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Colonial Cases

R. v. Daood and Dhoolajee, 1840

[witchcraft - robbery - transportation]

R. v. Daood and Dhoolajee

Source: The Bombay Times, 11 July 1840



   A trial took place in the Supreme Court on Wednesday last, so singular in its details, and presenting such a characteristic illustration of the lights and shadows of Indian life - of simplicity and superstitious credulity on the one part - of craft and deliberate knavery on the other, that it deserved to be placed on record.

   The following are the facts as proved in evidence:-

   A poor widow, named Tukkee, who earned her living by selling greens in the market, was living in a small hut with her daughter-in-law.  Having been attacked with some complaint in the knee, she applied for medicine to a market gardener named Dhodeeba. who appears to have had some knowledge of simples, in more senses than one,  Dhondeeba, after applying some remedies without effect, at last told her that medicine was of no avail in her case, that she was bewitched by the art magic of some malicious person, and that her only hope of remedy was in resorting to the counter charms of some other sorcerer, adding, that he knew a friend of his who was very skilful in these matters who would do her business effectually.  He accordingly introduced her to one Daood, the keeper of a betel leaf shop, who promised to undertake her cure.  Daood and his partner one Dhoolajee, repaired next day to the widow's house and held a consultation on her case.  After a full examination of her leg, they withdrew to a little distance, and, sitting down upon the ground, held a long dialogue, of which the patient was allowed to hear the following significant portion:

First Conjuror. - This is not a natural ailment - some enemy has done it.

Second Conjurer. - Clearly: she is enchanted.

First Conjurer. - She has got a devil in her leg.

Second Conjurer. - She is very full of devil.

1st  Conjurer. - The devil Mahar has got into her.

2nd Conjurer. - He is a bad devil, that -

   Having come to this satisfactory conclusion and communicated it to the bewitched widow, they sent her daughter-in-law for some limes, flowers and leaves, a little incense and some molasses; on getting which they went thro' some ceremonies and applied a charm to the suffering limb: then mixing up a food offering to the gods of the molasses, they made her and her daughter-in-law partake of it and went away.  The next morning on visiting their patient they found the charm had wrought no effect; from which they adduced convincing proof to the widow that the devil in her leg was of a peculiarly malignant nature.

   They accordingly told her it would take seven days to combat him, and on the 8th day they would cast him out.  Pursuant to this plan they continued their magical operations for seven days, and on the morning of the 8th day informed the widow, that in the evening they would bring two other strong conjurors, and with their aid would expel the devil. At the appointed hour the four conjurors arrived, and having sent the daughter-in-law for the limes, flowers, incense and molasses, two of the party sat at the door as liters, to prevent the ingress of strangers as the devil would not brook their approach.

   [Procul o procul este profani - en daemon accessit.]

   The other two disposed the flowers and limes according to rule on a board, and burning some incense and going thro' some mummery, prepared another food offering to the gods from the molasses, and giving it to the two women to east, withdrew and sat down near the tilers.  Shortly after they had swallowed it, the widow  fell down and became senseless - her daughter-in-law also felt giddy, but retained sufficient consciousness to perceive, and be alarmed at the state of her mother-in-law - she went therefore to where the four magicians were sitting in the dark, and said to them "what is the matter with my mother-in-law?"  They replied "Don't be alarmed, nothing is the matter; only the devil is coming out; you will hear him speak presently": not satisfied with this, the girl turned the conjurors out, and begging a female neighbour to sit at the door, got another to lead her by the hand to her uncle's house, as her head reeled, and she was unable to walk alone; as soon as she had gone the conjurors came back to the house and frightened the female neighbour away, telling her that they were casting the devil out of the widow's leg and that if she approached he would enter into her.

   Having this cleared the field, they proceeded to ease the widow - not of the devil, but of a gold nose ring and necklace, and then departed.  When the girl returned with her uncle they found the old woman lying like a corpse and stripped of her ornaments, and shortly afterwards the dose administered in the food offering, which in all probability was straminium, began to take effect on the girl, and she also fell senseless; towards morning they both recovered, but only partially, as it appears they cast off their clothes and went about naked to the houses of the neighbours who brought them back and administered some medicines - after another day and night, being now perfectly recovered, they went to the betel lead shop of Daood and Dhoolajee, and the widow asked why they did not come the last two days to follow up the charm.  Daood replied "what is the use of our coming alone; the other two conjurors are our masters in magic - we are only disciples, and it would be useless to come without them."

   The widow then stated that she had been robbed of her jewels, on which the disciples observed it must have been the other two master magicians that had done it, adding "if you will give us 25 Rupees and a horse to ride after them, we will pursue and  seize them."  She replied "I am a poor widow; where am I to get 25 Rupees and a horse! The authorities will decide between us;" and forthwith she had them both taken up by the police.

   The two tillers as  well as Dhondeeba, have absconded; but the two principal actors in this scene of imposture and robbery - Daood and Dhoolajee were brought to trial on Wednesday last, and being convicted, were sentenced to seven years transportation to Singapore.

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School