Ghosts of the Bengali

There are numerous ghosts in the Bengali culture, many sharing common characteristics, making them difficult to differentiate.  All Bengali ghosts, or bhut, tend to appear on abandoned roads or lonely fields, or sometimes in empty forests.  They all have a taste for fresh fish and can be lured by the scent of fish to attack travelers.  They are almost always malicious.

Since there are many overlapping traits, we will examine only four bhut: the Petni, the Penchapechi, the Nishi, and the Skondhokata.

Petni are the ghosts of women, usually those who committed crimes in life and are cursed to walk the Earth as ghosts.  The Petni can be very vicious, and apparently can appear to be almost completely human until they attack.  The only distinguishing characteristic of the ghost is the feet – the feet of Petni are backwards.

The Penchapechi
An unusual form of ghost, the Penchapechi take the form of owls and hunt in the Bengali forests.  The ghost follows hapless travelers through the woods until they are completely alone before it strikes.  Unlike other ghosts, the Penchapechi actually consumes its victims, feeding on their body in an almost vampiric way.

The Nishi
One of the cruelest of ghosts, the Nishi lures its victim to a secluded area by calling to the person with the voice of a loved one.  The Nishi only strike at night, and their victims are never seen again, so it is unknown what happens to them.  They may become Nishi themselves.  According to folklore, the Nishi cannot call out more than twice, and so no one should answer a voice at night until it has called three times.

The concept of headless ghosts is not uncommon in the Western world. Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is widely known and has been made into a number of movies. Headless motorcyclists are a well documented recurring theme with Western ghosts.  But the Bengali version, the Skondhokata, is a bit different.  These are the angry ghosts of train wreck victims who have lost their heads.

Where most Western folklore of headless ghosts has the ghost in search of their lost head, the Skondhokata is simply angry and will strike out at anyone who disturbs them.  Since they haunt the place of their death, they are often disturbed by trains passing by.  This leads to most accounts of the Skondhokata being from train passengers, who either see the headless ghosts outside the train or worse, inside the train.

One story involves a passenger reading a newspaper who looked up to see a headless body sitting in the seat across from him just as the train entered a tunnel.  The man felt the icy touch of the creature in the few seconds of absolute darkness, but as the train rocketed back out into the daylight, the ghost was gone.

18 thoughts on “Ghosts of the Bengali

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    1. watch what you say man there are such things as ghosts, my great grandmother died by seeing one so watch what you say

    2. if not then please look around you & try to guess who created thew world if u have finished guessing rightly u’ll know its a +ve energy. So if there is a +ve energy there must be a -ve energy too.u’ll get it if u have got brains.:)

    3. Jis din dikh gaya na, gaand mein se aisi hawaa niklegi pata chalega. Dont fool with the unknown. There is a world out there you dont want to know about.

  1. hahaha….people think it’s brave to be not believing in ghosts..but u got to keep yourself open…i for example am a skeptic(i doubt)…i keep myself open to suggestions….ghosts or no ghosts…there exists a feeling called fear running down your spine..i can tell u of places where your mask of reason will slide down your face and expose ur horror

  2. Being a Hindu (sanatan dharma), I shall have to believe in soul–immortality of atma—transmigration of soul–reincarnation. Our great epic, Mahabharata and many puranas say that the messenger of yama (yamdut) appears immediately at dying moment to take the person to Pitriloka with a vivid description of the path and the pleasure and pain thereof. Gita also tells us of two paths; pitriyana and devayana. After completion of their period there they come back to earth reborn.
    I do not find any interim period to allot some period for ghost. Sraddha, tarpan, pindidan at Gaya are some of the rituals we go on doing routinely. I know many people who say that they do not believe in ghost but they have fear of ghosts and that is the case with most of the nonbelievers. Logic tells me of illusion, halucination, image resolution, brain wash, preconceived notion and so many things but I cannot say that I don’t have any fear of ghost.

  3. It is really burning question when we stay alone at midnight on bed suddenly if we find that we are covered with darkness and pin-drop silence is it true of existence of Ghost in this world….there r many arguement,,,some one belives or some one dont….but we all belive in soul….we understand who I am now….but does one ever knock ur mind,,,,before having birth where have we been living or after die where will we go??? Why we give pindi at Gaya after any body pass away from our family to make peace for their soul??? Why we do burial festival???? Confuse so dont wast time,,,enjoy ur time

  4. My reasoning says that there is no bhut, but I can not deny that some sort of vague feeling bordeing to an indescribable fear creeps in my mind. Saratchandra’s Sreekanta’s feelings at that point may later be explained as some natural events, but only later. His instant feelings and reactions can only be guessed. To a receptive and sensitive mind many thing appear; ” buddhite jaar byakhyaa chale naa”.

  5. Female Bhut Must Have Chut.
    Once I Met A Skondhokata (a Headless Dude) With His Girlfriend.
    Though They Have No Face, They Can Talk
    ( I Don’t Know, How They Do It). I Was Walking Alone Through A Rail Line Side, When I Saw That Guy. Do U Know What He Told Me?
    He Introduced His Girlfriend, And Said That Both Of Them Comitted Suicide By Beheading In Train Tracks, As Their Family Protested Against The Relation. That Dude Requested Me To Fuck His Gf, As Being Ghost They Are Not Permitted To Do It By Themselves. I Swear, His Gf Was Hungry For A Cock. I Fucked Her, Completely, But As She Has No Head, She Couldn’t Give Me Oral….So Sad:(

  6. According to me and my science teacher,ghosts exist,but they ,believe it or not,are completely scientific.Our “ghosts” are actually the electromagnetic energy stored in our body,which travel from one point to another.

  7. It happens when we die.Oh yes,since it is an energy,no one can do that thing with a ghost which Mr.Pallab Dutta had done,so he is a perfect “namuna” AKA a sample to test how a human being can boast…

  8. Does anyone know any more information on the Nishi? Are their books? Poems? I want to know where this legend came from.

    Thank you

    1. its originated in villages as folklore. i’m a ghost researcher or more like mythology and folktale researcher. they are normally vengeful ghosts who died horribly and well they call out to their pray at the middle of the night . it can happen after 12 at night. it normally happens at Tuesday and Saturday. however I’ve never heard of a blood drinking Nishi before. maybe they died due to blood loss. normally it posses the person whom they called and then makes them kill themselves however they can only possess after that person came out of the house. it is said if a bamboo is cut and the two poles of it sharpened and burned and kept at the threshold of the door so that no one can go out or come in without jumping over it ,the ghost is unable to possess as the person who is lured by the ghost will stumble over it in his sleep and instantly become awake.

    2. there are countless reference of Nishi in a lot of stories written by Indian writers, there is a reference to that in the movie “bhranti bilas” . however it is very rare to find information now cause ghost stories , i.e. Indian ghost stories without even a touch of western ghost is practically distinct nowadays. they don’t categorize them now, they just write about ghosts and that is all. and I’ve not come across a poem about Nishi.

  9. Mon, thank you for replying! I have been waiting so long. Unfortunately I cannot watch the movie because I do not understand the language.

    Do you know any true stories about the Nishi or someone that has been called at night? Do you think they live all over the world? Do you think they have a physical form? For people that survived hearing this ghost call to them, why do you think they were released?

    Please let me know if you have any other details.
    Thank you so much.

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