Dayan (witch)

Daayan, Ḍāin or Ḍāini often regarded as a rendering for a witch (practitioner of black magic) in India, the term has been derived from the Sanskrit word dakini, which refers to a female paranormal entity from Patala (the netherworld). The dakini has been mentioned in medieval Hindu texts such as in the Bhagavata Purana, Brahma Purana, Markandeya Purana and Kathasaritsagara as a female fiendish spirit in the train of Kali who feeds on human flesh.[1] Daayans are comparable to malevolent or vengeful female spirits such as the succubi of Western folklore. The primary source of a Daayan's power is her long plaited hair or ("choti"), she is described as having long and monstrous black nails, and feet that face backward. It is also said that once a Daayan lays her evil eye on someone, it is a bad omen for the whole household of that person. She is regarded as the most powerful paranormal being[2]


The daayan cult refers to a secret society which emerged during the 15th century in Harangul, a village in the Latur district of Maharashtra. The concept of daayans has permeated Indian culture, and may be seen on popular television programs. Belief in daayans has existed in most regions of India, particularly Jharkhand and Bihar. "'Victims of witch-hunting are usually old or widowed women. These women are victimized for their property, or due to problems in the family or for sexual exploitation,' said Vasvi Kiro, a member of the Jharkhand Women's Commission."[3] It is prevalent in rural and semi-rural areas, with "witch-hunts" causing women to be killed or ostracised.[4]

In Harangul it is believed that daayan lives in an area of the village, and an evil spirit resides within them. Villagers believe these women destroy everything good. Daayans are reported in and around cemeteries, abandoned battlefields, crossroads, toilets and squalid places.[5][6][7]

Folklore suggests that a woman treated badly by her family or who died in childbirth as a result of family neglect returns as a daayan, haunting the family and drinking the blood of male family members.[8] Beginning with the youngest male in the family, draining his blood changes him into an old man before she progresses to the other men.[9]

A daayan is also said to target young families, young women and other family surrogates.[10] Assuming the form of a young, attractive female, she hunts for young men on roads and seduces lone travellers into accompanying her. Imprisoning a man, she feeds on his blood or sweat.[6][9] One legend says that a daayan will hold a young man captive until he is old, using him sexually until he dies and joins the spirit world. Another says that a young man seduced by the daayan who eats her food returns at dawn to the village as an old man.[11]

Differences between dayaans and churels

Daayan is sometimes used interchangeably with the term churel (Hindi: चुड़ैल cuṛail), although conceptual and cultural differences exist between them. A churel is a vengeful ghost that arise from the death of a woman during pregnancy or childbirth, with preternatural powers similar to a witch. Indian witch stories vary across the country; the north Indian states believe that the churel (which lives near graveyards or in forests) can change its form and lure young men killing or having physical contact with them while in the western and eastern parts of India, it is believed that a Chudail looks like an old hag who lures small children away from their families to kill and eat them so as to keep herself younger.[12]


Some women are believed to be daayans, and (along with young children) are sometimes tortured and killed in rural areas.[13] One of them is Jharkhand which ranks 24th out of 29 states in literacy. Witchcraft is a major social problem in this state, a large number of women are declared as witches and killed. It is prevalent because of belief in superstitions borne out of illiteracy and lack of education. The state is famous for an indigenous religion called Sarna. Similar to the puritan society of the 1600s, women here are not treated as equal to men. Hence single women, especially widows, are easy targets of witchcraft accusations.[14]

Practices and rituals

Daayans worship the evil, " black magic spirits".[15] Many believe they are the handmaidens of these goddesses, and are known as yoginis in local lore. 'Daayan' word is used in many Bollywood films, short films, Indian and Pakistani T.V. serials and in social media as a female, doing things that are not for the good cause or promote evilness in society and defame culture.


  1. monier-williams , A Sanskrit dictionary 1899
  2. David Templeman, Iranian Themes in Tibetan Tantric Culture: The Ḍākinī ed. Blazer, Henk (2002). Religion and Secular Culture in Tibet:. Netherlands: Brill. pp. 113 - p.129. ISBN 90-04-127763.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  3. "'Witches' haunt women empowerment in Jharkhand". The Times of India. 10 December 2012. Retrieved 10 October 2013.
  4. "'Witch' attacked in Rahe village". The Times of India. 11 December 2012. Retrieved 10 October 2013.
  5. Fane, Hannah (1975). "The Female Element in Indian Culture". Asian Folklore Studies (Nanzan University) 34 (1): 100. JSTOR 1177740.
  6. Raymond Buckland (2009). The Weiser Field Guide to Ghosts: Apparitions, Spirits, Spectral Lights and Other Hauntings of History and Legend. Weiser Books. p. 33. ISBN 978-1-57863-451-4.
  8. Cheung, Theresa (2006). The Element Encyclopedia of the Psychic World. Harper Element. p. 112. ISBN 978-0-00-721148-7.
  9. Janet Chawla (1994). Child-bearing and culture: women centered revisioning of the traditional midwife : the dai as a ritual practitioner. Indian Social Institute. p. 15.
  10. Bane, Theresa (2010). "Chedipe". Encyclopedia of Vampire Mythology. McFarland. pp. 47–8. ISBN 978-0786444526.
  11. Melton, J. Gordon (1999). The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead. Visible Ink Press. p. 372.
  12. "Chudail (Daayan) - The story of Indian Witch & Witchcraft".
  13. "Double child sacrifice casts spotlight on witchcraft in India". The Sydney Morning Herald. 26 November 2010. Retrieved 10 October 2013.
  14. Singh SS. The 'witches' of Jharkhand. The Hindu. Published 27 December 2016. Accessed 23 April 2017.
  15. Chapter 25, Beloved Witch, Harper Collins Publishers India, 2000
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