The painting is laid in a courtyard of a house and depicts a very unusual subject where a priest is performing a ritual of exorcism on a lady in the presence of people of the household and surrounding area. In the process of driving away the devil which they believe has possessed the body of the female, they are performing all sorts of torture and gory rituals. Exorcism or the ritualistic act of driving out evil spirits is a special type of faith healing.
Exorcism has a long history in various cultures around the world. This 18th-century painting raises a very crucial issue of superstitions and the status of mental health in rural society. Even after the gap of 200 years after the creation of this painting and the progress in education, science, and health care this evil is still present in some pockets of India. In many of rural areas, diseases like epilepsy, depression, or mental disorder are seen as the cause of possession by evil spirits and are treated with the help of priests. The victims are more often females.
A few of the possible reasons for this misconception could be the fear of social stigma, a lack of awareness, gender bias, the high cost of treatment, and a strong belief in good or bad spirits which stops people to take appropriate medical help or concealing.
Karl and Meherbai Khandalavala Collection.
Indian Miniature Paintings
Opaque water colour on paper
16.5 x 24.5 cms.