The tales reflect the tapestry of social and personal lives of this region, the epicenter of a revolt against British rule in 1857. Although many of the tales were published in British ethnographic journals, a number of the manuscripts, in Chaube's handwriting, were unpublished; others existed only as old microfilm in a New Delhi library. Never before have they appeared as a single volume or been available in any one library or archive.
My object in writing this book has been threefold. In the first place I desired to collect, for the use of all officers whose work lies among the rural classes, some information on the beliefs of the people which will enable them, in some degree, to understand the mysterious inner life of the races among whom their lot is cast; secondly, it may be hoped that this introductory sketch will stimulate inquiry, particularly among the educated races of the country, who have, as yet, done little to enable Europeans to gain a fuller and more sympathetic knowledge of their rural brethren; and lastly, while I have endeavoured more to collect facts than to theorize upon them, I hope that European scholars may find in these pages some fresh examples of familiar principles. My difficulty has arisen not so much from deficiency of material, as in the selection and arrangement of the mass of information, which lies scattered through a considerable literature, much of which is fugitive.Ê
One, and perhaps the most common theory of the Evil Eye is that Òwhen a child is born, an invisible spirit is born with it; and unless the mother keeps one breast tied up for forty days, while she feeds the child with the other (in which case the spirit dies of hunger), the child grows up with the endowment of the Evil Eye, and whenever any person so endowed looks at anything constantly, something will happen to it.Ó So, in Ireland we are told that Òthe gift comes by Nature and is born with one, though it may not be called into exercise unless circumstances arise to excite the power; then it comes to act like a spirit of bitter and malicious envy that radiates a poisonous atmosphere, which chills and blights everything within its reach.ÓÊ