal voice, before the horrifying realization dawns on them that their companion's feet are turned backwards, or he/she is not casting a shadow in the moonlight, or is walking without actually touching the ground. Bhoots are said to seek out milk and immerse themselves in it. Consuming bhoot-contaminated milk is considered a typical route for bhoot-possession of humans, which has also been a frequent plot element in bhoot stories.

A particular kind of bhoot, that of a woman that died during pregnancy or childbirth, is known as a churail (dakini in Nepal and eastern India). Churails look like human women, but their feet are turned backwards or other features are turned upside down. They can change their forms at any time. Churails often try to lure young men at road crossings and fields or similar places. If a man is enamored of a churail, it is believed that she will cause his death. There are, however, stories of people living with a churail, or even marrying one.

In many regions, bhoots are supposed to fear water and steel or iron objects, so keeping those nearby is believed to scare them off. The scent of burnt turmeric is also said to ward them off. As is typical of ghosts throughout the world, invoking the name of holy figures and deities is also said to repel bhoots. In some regions, sprinkling earth on oneself is said to shield against bhoots. According to Hindu mythology, the soul cannot be destroyed by any means. As a bhoot is just a deceased, lost, or angry soul, the Hindu exorcists do not (or cannot) destroy them, but in turn performs a ritual according to the Atharva Veda called atma-shanti which is just a modified shraadh (death anniversary) done by those haunted by thebhoot to promise it that everything in the power of them would be done to either assure the rebirth of the bhoot or finish the works left incomplete by the bhoot (or both). Thus the bhoot gets what it wants and would stop troubling those haunted by it forever.

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