Tamil Hindu Encyclopaedia- 47; Tamil Phantoms, Spectres, Apparitions தமிழ் பூதம் , பிசாசு (11,688)


Post No. 11,688

Date uploaded in London – –  19 JANUARY 2023                  

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Let us continue with Tamil Ghosts, Spectres, Apparitions, Devils and Evil spirits:

Bhutam, Pisasam are Sanskrit words. We see Brahma Rakshas (Brahmin ghosts), Yakshas and Yakshis in Sanskrit literature.

Any brahmin who commits sins, or who is killed untimely becomes a Brahmin ghost according to Hindu scriptures. We don’t see any caste based ghosts in Sangam Tamil literature.

Ancient Tamils used Kazuthu, Kooli for different types of evil spirits and ghosts. We find Ghoul in Arabic. I don’t know who borrowed this word from whom.

ghoul (Arabic: غول, ghūl) is a demon-like being or monstrous humanoid. The concept originated in pre-Islamic Arabian religion,[1] associated with graveyards and the consumption of human flesh. Modern fiction often uses the term to label a certain kind of monster.- says Wikipedia.


Mangudi Marunthanaar and Maamulanaar described the ghosts in their verses. They are of different sizes; short and tall. They are under  the control of Kotravai, Tamil word for Goddess Durga. The ghosts even play with their boss Durga.  They are educated ones and they use riddles and puzzles to make goddess happy. It is told by Kalittokai and Perumpaanaatruppadai. We see a learned Yaksha in Yaksha Prasna of Mahabharata where he puts 123 questions to Yuthisthira.

Tamils believed that there are male ghosts and female ghosts. In Kalittokai an old  Brahmin, threatens a girl saying  that he is a male ghost.

Two names are very familiar to Tamils, one is Karaikkaal Ammaiyar (Madam Karaikkal). She belongs to Chettiyar community. When her husband saw her doing miracles, he divorced her saying she was a divine woman. She assumed ghostly appearance and called herself Peyaar meaning Miss Ghost. Her real  name was Punithavathy, a Sanskrit name.

Another female ghost was notorious one called Neeli. She took revenge on 70 people and all were dead. Her name became proverbial in Tamil. In Sanskrit also we see both male and female ghosts.


Perunchoru = Big Feast in Sangam Literature

Uthiyan Cheralathan arranged a Big Feast in memory of the departed souls where the ghosts enjoyed the feast according to Mamulanar. This word Perunchoru= Big feast is misinterpreted by many Tamil “Scholars”. They misinterpreted it as Chera king offered food to both Kauravas and Pandavas during Mahabharata war. Actually, this is a feast arranged to satisfy the departed souls. Saivites arrange Guru Puja feast for all the departed Saivite saints even today. When it is arranged for War Dead it is called Perunchoru= Big feast. At that time even the spirits and ghosts enjoy the blood smeared rice balls thrown into sky.

In my Madurai town in Tamil Nadu, they offer such blood smeared rice balls and meat to goddess Chellaththamman. On that day the city council will switch off all the street lights in that area (my area where I lived) and volunteers will guard the streets so that no one approach that temple. And in the next morning one can see the blood and rice. Such rites are called Perun Choru.


Here are the Tamil references from Sangam Tamil literature:

(From சங்கத் தமிழரின் வழிபாடுகளும் சடங்குகளும் , மு.சண்முகம் பிள்ளை)

பானாள்‌ கொண்ட கங்குல்‌ இடையது

பேயும்‌ அணங்கும்‌ உருவு கொண்டு, ஆய்கோல்‌

கூற்றக்  கொல்தேர்‌, கழுதொடு கொட்ப”

(மதுரை. 631-533) Madurai Kaanchi

Here we see Pey, Anaangu, Kazuthu

Most famous Tamil commentator Nachchinaarkiniyar commented that there are different types of ghosts with different shapes and different activities; They are not visible in day time. They act during midnight.


Here Maamuulanaar describes the great Feast offered by the Chera king Uthiyan Cheral

‘துறக்சம்‌ எய்திய தொய்யா நல்‌இசை

முதியர்ப்‌ பேணிய, உதியஞ்‌ சேரல்‌

பெருஞ்சோறு கொடுத்த ஞான் றை , இரும்பல்

கூளிச் சுற்றம் குழீஇ இருந்தாங்கு

குறியவும்‌ நெடியவும்‌ குன்று தலை மணந்த ்‌

சுரன்  (௮௧.233:7-12) Akam 233


துணங்கை அம்‌ செல்விக்கு அணங்கு நொடித்தாங்கு

(பெரும்‌. 459) perum. line 459

பெருங்காட்டுக்‌ கொற்றிக்குப்‌ பேய்‌ நொடித்தாங்கு

(கலி.89:8) kali. verse 89

Two Sangam poets described the games that ghosts played with Durga. They used riddles in the games.


An old brahmin threatening a girl posing himself as a male ghost:

கைப்படுக்கப்‌ பட்டாய்‌, சிறுமி! நீ: – மற்றுயான்‌

ஏனைப்‌ பிசாசு ; அருள்‌: என்னை நலிதரின்‌

இவ்‌ ஊர்ப்‌ பலி நீபெறாமல்‌ கொள்வேன்‌” (கலி. 65:16-18)kali. Berse 65

To be continued…………………………………………..

Tags- Tamil ghosts, Ghoul, Perunchoru, Big feast, departed souls

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