East Grinstead

Shanti Devi

This month, we are looking at reincarnation. There are many famous and interesting cases but we have only time to look at one. The case of Shanti Devi is probably the best-researched of the well-known cases; it was brought to the attention of Mahatma Gandhi - who set up a commission to investigate it. The commission published its report in 1936. Much later in her life, Shanti Devi was interviewed by a Swedish author who, although he had originally been sceptical, became convinced of the genuineness of her story and wrote a book about the case.

This is not the only case of its type to have taken place in India, though it is unusual in that Shanti Devi never forgot the details of her previous life. What follows is an outline of the major facts of the story – there is much more detail available on the internet for those who would like to see it (including some near-death experience). I would particularly recommend an article by Dr. K. S. Rawat called “The Case of Shanti Devi”. It has been pointed out by detractors that both Lugdi and Shanti shared the same surname and that this is nothing if not an odd coincidence. The detractors are wrong in that “Devi” is not a surname; it means “goddess” and is often given as a Christian name to Indian girls. "Shanti Devi" means "Goddess of Peace" in Sanskrit.

The account is as follows (and I have taken this verbatim from an internet site to save time).

On January 18,1902, a daughter was born to a family named Chaturbhuj, residents of Mathura, India. Her name was Lugdi. When Lugdi reached the age of 10, she was married to Kedarnath Chaube, a shopkeeper of the same locality; a practice often followed in India in the early 1900s.

When Lugdi became pregnant for the first time, her child was stillborn following a caesarean section. For her second pregnancy, the worried husband took her to the government hospital at Agra, where a son was born, again through a caesarean on September 25, 1925. Nine days later, however on October 4, Lugdi’s condition deteriorated and she died at 10 A.M.

One year ten months and seven days after Lugdi’s death, on December 11, 1926, a daughter was born to Babu Rang Bahadur Mathur of Chirawala Mohulla, a small locality of Delhi. The girl was named Shanti Devi.

Shanti Devi spoke very little until she was four years old. When she did start talking, she alarmed everyone in her family by telling them, "This is not my real home! I have a husband and a son in Mathura! I must return to them!"

This was India in the 1930s, so instead of taking their daughter to a psychiatrist for a dose of Ritalin, her parents told her, "Forget your past life. You're with us now." But Shanti Devi wouldn't give up. She talked about her former family to anyone who would listen.

One of her teachers at school, out of curiosity, sent a letter to the address Shanti Devi gave as her real home in Mathura, inquiring if here had been a young woman who had died there not too many years ago. To his astonishment, the teacher soon received a reply from Shanti Devi's previous husband, admitting that his young wife, Lugdi, had passed away some years previously, after giving birth to their son. The details Shanti Devi had given to her present family and teacher about her old house and members of her previous family were all confirmed in intricate detail.

This launched the most thoroughly researched investigation of a case of reincarnation in modern history. Everyone got into the act, including Mahatma Gandhi, several prominent members of the Indian government, and a team of scientific researchers.

The team of scientific researchers, working under stringent conditions to ensure that Shanti Devi couldn't possibly be getting her information from any other source, accompanied the little girl to Mathura.

On her own, she was able to lead them to her previous home, and correctly described what it had looked like years earlier before its recent refurbishing. She was also able to relate extremely intimate information, such as extramarital affairs of family members that no one, outside the family, could possibly have known.

In an attempt to trip-her up, when Shanti made her first visit to her former home, the research team hired an actor to pretend to be her former husband while her former husband pretended to be one of the onlookers in the crowd. Shanti immediately saw through the fraud and identified the man who had been her former husband recalling to him some intimate details of their personal life together that her former husband, in complete amazement, acknowledged.

The award-winning Swedish journalist, Sture Lonnerstrand, spent several weeks with Shanti Devi later in her life, recording her story and verifying information about the famous government investigation.

John Gibbs