Hair from the gods

A Shakaskraal woman with the long, tangled hair known in the Hindu religion as 'Jata'.

At first glance, this 61-year-old Shakaskraal woman may come across as completely ordinary, but once her scarf is lifted it reveals a long rope of tangled hair apparently blessed to her from the gods themselves.

The woman who goes by the name of Devi has for 21 years carried and maintained the long tangled hair, known in the Hindu religion as Jata.

Devi moved to Shakaskraal from Tinley Manor 23 years ago where she now lives with her children and grandchildren. She asked to not reveal her full identity to maintain her privacy.

Devi carries the trance of the Hindu goddess, the great Kali, and the Jata is believed to intensify her trance.

A trance is a psychological state brought on by a magical or divine incantation.

“My hair started getting knotted 21 years ago and at first, I did not know what was going on. I was normal before and did not get a trance and my hair was straight and not very long.

“My hair would get so tangled and it would fall out when I brushed it. My shoulders had a horrible pain and it felt as if I was carrying something heavy.

“One day I complained to my neighbour and she touched my hair and said ‘swami’ which means trance in Tamil.”

A person who believes they could be carrying a trance has to release it at a temple, which is usually done by a person with another trance.

Devi went to many temples to try and release her trance and for a long time her efforts were unsuccessful and frustrating.

“I was referred to a temple in Etete and I visited a lady there with my husband. They tried to call the trance on me but the woman found that my husband was stubborn and did not want me to get a trance. My trance would come and it would leave.

A Shakaskraal woman has long tangled hair, known as in the Hindu culture as Jata.

“The trance knew that he did not want it because he thought we would not have any privacy. I told him I wanted to be released from the pain that was on my shoulders and when he agreed then the trance came onto me.

“The pain in my shoulders disappeared and slowly my hair started getting more tangled and longer.”

In Hindu mythology, the Hindu god Lord Shiva is depicted with a mass of dreadlocks twisted at the top of his head, also known at Jata.

Hindus believe Lord Shiva carried the weight of the sacred Ganga river in his locks and imprisoned it.

Having ‘Jata’ is believed to be holy and very rare.

The few that have it are known to have a strong trance and the women are seen as true devotees of the Goddess Kali. The hair represents purity, faith and true devotion to the Mother.

A person cannot prevent their hair from getting it if they get a trance and their devotion is pure.
Devi said those who are chosen to carry a Jata cannot cut it off.

It is believed that is they do, they will lose their mind or get ill.

“It is like a curse on you if you cut your hair and I know of people who cut their hair and got very sick after. This is not something you play with because God picks you.”

If the Jata is removed, it has to be done during a holy ritual at a special river in India. The Jata that is cut off is then kept by the Kali statue as the hair is believed to belong to her.

“For about six months I did not go anywhere because I was embarrassed. I realized that it is nothing to be embarrassed about because this is from God.

“People mock me sometimes but they are not mocking me, they are mocking God. When I go out, I cover it now.

“I hear many people talking about how they want to cut it for hair extensions or for muthi.”

The woman now loves her hair and believes her strong trance has helped many people and even assisted in solving a murder mystery.

“There was a case where a girl had gone missing and her parents came to me for my trance to tell them where she was. My trance told them that they came to us too late and that she was already gone.

“The trance also told them where they would find her body and that the murderer would be caught.”

Devi said she does not feel that her hair is heavy and she often lets it loose and dances with it when she goes into a trance.

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  AUTHOR
Erica Abrahams
Journalist

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