1934: The Bashful Image of Gayatri

Marcus Paul Dare [1902-1962], who was the Late News Editor for the Times of India, published his book Indian Underground in 1940. The volume was full of studies and accounts of various strange phenomena and magic that had fascinated Dare during his time working in India... and among the various tales, Dare included some of the strange things that he personally encountered.

Kisnabai Temple in Mahabaleshwar
Krishnabai Temple in Mahabaleshwar... possibly where Dare was in 1934. [Larger version here]

         In 1934, Dare was following up on some 'archaeological investigations' at a temple in Old Mahabaleshwar, India, with his friend Vishnu Karandikar, a reporter with the Indian News Service of London, and whom Dare tells us was "a Brahmin [Indian holy man. -- Garth], an erudite scholar, and a deep student of the ancient Tantric magic of India." Dare says the two of them "had discovered a very rare object, a small figure of the ancient goddess Gayatri, with four faces," which implies they had found it as part of an archaeological dig at the site; the 'small figure' was apparently about three feet tall. They were told by a local priest that they would be unable to photograph the figure unless certain magical rites were performed, as Gayatri was a very powerful deity... though he did admit that perhaps a Brahmin could do so. The challenge apparently intrigued Karandikar who, though trained as a Brahmin, was somewhat skeptical of such claims of divine power.

        Therefore Karandikar attempted to turn the figure so he would have better light for the shot; and I say 'attempted' because he couldn't get it to move. The figure was not so large or ungainly that it should be difficult to move about, but even when Dare helped the two men could not get the statue to shift its position. Karandikar tried one more time to move the figure himself... and something invisible struck his left hand hard enough to break a thick gold ring he was wearing and to raise a welt on his hand!

        Not to be put off, Karandikar started to take pictures of the statue, good lighting or not; but the figure refused to appear in the resulting photos... all they showed was the wall behind the figure. The same camera and plates had been used to photograph numerous other objects, as well as buildings and other scenes around the temple. A second attempt at photographing the figure by Dare using a different camera and set of plates did no better.

        Not convinced, Karandikar took the time to perform the incantations that the local priest suggested might help; and the next photograph showed the figure. Dare also tried again with his equipment after the incantations had been recited by Karandikar, with the result that his pictures showed a blurred outline of the statue, through which the wall could be clearly seen!

Some Changes... and a Question

        I personally first read of this matter in R. DeWitt Miller's 1947 book, Forgotten Mysteries, which presents a greatly simplified version of the events, only reporting Dare and Karandikar's inability to take the picture until Karandikar performed the proper rights, and ignoring the more poltergeist-like effects of the statue's immobility and the invisible strike.

        Dare also states that they were unable to take a picture of the entrance to the lair of a sacred cobra that local priests made daily offerings at, on Mahabaleshwar Hill, until Karandikar performed the proper rite and also made offerings. Dare felt the situation might be related to the local belief that photographs stole part of the power or personality from sacred objects; therefore, special permission was required to get photographs.

        While it's all intriguing, I have one major problem with the whole matter, personally... having taken the time to tell the story in his book, which has plenty of photos of Indian holy men performing a variety of tricks, Dare decided to not include any of the photos taken of the Gayatri figure. Don't you think that might have been a good thing to include?