A vetala (Sanskrit vetāla or वेताल) is a vampire-like jinn from Hindu mythology. The vetala are defined as spirits inhabiting corpses and charnel grounds. These corpses may be used as vehicles for movement (as they no longer decay while so inhabited); but a vetala may also leave the body at will.
Gray (undated: c2009) provides a survey of chthonic charnel ground accoutrement motif such as skull imagery in the textual tradition of the Yogini tantras and discusses 'vetala' (Sanskrit).
In Hindu folklore, the vetala is an evil spirit who haunts cemeteries and takes demonic possession of corpses. They make their displeasure known by troubling humans. They can drive people mad, kill children, and cause miscarriages, but also guard villages.
They are hostile spirits of the dead trapped in the 'twilight zone' between life and afterlife. These creatures can be repelled by the chanting of mantras. One can free them from their ghostly existence by performing their funerary rites. Being unaffected by the laws of space and time, they have an uncanny knowledge about the past, present, and future and a deep insight into human nature. Therefore many sorcerers seek to capture them and turn them into slaves.
A sorcerer once asked King Vikramaditya to capture a vetala who lived in a tree that stood in the middle of a cremation ground. The only way to do that was by keeping silent. Every time Vikramaditya caught the vetala, the vetala would enchant the king with a story that would end with a question. No matter how hard he tried, Vikramaditya would not be able to resist answering the question. This would enable the vetala to escape and return to his tree. The stories of the vetala have been compiled in the book Baital Pachisi.
There is also a strong Vetala cult in the Konkan region, under the names of Betal, Vetal, etc. Since Shri Betal is said to be the brother of Shri Shantadurga. Therefore, wherever a temple of Shantadurga is, there will be a temple dedicated in honour of Shri Betal either within the temple complex of Shri Shantadurga or somewhere in the sylvan surroundings.. It seems, however, that the relation between the literary Vetala and this demigod's is feeble at best. There is a Shree Betal temple ( बेताळ ) in Amona, Goa. Vetál is the worshipper (or sevak) of Kala Bhairava and is the head of all spirits and ghouls and vampires and all kinds of pisachas. He has another form which is a more potent and fiery form, that of Agni Vetal who is the sevak of none other than Kalika. Lord Agnivetal has flames on his head and controls fire. He is also known as Agya Vetal. Agnivetal is used by Tantriks to perform evil black magic on people. But it isn't Lord Agnivetal's fault because the Tantriks misuse the powers given to them on propitiating Agnivetal(rather his Daityas which are at his feet-they are the ones who accept the blood sacrifices).
In Indian lore, vetala is a type of Ghoul or Vampire haunting cemeteries and reanimating the dead. Corpses may be used as vehicles for movement, as they no longer decay while so inhabited, though at night vetala may also leave the body in order to feed.
Vetala are hostile spirits of the dead whose offspring did not perform funerary rites in their memory. As a result they are trapped in the twilight zone between life and after-life. These creatures can be appeased with gifts or frightened away with spells. Performing properly the funerary rites mean getting rid of those evil spirits.
The vetala has a demonic appearance.
Victims reanimated by vetala have their hands and feet pointed backwards.
Being spirits, unfettered by the laws of space and time, they have an uncanny knowledge about the past, present and future and a deep insight into human nature. Hence, many sorcerers seek to capture them and turn them into slaves. They make their displeasure known by troubling humans by:
- causing madness;
- causing miscarriages
- killing children:
They are also said the guard their villages.
The vetala lives in stones scattered around hills inside and/or surrounding cemeteries.
In Decca it supposedly guards villages and inhabits red-painted stones.
Vetala in LoreEdit
A sorcerer once asked King Vikramaditya to capture a vetala who lived in a tree that stood in the middle of a crematorium. The only way to do that was by keeping silent. However, every time Vikramaditya caught the ghost, the ghost would enchant the king with a story that would end with a question. No matter how hard he tried, Vikramaditya would not be able to resist answering the question. This would enable the vetala to escape and return to his tree. The stories of the vetala have been listed in the book Vetala-pachisi.