Here in India exists a heady mix of cultures, religions and superstitions – a bhelpuri of beliefs so astoundingly bizarre that you certainly can’t get enough of it. These notions give rise to the extraordinary tales that we all grew up with, whispered from ear to ear, or blurted out by the media which holds a soft corner for these urban legends till date. Chinese whispers then, may well have become an Indian reality. It may be hard to solve the real mystery behind these stories but nevertheless, the guilty pleasure we receive by indulging in them remains incomparable to any other. Do they still hold true? We wish, but that’s for you to figure out for yourselves. Bonus? We’ve got a little trivia on each that really makes these special.
I. Can idols of Lord Ganesha drink milk?
In 1995, a ‘Hindu Milk Miracle’ drove the country into a frenzy as idols of Lord Ganesha were reportedly drinking milk that was offered to them. The first rumours were sparked by a worshipper in Delhi who held a spoonful of milk close to the trunk of the idol and was dazed to watch it disappear. The news spread like wildfire as statues of the entire Hindu pantheon were seen savouring milk not just in India, but even abroad. This mass hysteria was later rubbished by scientists who adjudged capillary action as a befitting explanation for the occurrence.
Trivia: Overall milk sale in Delhi during this period soared by 30 per cent.
II. Who is Delhi’s infamous Monkey Man?
Credited for giving sleepless nights to scores of Delhi residents circa 2001, Monkey Man was known to be a hairy creature that attacked the residents sleeping in the open at night. Jumping from one building to another, it could probably give Spiderman a run for its money as no one really knows who, or rather, what it actually was. However, reports of people getting scratched and falling off their buildings after the beastly encounter instigated a sense of fear in the city. Wonder what would be a more horrid experience – a face-off with Monkey Man or watching Delhi 6?
Trivia: The Delhi government employed 40 men on contract last year to keep the grey langurs off the manicured lawns of politicians. And, well, they’re called Monkey Men.
III. Will ‘Nale Ba’ keep the Bangalore witch at bay?
Rumour has it that a witch roamed the streets of Bangalore in the ‘90s, knocking door to door. Armed with the powers of deception, she would speak in the voice of a close relative and when you opened the door, you’d die. The residents devised a plan to save their lives by writing ‘Nale Ba’ (come tomorrow) outside their houses. The local Kannada-speaking witch was quite obedient after all – turned up at your home, looked at the sign, went away, came again tomorrow, looked at the sign and the cycle continues.
Trivia: April 1 is celebrated as Nale Ba Day in some parts of Bangalore. We’re sure you know the other worldwide celebration that falls on the same day.
IV. Why has Muhnochwa left a scar on UP?
An insect or an alien? One will never really know. Much like the legend of the Monkey Man in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh had its share of panic induced by Muhnochwa, a creature that appears at night and scratches the face of its victim. Muhnochwa, which literally translates to someone who claws your face, became such a rampant problem in some areas that the UP government urged Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur to send a team of scientists to probe into the matter. Without any concrete proof in hand, the team called it nothing but a scare among the masses.
Trivia: A Muhnochwa was allegedly caught in Lakhimpur Kheri. Professors at the zoology department of Lucknow University studied it and later identified it as a rare grasshopper.
V. How does Himesh Reshammiya’s music invite evil spirits?
Himesh Reshammiya might be the only man whose music has the power to raise the dead from their graves. His hit song ‘Jhalak Dikhlaja’ from the film Aksar was banned from a village in Gujarat after people were allegedly getting ‘possessed’ by evil ghosts while humming its tune. Apparently, the music CDs and cassettes of the song were also burnt down on orders from the village heads. We were left sceptical if there are any Himesh fans alive on the planet anymore.
Trivia: This Reshammiya song apparently only causes possession for members of the Muslim community. Interestingly, there’s a Gujarati hit number called ‘Sanedo sanedo’ that is believed by Hindus living in the village to summon a witch that harasses particularly women.
VI. Who is haunting Bangalore’s International Airport?
The staff members at the Bangalore International Airport were left petrified when reports of a lady clad in white saree started doing the rounds in 2008. After a pilot supposedly spotted the woman on the runway, a ground staffer picked her up but alas, she disappeared before they reached the terminal building. Likewise, the pilot and the staffer also ‘disappeared’ from the scene and no one eventually came forward to claim that they spotted the ghost.
Trivia: From the fort of Bhangarh to the streets of New Delhi, there’s always a story of the ‘lady in white saree’, with no particular evidence other than hilarious screen adaptations in Bollywood.
VII. Why did the villagers abandon Kuldhara overnight?
The village of Kuldhara in Jaisalmer wears an eerie desolate feeling – one which gives you the chills when you walk through its abandoned houses. It is believed that the head of the region had his evil eyes on the village chief’s daughter and wanted to forcefully marry her. Instead of submitting to his wish, all inhabitants decided to leave the village, leaving no trail of their whereabouts. Kuldhara is said to be cursed by the villagers, as it continues to be uninhabited by humans till today.
Trivia: Members of the Paranormal Society of Delhi reportedly spent a night at Kuldhara village. Moving shadows, haunted voices and hand imprints of children on cars are some of the unnerving things they observed.
VIII. Were the girls of Pavagada taken by Werewolves?
Several girls under the age of five, tucked peacefully to sleep next to their parents, reportedly went missing from the village of Pavagada in 1983. There were instances where police spotted a pool of blood along with the clothes of the missing girls. All clues somehow pointed towards a man-eating wolf which, like all other monsters, unleashes its claws at night. If other suspicions are to be believed, the meticulously planned deaths were the handiwork of tantriks who make human sacrifices to Goddess Kali. It seems like we have a story to suit everyone’s taste at the end of it.
Trivia: Wolves have a long history of preying on humans, dating back to the British era. In 1878 alone, 624 people were killed by wolves in Uttar Pradesh.
IX. Could the water of Mahim Creek be sweet?
In 2006, the foul-smelling water of Mahim Creek, which is a dumping ground for Mumbai’s industrial waste, turned sweet. Many believed it to be the divine intervention of Sufi Saint Makhdoom Ali Mahimi, rejoicing in this ‘miracle’ by drinking the water and taking a bath in it. Geologists explained the strange phenomenon as the discharge of fresh water from an underground rock formation, which was preceded by excessive rainfall in Mumbai. The water turned saline the next day while the residents went back to blocking their nose at the very proximity of the miraculous destination.
Trivia: Within hours of this event, people in Gujarat also claimed that the seawater at Teethal beach had turned sweet. Ultimately, it all went down the (salty) drain. What we’d really like to know is - who was the first person to discover this ‘sweetness’?
X. Do ghosts reside in Chennai’s De Monte colony?
A slew of stories claim that ghosts dwell in Chennai’s De Monte Colony, named after a Portuguese resident who led a miserable life with his mentally unstable wife and a son who died an untimely death. Fearful accounts range from a door which opens and closes by itself, and vehicles that ram into the crash guard at night. Even taxi drivers and rag pickers refuse to visit the area after dark. In this fairly deserted piece of land, perhaps the only insight about ghosts could be given by drunken teenagers who drop by to test the claims.
Trivia: Seeking inspiration from the legend, a 2015 Tamil Horror Film titled Demonte Colony is a fictional story set in in the same area. It also features a Portuguese Lord De Monte.
XI. Where is the Indian Bigfoot?
It seems like India has its own Bigfoot, popularly known as Mande Barung, who inhabits the thick subtropical forests in the remote Garo Hills of Meghalaya. Nearly 10ft tall and weighing about 300 kg, the black and grey ape-like animal is known to be herbivore, surviving on fruits, roots and tree bark. While forest officials have dismissed its presence saying that the creature could only be a part of our folklore, repeated sightings have created immense hype in the media in India and abroad.
Trivia: Believed to be found at several places in the world, the animal is known in the US as bigfoot, in Canada as sasquatch, in Brazil as mapinguary, in Australia as a yowie, in Indonesia as sajarang gigi, and in Nepal as a yeti.
XII. What’s the mystery behind Mumbai’s Grand Paradi Towers?
Located in Mumbai’s plush Malabar Hill neighbourhood, the Grand Paradi Towers is a 28-storeyed building that has prompted many of its residents to jump to death. A number of suicides have repeatedly occurred in this affluent complex, all of them ending their lives by jumping off from the balcony. The strange pattern also compelled the Grand Paradi Co-operative Housing Society to once conduct a counselling session with Counselling and Suicide Prevention Centre (CASP).
Trivia: The Grand Paradi Towers are located at a close distance from the Tower of Silence, a structure used by Zoroastrians for excarnation. Not that it is related, but the idea of it gives an uncanny appeal to the location.
[The list of Urban Legends may never be exhaustive. You can keep the spirit alive and share your stories with us.]