W3 Activity: Evil Eye in Indian and Middle Eastern Cultures

The “evil eye,” also called drishti in Hindi is a curse “believed to be cast by a malevolent glare.”  While it goes by many names, the “evil eye” is a curse that is acknowledged in India as well as many Middle Eastern cultures.  While similar to the Hispanic and Mediterranean evil eyes, the one in India and the Middle East affect adults as well as children.  Also, the one I am discussing does not have to do so much with physical illness or death, but with vanity and mental health.  Nowadays, most people recognize that it is just a superstition, yet people will still follow both preventative and post-event measures.  In South India, we do something called uppu chute which loosely translates to “salt circle” after an event where the evil eye might have been cast upon us.  Traditionally someone else is supposed to do it for you, but you can do it in front of a mirror.  You hold salt in your right hand and circle it around your head and upper torso, and touch it to your forehead, chin, and shoulders in a certain rhythm. For a preventative measure, as most evil eyes are cast in jealousy, a piece of kohl will be used to draw a small beauty spot either behind the ear or behind the jawline.  This small dot is thought to deflect the ill intentions that might be cast upon us.  If no preventative or post methods are done after the evil eye has been cast, then whatever part the evil eye was cast upon begins to spoil.  For example, if someone was envious about your skin, you would start to get spots.  If they were jealous of your hair, you would start to lose it.  As such, the evil eye can be considered to be more of a mental illness, as it has no biological basis.  If a person seriously believes that the evil eye has been cast upon them, they might go to a priest so that the curse may be lifted.  Since the evil eye has no medical basis, the treatment for it tends to be holistic.  Usually, the person who believes they have been cursed will have a special uppu chute done for them, and then will have the priest bless a talisman that they can wear to help ward off future curses.

 

Dundes, Alan. The evil eye: A casebook. Vol. 2. Univ of Wisconsin Press, 1981.

 

Maloney, Clarence. The evil eye. Columbia University Press, 1976.

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