Marriages are a great deal in a country like India, with all the varied rituals and traditions getting together relatives, friends and family under one roof. Indian marriages involve a lot of prior and short events which demand a lot of effort and takes a heck load of family and friends for its success. I, as a child, was a huge fan of these marriage ceremonies as they not only got me away from my studies but also gave me a chance to have unlimited fun with people my age.
Back in 2009, my family was packing bags to attend one such big fat wedding in the village of Kontilo in Odisha, which is popularly known as the heritage home of Lord Vishnu in Kali Yuga, before the origination of Lord Jagannath in Puri. Although I loved being a part of Indian weddings, I hate travelling as I suffer from motion sickness. And for this particular wedding, we had to travel a good 100 kilometers. We started from our place at around 9 a.m. The whole journey was a nightmare for me as I felt sick throughout and also puked a couple of times before reaching the destination.
Most of the roads were underdeveloped because they were mainly sub-roads within other villages. My grandmother was travelling with us, and she kept us all busy with her stories about Lord Vishnu and his stories related to Kontilo. She is a great storyteller and most importantly a great mother; she knows the right time to pitch in stories in order to help her children cope up with sickness and anxiety. I wouldn't lie but her stories made me feel a lot better, but I still craved for a good nap once we reached our relative's place. Now, these relatives of ours were basically my aunt's maternal home, and so we had our aunt travelling with us. All in all, it was a big family heading towards a big wedding.
We finally reached our destination at around 1 p.m., and we faced an hour's delay because of the confusing and bad roads amidst different villages. But once we reached, we were greeted with a warm welcome, were served Nimbu paani (lemonades) and were given the only AC room in the house to settle in. The lemonades helped each one of us gain our energy back, and we all looked a lot less pale than we looked an hour back.
Nonetheless, I was a child and all I wanted to do was play with the other kids standing right in front of our door, eagerly waiting for me to join in their games. I took my mother's permission and sprang out of the sofa to go join them. A little reference for the readers: I refer my mother as "mommy" and my grandmother as "Maa". This reference is an important one and will be brought up later in the story. Now back to the story, as I was about the leave the room, my aunt's grandmother came into the room and asked us all to pay our regards in another room which had a goddess in it. Taking it to be like any other goddess and any other room, we all readily walked with her to the room where all of us were dumb struck with what we were looking at.
The room we were standing in front us wasn't any normal puja room, it was pitch black, had no windows whatsoever and was really long judging by the outer wall of it. Each one of us was petrified to even go any closer to it. Seeing us all scared to our wits, my aunt's grandmother smirked and assured us that there was no funny business going on in that room and it is an undisputed tradition for the visitors and relatives to follow. My grandmother, Maa, was the one who pacified us that there was no harm in going in the room and paying our regards because apparently she was already familiar with the legend behind the goddess in the room.
Gathering all our courage together, we entered the room one by one, not going far into the room, and paid our regards. None of us looked back once we had done the job we were asked to do. After the weird and unnatural event, my family sat really close to each other in the living space and enquired about the unconventional goddess we had just visited but didn't see per se. My aunt's grandmother was more than excited to enlighten us about the goddess as she herself was a huge devotee of her.
The origin of this Unconventional Goddess is unknown amongst the villagers but the story behind her is very intriguing and unusual. The goddess is known as HAADABAI and lives in a selected household of her choice in the role of either a MOTHER or a WIFE.
Haadabai enters into a household with a simple dream to the eldest 'married' son of the house. In the dream, she is a magnificent and beautiful young bride dressed in all blood red and shiny ornaments. She lures the eldest son into a conversation which is particularly interesting and in the middle of such conversation asks him a rather unusual question to choose her as his wife or as his mother. This question is considered very difficult for the eldest son to answer as the woman asking such question is exceptionally beautiful and no one in their right senses would want her as their mother.
But the outcome of the dream lies in this crucial decision. If Haadabai is chosen by the son to accompany him as his mother then she shall accept the same, and playing the role of a mother in a family shall take care of the family and bring all good fortune and luck into the household. But, if she is chosen as a wife by the eldest and already married son, then she shall come into the household as a rival to the eldest daughter-in-law, i.e. The wife of the eldest son, which shall result in destruction and agony in the said household. In any way, she enters a house as a goddess, whether good or bad. A family needs to worship her right from the very next day of the dream, as she is already in there.
So, to our relief the eldest son of the house had chosen Haadabai as his mother, and she had been living in the house and in that spooky dark room ever since. No one has ever seen her, but it is a daily ritual to serve her food 3 times a day just like normal humans do. The food is decorated well in a big thali (plate) and served in the end of the long dark room by the eldest daughter-in-law of the family. The scariest part is that we actually saw the eldest daughter-in-law bring out the plate full of food dishes empty after an hour. There was no way an actual human being lived in the weird and dark living conditions of the room and it was definitely not an animal eating food from the plate with such precision.
We were all petrified but most importantly tired with all the journey and the stuff we had seen and heard since we arrived at the house. All of us decided to take a short nap before the evening event that we had to attend. My aunt's grandmother showed us to a new building that they had just constructed recently for wedding purposes and for guests to rest in. It was a well-constructed 3 storey building and all of us took rooms for ourselves.
I decided to sleep alone and on the third floor as there was no one there and also because I am a light sleeper. I wanted a good hour's sleep without any disturbances and hence, I locked my door from the inside and switched off the lights. There was still some light in the room as there was a fairly big window in the room without any curtains and the time was around 4 pm. I was asked to set an alarm to wake up and get dressed by 7 pm as the event was timed to start at 7.30 pm in a nearby temple. Being an irresponsible and fickle child, I forgot to set an alarm and dozed off to sleep. I slept like a log, didn't even wake up once.
I was probably into some deep neck strange dream because I woke up sweating profusely but was instantly relieved on realising that it was just a dream. What I saw when I woke up, confused and scared me simultaneously. After waking up I noticed that the door latch was open and the lights in my room were turned on. I was pretty sure that I had turned off the lights and locked my door before hitting the bed but I let the whole thing slide thinking that maybe I was just imagining things as I was too tired back then.
I freshened up in the next couple of minutes and checked the time on my phone. It was 6.45 pm and I was glad that I wasn't late and that I had plenty of time to get ready for the event. But before getting all dressed up, I was famished and wanted some snacks and so I went downstairs to fetch my mother and ask her if she had anything for me to eat. What happened next still shakes me from within and chills my bones.
I searched for my mother in the building but upon realizing that everyone had already left the building and had gone to the main house, I raced right downstairs where I found that big iron door was closed from outside. I was stuck inside the building as there was no other way out. I tried knocking a few times on the door, and I didn't put much effort into the knocking as I could hear my family sitting and talking right in front of the door in the living room. I even called my father out a few times to come and open the door. To my horror, no one could hear me, even when I banged really hard on the door. I cried for help, but no one could hear me and I was weeping and panicking by now. I was so scared that I felt like I was slowly losing my consciousness and my energy to keep going. To add onto my fears, I could someone walking down the stairs whereas I had checked and there was no one in the building. My heart paced so fast that I could literally hear it scream, not beat. I was getting more and more scared and desperate to get myself out of the situation.
I could hear the footsteps getting closer and by this time I was screaming at the top of my lungs and banging on the door with all my might. Still, no answer. Finally, I was on the verge on losing all hope and giving up on this whole venture of screaming and banging, when I heard, very distinctively, my grandmother speaking to someone in the room and as a dying man gasps for one last breath of air, I called out to my grandmother, crying and breathless: "Maa, please get me out of here. I cannot get out and there is someone here. Please help me. Please open the door." I had already lost all strength and had crumpled down to the ground, leaning with my whole body weight on the big iron door.
Right after my desperate call the big iron door swung open and I collapsed right on the floor where I saw my family looking towards me with shock as to what had happened to me. My family ran towards me and my father lifted me up and rested me on the sofa. I was shivering and I couldn't find the strength to speak, even mutter. I was aghast and felt dead inside. After much pacifying, rest and liquids, I had finally gathered some energy and courage back, and I told everyone in the room exactly what had happened to me behind that locked door. Everyone was shocked and they claimed that they didn't hear the slightest of a bang on the door and had thought that I was still fast asleep in my room.
Everyone, except my aunt's grandmother was scared, perplexed and angry. She walked right up and sat right next to my head on a chair, caressed my hair slowly, smiled at me and told me that I was a really brave kid for not giving up until the end. Then she looked at the rest of the family and told them that these unusual and scary occurrences were really common in the village as it is haunted by many irregular spirits who just want to create mischief and fear.
She also mentioned that I was saved by none other than their Goddess, Haadabai indeed. When I had called out for my grandmother as a last resort for help, it was the goddess who had come to my rescue, because MAA means MOTHER, and she is the mother of the family as well as every person who visits the family and pays her their regards. She also told us with utter confidence that no one in that house was ever unsafe because they had an eternal guardian looking over them all the time and she wouldn't let anything bad happen with her children.
Her explanation did throw me off the ground but I couldn't help but believe in whatever she said. Everything fit right into my ordeal. And I was grateful and thankful to the Unconventional Goddess, Haadabai for having my back at the right time.
About the wedding event, I obviously did not attend it as it was already too much for me to register in one day. My mommy and my Maa stayed with me at the house. We talked a lot about what had just happened and both my mother and grandmother, being believers in these kinds of phenomena, advised me to always keep my calm in these situations and remember God for help and rescue. They said and I repeat, "You Pray, He'll always come."
I have never been back to that village since then and I am not sure if I have the courage to. That incident shook me pretty well and I wouldn't want to visit the place unless that necessary. Some places do not suit you, and that was definitely an unsuitable one for me.