The usual crowing of the rooster rouses the tiny hamlet, the denizens awoken from their deep slumber, taking a moment to breathe in and begin their day. As the sun spreads its energising rays, so begins their sacred duties, the purificatory bathing, the offerings into fire, the offerings unto the waters, the decorating with flowers, the rhythmic chantings, the gong of bells and the spreading incense.
Sthitā, after fulfilling her duties, she stood behind her door, a wistful glance towards the dusty road, anxiously waiting. She goes back inside with a sigh. Around noon, she hears footsteps and rushes to the door, a form silhouetted before the bright light, but how could she forget her lord? Nirveda stood there smiling, and in a moment entered before she could do anything.
It did not sit well with her, he had come back after 6 months, and one doesn’t simply waltz in without proper anointments. She let it by as weariness and proceeded to serve him, preparing the choicest delicacies, which he ate frowning slightly now and then. The hurt was palpable and she was immediately jealous. He must have let his appetite gone astray in the foreign lands!
The days passed and she noticed only the changes, he wouldn’t talk with other men, he would take long walks at frequent timed intervals and would always return with a smug smile, he avoided all the sacred duties, and laughed at those who performed them. He had grown unkempt, uncouth, and sometimes cantankerous.
As Sthitā adorned herself for his delight, he would scowl, mutter gibberish and walk away. She was suspicious that a piśāca may have taken hold of him, it chilled her to the bones, his odd behaviour, his alien manners.
Propitiating the temple Deity, she procured for herself a beaten copper sheet inscribed with holy incantations and diagrams. Rolling it up and fixing around it a thread immersed in sacred ash, turmeric, and vermillion, she charged the amulet with her fervent prayers. She proceeded home, and as she entered she was overpowered by the stink of fresh blood. Panicking, she rushed towards the source and found there the most appalling sight, something that made the Earth slip from below her feet and she fell on the floor.
There before her, was the body of her cow, beheaded, lying on a pool of blood! Her husband, stood with a smirk, the head below his feet. She wailed aloud, at all the Gods! Her house defiled, the Gods would now shun her forever.
He laughed at her wails, and as he walked out, he picked up a piece of cloth, threw it on her face, made a satisfied grunt and walked away.
She sat there, throughout the day and into the night. She could not move, she could not call upon anyone, she feared for his life.
After that day, the sacrilege and the profanities became more brazen. She would light the lamp in the evening, only to find it extinguished and the oil spilled all over the floor. One morning the vermillion box lay on the floor, the contents strewn everywhere, the shrine fouled with bones and filth. He would treat her roughly, as if she were his possession and not his partner in life.
It was not a piśāca, it was definitely a Rākṣasa. It was her husband no longer.
Her fears were her own, one that couldn’t be shared so praying to the Goddess, she followed him the next day. He went to a secluded spot within the forest, and there she saw some other men, similarly unkempt. They stood in groups, raised their hands and wailed at the skies. They all moved synchronously, muttering gibberish. It lasted for a while and he turned and embraced them. She followed him back, and the only places he stopped were where he saw children, with whom he spoke. Her fears grew, and she saw visions of a ruined future.
She spent the entire night in the temple, fearing that her face would reveal her knowledge. She sat there facing the Goddess; many armed, and all armed with the tools of war.
She stood up, applied the ashes to her forehead, streaked some vermillion upwards. It was her battle tonight, a battle which her Goddess had fought many times when the Gods had fallen short.
A disease had attacked her husband and he had succumbed, he had fallen to perversion and was proud of it. He now stalks the future, courts with treason. Most of all, he was not the same man she married, he was possessed by a strange madness. The infection would be stopped, and it would be by her hand. What she sought to protect would protect her in turn.