( Tamil version of this article has been posted already. Pictures are from various websites. Thanks: swami )
There are many ghost stories in ancient Indian literature. The most famous one is the Vetal and Vikramaditya. There are stories of Shiva Bhutas, the fore runner of Aladdin and the Magic Lamp stories. I have already written about them and showed those foreign stories are carbon copies of Tamil and Sanskrit stories. Sangam Tamil literature has got innumerable references to ghosts and ghouls, demons and devils.
Not many people know the Tamil Nili or Neeli ghost story that made a lasting impact in Tamil life. Tamils have proverbs and literary references about this ghost. This is a story that shook the ancient Tamil Nadu. Neeli in her second birth took revenge upon 72 people and killed all of them. If there is a Guinness Book of Records entry for a ghost killing large number of people then Neeli will get the first and foremost entry.
Hundred years ago, A Singaravelu Mudaliyar, who published the first Encyclopaedia of Tamil literature under the title Abithana Chintamani in Tamil, narrated the story of Pazaiyanur Neeli.
Tamils have a proverb “Don’t shed Neeli tears” equivalent to Don’t shed Crocodile tears. Neeli has a reference in a poem of Viveka Chintamani. The author famous for his anti women tirade says in one of the verses that we can even trust Neeli, but not the women who throws her charms on anyone.
The story of Neeli spans over her two births. A merchant of Tamil country travelled to the holiest city of Hindus, Varanasi (also known as Benares and Kasi). There he received the hospitality of a Brahmin. His daughter was Navanjani. The guest fell in love with her and married her. He never told them that he was already married in Tamil Nadu. The newly married travelled towards Tamil Nadu with Navanjani’s brother. As they reached Tiru Alankadu in Tamil Nadu, the merchant sent his brother in law to fetch some water and killed her new wife in the meantime. When her brother returned with water he saw the gory scene and hanged himself.
Now the story continues in her second birth:
The merchant was reborn as Darsana Chetty and Neeli and her brother were born as abnormal children. Darsana Chetty was forewarned by astrologers that he may be revenged by a ghost. So he received a magic sword which will protect him. The abnormal children Neeli and her brother killed the cattle in the night and left them with blood stained wounds. Parents of the abnormal children tied the ghostly children to an acacia tree and abandoned them. People from Palaiyanur came and cut the tree for wood when Neeli went for a revenge. Her brother who occupied the tree was left ‘homeless’ and later killed by another man at the instigation of a temple priest.
Neeli went in the guise of a woman with a child. The story goes that the child was created by her from the broken branch of a tree. She made a big scene in front of the village council which consists 70 elders from the Velala caste. She told the council that Darsana Chetty was her husband and the child in her hand was born to him. She pleaded to them to reunite her with her ‘husband’. He tried his best to tell the council that this woman was a fraud. But her cries and tears moved the council and they reached a compromise that he must live with her and the child.
Neeli tried one more trick now. Knowing the power of the magic sword she told the council that there was no need for a sword when there was a child with her. Village council also agreed with her. He told him that his life would be in danger without the sword. Village council promised him that all the 70 will sacrifice their lives in the fire if anything happened to him. The final piece of the gig saw puzzle fell into its place. Neeli killed Darsana Chetty in the night. Next day Neeli herself went in the guise of Darsana Chetty’s mother to the council and asked all of them to sacrifice their lives as promised. Out of the 70 elders, 69 immolated themselves. Neeli was very happy to take revenge upon those who cut the tree and took her brother’s life.
So far she killed 69+1. The story did not stop there. She went after the person who escaped from the council. He went to him in the guise of his daughter and trapped him. He became the 71st victim. Neeli knowing that he finished her job killed the child in her hand by crushing it under her feet. This was the Murder most foul. This story of death of 72 people+ Neeli and her brother made her notorious as Pazaiyanur Neeli. Now the village has got a ‘temple’ for her in the village.
Had it happened in a place like England it would have become a big tourist spot for Halloween day fans.
Silappadikaram, the most famous Tamil epic has another Neeli, which has no connection to Pazaiyanur Neeli.
Please read earlier Ghost Stories posted by me in the past:
1. Most feared Numbers 666 and 13
2. Aladdin’s Magic Lamp and Tamil saints
3. கடலில் தோன்றிய மர்மத் தீ
4. Mysterious Messengers for Ajanta, Angkor Wat and Sringeri
5. Largest Story Collection in the World
6. தமிழ் பூதமும் கிரேக்க பூதமும்
7. டெல்பி ஆரூடமும் குறிசொல்வோரும்
8. பெரியோர்கள் மரணம் பற்றிய உண்மைகள்
9. Mysterious disappearance of Great Hindu saints
10. Time Travel by Two Tamil Saints
10. Do Hindus believe in E.T.s and Alien Worlds?