People throng to ‘Navratri witches’ for cure to AIDS, cancer

October 8th, 2008 - 5:18 pm ICT by IANS  

Raipur, Oct 8 (IANS) In a bizarre ritual that took place midnight last on the outskirts of Raipur, three women known as the ‘Navratri witches’ and claiming to be blessed by goddess Durga, slapped people while chanting the names of the goddess to rid them of dreaded diseases like AIDS and cancer. On the banks of a pond at New Purena locality, poor people suffering from serious ailments came to be ‘cured’ by the three ‘witches’ who claimed to adept in witchcraft. The two-hour ‘healing’ ceremony began at midnight Tuesday.

The bare-feet women in their mid-30s, dressed in black sarees and with their hair open, slapped over two dozen people in order to ‘cure’ them of their diseases on the annual traditional Mahashtami night (one of the most important nights during the Navratri festival)

“Devi Durga has blessed them (pointing towards the three witches) with divine power, one of them slapped me three times while chanting ‘Maa Jagdambe’,” Sukhla, an AIDS patient, told IANS.

Sukhla, a rickshaw puller, claimed that last year on Mahashtami night his two-year-old son Kalu was ‘cured’ of the HIV virus.

13-year-old Poonam who works as a domestic worker, was weeping after being slapped by one of the ‘witches’. Her mother, however, was hopeful that the girl would soon recover from a serious heart ailment.

“Recently, I thought of committing suicide as we have nothing to eat because all our earnings go towards paying doctors as she (Poonam) has a hole in the heart. But recently a relative told me about the treatment by the ‘Navratri witches’ and we came here,” said Poonam’s mother.

‘Treatment’ by the ‘Navratri witches’ has been very popular for the past few decades in Chhattisgarh villages mainly in tribal dominated pockets.

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