Jardhang’aaylo: A Mythical Creature of Gilgit-Baltistan

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Jardhang’aaylo: A Mythical Creature of Gilgit-Baltistan

By: Aziz Ali Dad

    In addition to other dimensions of life, the indigenous cosmology of Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral grapples with the mystery of death as well. It is this attempt to explicate the unfathomable phenomenon of death that gave birth to an explanatory schema and creatures associated with it. Like other societies, death was a dreaded thing in the culture of Gilgit-Baltistan. It is not only the physical decay or causes that are feared, but the process of dying was deemed painful especially when it is life is wrested by evil being. A death whose physical reasons remain unknown is attributed to a creature whose appearance, sighting, or signs forebodes an imminent death in a locality or home. One of such creatures is Jardhang’aaylo.

    The word Jardhang’aaylo is employed by Brushashki and Shina speakers in Gilgit-Baltistan to refer to a creature that causes death. It is derived from the word “jardhag’aang” which means noise produced by clanking of heavy metal pieces or objects. In Hunza, its presence in the cultural memory and folklore is palpable even today. However, it does not have a conspicuous presence in the folklore and cultural memory of other regions of Gilgit-Baltistan now. Jardhang’aaylo is a creature who is attributed to produce clanks before his arrival at any scene. So, clank appears to be harbinger of Jardhang’aaylo. All the oral narratives depict it as a male.

    There are various things attributed to this creature. The description and perception vary from area to area. In the local cosmology of Gilgit-Baltistan, the time of day and night are not solely reserved for human activities. Rather, the daytime is allocated to humans. Therefore, traditionally it was mandatory to close oneself at home by the time of dusk. Anyone who stay outside after at night remains vulnerable to nocturnal and evil creatures like witches, Yacholo, Qaang Zakun, Yamalay, Chanaqo and Jhardhangailo. There is a local saying that says that an animal left outside home are devoured by wolves, and humans become food of witches and Jardhang’aaylo. Jardhang’aaylo appears to be a nocturnal being as he appears mostly in the pitch-black night. Before his arrival the air is filled with the clanking sounds. Some stories attribute the clanking sound to the iron chains and dress he wears. The size of Jardhang’aaylo’s is of gigantic proportion. So, when he walks, he creates vibration on the ground. The combining of thumping of his feet with clanks used to drive terror into the heart and mind of the people.

    Certain anecdotes paint his appearance as that of a dog. Some stories consider him as the owner of Qang Zakun (Braying donkey or mythical donkey) on which he carries the soul and sometimes dead bodies stolen from graves. Despite all the differences about the looks of Jardhang’aaylo, there appears to be common agreement in the stories that the clanking items are basically the body parts like bones and skulls that produce noises when they hit chains and other objects on his body. If Jardhang’aaylo stops at certain locality or house, a person from that area passes away. According to local perception, it is not necessary that a person dies at the same time. He or she passes away next day after the departure of Jardhang’aaylo from the area. It is said that he takes the soul with him. People still claim that they have heard and seen Jardhang’aaylo before the death of their relatives.

    After the sunset people are not allowed to utter names of evil mythical beings that appear at night. The act of calling such creatures with their names after the dusk conjures them up from their invisible form to physical one. That is why any discussion about Jardhang’aaylo in evening or night refers to him as Eek Gunikish/ Nom Kacho – means the one who has bad name. According to the popular folklore, one cannot see him during daytime because he becomes formless in light. During night time he forages for his food. That is why Jardhang’aaylo comes to take away the life at night. Even if a person sees Jardhang’aaylo without him noticing, he affects the mental state of the witness. The disturbed mental state of a person under the influence of Jardhang’aaylo appears in the shape of suicidal tendencies, maniacally acts, violent reactions and fascination with blood and death. Sometimes such a person becomes obsessed with graves, cemeteries and anything related to death. That is why the person infected by Jardhang’aaylo’s sight develops strange ideas and behaviour. Anecdotal stories tell us that the affected person imagines the death of a certain person. Then he or she develop strong craving to see his imagination come true. If by chance a person to whom he wished death dies, he/she rejoices in it. Death becomes an uncanny source of happiness for such a person.

    Local folklores are full of stories that tell us how people left their hearth and home, and village to save themselves from the horrors of Jardhang’aaylo. There are ghost villages and locations in different parts of Gilgit-Baltistan. Oral accounts cite frequent visitations by evil creatures as the reason for collectively abandoning their villages. It is mainly the Jardhang’aaylo who causes depopulation of hamlets and villages because abandoned and dissolute places are his abodes. Presence of human puts his habitat in danger. One of the reasons for his deadly interface with humans is that Jardhang’aaylo was restricted to nighttime by a Shaman master. Before that people used to worship Jardhang’aaylo as a deity of horror. He was feared and obeyed by the people. They even sacrificed their animals to him and sometimes humans on his demand. But one of the famous master Shaman restricted Jardhang’aaylo to nighttime, and emancipated people from his clutches. His deprivation of human kingdom has given birth to a deadly hatred in him against humans. Since nothing grows in darkness, so he feeds on the soul of people to keep him alive in his nocturnal world. Hence, the presence of the macabre figure of Jardhang’aaylo in the folklore and mythical world of Gilgit-Baltistan.

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