Three class VII students of a government primary school at Ambapada village in Dang district created a stir on Saturday when they reportedly began to shake and started chanting and crawling on the floor of the prayer hall of the school.
After teachers failed to calm them, the incident was reported to District Primary Education Officer S L Pawar who dispatched District Health Officer Dr Megha Mehta to the school.
The teenagers told child psychiatrist Dr Ankit Rathod, who had accompanied the health officer, that a local deity ‘Dungar Dev’ — hailed as lord of the hills by the tribals — were “upset” because a particular stone was buried on the school premises, and once it was removed, they would be fine.
“When we questioned them jointly and separately, their statements remained same. They said that somebody had buried a stone of the Hill God in the school compound, and only when it will be removed, they will become normal. Moreover, the stone has to removed by an exorcist. We later counselled them and gave some medicines, and they started behaving normally. We have told their parents to bring them to Ahwa Civil Hospital for further treatment, so that they can be totally cured,” Dr Mehta told The Indian Express.
According to child psychiatrist Dr Rathod, who works at Ahwa Civil Hospital, the teenagers, aged between 13 and 14 years, suffer from ‘Culture bound Syndrome’ — a combination of psychiatric and somatic symptoms that are considered to be a recognizable disease only within a specific society or culture.
“We don’t want to hurt their feelings… We have seen them, shivering, crawling on floors, repeatedly raising their heads up, chanting that Dungar Dev had possessed them. We have counselled them and explained to them that such thing never happens, showing different examples. They are now behaving normally,” Dr Rahod said, adding that school teachers have been told that if any such thing takes place again, they should immediately contact him.
The incident has nonetheless baffled the teachers of the school.
“This is for the first time that we have seen such an abnormal behaviour of students in the school,” said Praveen Bagul, the head teacher of primary school.
According to Bagul, the students might have tried to emulate their elders whom they had watched during worship ritual.
“Tribals in Dangs offer prayer to Dungar Dev for a good paddy yield, and it is usually done at this time of the year as part of local tradition. During this time of first yield of paddy, locals go to the foot of the hills to pray. The adults are accompanied by their children during prayers, and children watch how adults behave during the worship ritual when they crawl, shake their bodies and heads. It is their belief that some part of the first yield of paddy should be offered to Dungar Dev so that for whole year they could have a good harvest… All the three students were from same Ambapada village, and they could have been impacted by the worship ritual of the adults. They may have tried to emulate them,” Begul told The Indian Express.
Meanwhile, Congress MLA from Dangs, Mangal Gavit, endorsed the local belief and said that “possible fault in the worship ritual might have affected the teenagers. “The tribals of Dangs pray to Nature God. It is their tradition that they pray to forest, water, hills etc. Every year, tribals pray to Dungar Dev during January and February month. There might have been some fault in the worship as a result of which their children had been affected. The exorcists can only help them redeem themselves,” Gavit said.
On Monday, the doctors at the Ahwa Civil Hospital received a call about a similar incident at Dagadpada village government school in the district. However, on reaching there they found that no such incident had happened, and the call was hoax.