People hear of many cases of reincarnation, but in the early 30s, information about a girl born in a little-known locality of Delhi, who claimed to remember a past life. The girl at first was known only to the local people, but gradually news of her spread all over the country and finally all over the world.
Shanti Devi is one of the best cases of children’s past life memories to ever be recorded. It was investigated by a committee of prominent citizens appointed by Mahatma Gandhi, who accompanied Shanti Devi to the village of her past-life recollections and recorded what they witnessed.
Pada bulan Januari 18, 1902, Chaturbhuj, a resident of Mathura, was blessed with a daughter, who was named Lugdi. When Lugdi reached the age of 10, she was married to Kedarnath Chaube, a shopkeeper of the same locality. It was the second marriage for Kedarnath, as his earlier wife had died. Kedarnath Chaube owned a cloth shop in Mathura and also a branch shop at Hardwar. Lugdi was very religious and had been to several pilgrimage places at a very young age. While on one pilgrimage, she was injured in her leg for which she had to be treated, both at Mathura and later at Agra.
When Lugdi became pregnant for the first time, her child was stillborn following a Cesarean section. For her second pregnancy, the worried husband took her to the government hospital at Agra, where a son was born, again through a Cesarean on September 25, 1925. Nine days later, namun, di bulan Oktober 4, Lugdi’s condition deteriorated and she died.
One year ten months and seven days after Lugdi’s death, pada bulan Desember 11, 1926, Babu Rang Bahadur Mathur of Chirawala Mohulla, a small locality of Delhi, was blessed with a daughter, whom they named Shanti Devi. Shanti Devi, born in 1926.
She was just like any other girl except that until the age of four she did not speak much. But when she started talking, she was a different girl–she talked about her “Suami” and her “children.”
She said that her husband was in Mathura where he owned a cloth shop and they had a son. She called herself Chaubine (Chaube’s wife). The parents considered it a child’s fantasy and took no notice. They got worried, namun, when she talked repeatedly about it and, over time, narrated a number of incidents connected with her life in Mathura with her husband.
On occasions at meals, she would say, “In my house in Mathura, I ate different kinds of sweets.”
Sometimes when her mother was dressing her, she would tell what type of dresses she used to wear. She mentioned three distinctive features about her husband: he was fair, had a big wart on his left cheek, and wore reading glasses. She also mentioned that her husband’s shop was located in front of Dwarkadhish temple.
By this time Shanti Devi was six years old, and her parents were perplexed and worried by such statements. The girl even gave a detailed account of her death following childbirth. They consulted their family physician, who was amazed how a little girl narrated so many details of the complicated surgical procedures. The mystery, thus, continued to deepen. The parents started thinking that these memories might have been of a past life.
As the girl grew older, she persisted in asking her parents to be taken to Mathura. Dia, namun, never mentioned her husband’s name up to the age of eight or nine. It is customary in India that wives do not utter the name of their husbands.
Even when specifically asked, she would blush and say that she would recognize him, if taken there, but would not say his name. One day a distant relation, Babu Bishanchand, a teacher in Ramjas High School Daryaganj in Delhi, told Shanti Devi that if she told him her husband’s name, he would take her to Mathura. Lured by this offer, she whispered into his ear the name Pandit Kedarnath Chaube.
Bishanchand then told her that he would arrange for the trip to Mathura after due inquiries. He wrote a letter to Pandit Kedarnath Chaube, detailing all the statements made by Shanti Devi, and asked him to visit Delhi. Kedarnath replied confirming most of her statements and suggested that one of his relatives, Pandit Kanjimal, who lived in Delhi, be allowed to meet this girl.
A meeting with Kanjimal was arranged, during which Shanti Devi recognized him as her husband’s cousin. She gave some details about her house in Mathura and informed him of the location where she had buried some money. When asked whether she could go by herself from the railway station to her house in Mathura, she replied in the affirmative, if they would take her there.
Kanjimal sangat terkesan sehingga dia pergi ke Mathura untuk membujuk Kedarnath agar mengunjungi Delhi. Kedarnath datang ke Delhi pada November 12, 1935, dengan putra Lugdi, Navneet Lal dan istrinya yang sekarang. Mereka pergi ke rumah Rang Bahadur keesokan harinya. Untuk menyesatkan Shanti Devi, Kanjimal memperkenalkan Kedarnath sebagai kakak laki-laki yang terakhir. Shanti Devi tersipu dan berdiri di satu sisi. Seseorang bertanya mengapa dia tersipu di depan kakak laki-laki suaminya. Shanti berkata dengan suara tegas yang rendah, “Tidak, dia bukan saudara laki-laki suamiku. Dia adalah suamiku sendiri.”
Kemudian dia berbicara kepada ibunya, “Bukankah aku sudah memberitahumu bahwa dia adil dan ada kutil di pipi sisi kiri dekat telinganya?”
Dia kemudian meminta ibunya untuk menyiapkan makanan untuk para tamu. Ketika ibu bertanya apa yang harus dia persiapkan, she said that he was fond of stuffed potato parathas and pumpkin squash. Kedarnath was dumbfounded as these were his favorite dishes. Then Kedarnath asked whether she could tell them anything unusual to establish full faith in her. Shanti replied, “Iya, there is a well in the courtyard of our house, where I used to take my bath.”
Shanti was emotionally overwhelmed on seeing Navneet, the son in her previous life. Tears welled in her eyes when she hugged him. She asked her mother to bring all her toys and give them to Navneet. But she was too excited to wait for her mother to act and ran to bring them. Kedarnath asked her how she had recognized Navneet as her son, when she had seen him only once as an infant before she died. Shanti menjelaskan bahwa putranya adalah bagian dari jiwanya dan jiwa dapat dengan mudah mengenali fakta ini.
Setelah makan malam, Shanti bertanya pada Kedarnath, “Mengapa Anda menikahinya?” mengacu pada istrinya yang sekarang. “Seandainya kami tidak memutuskan bahwa Anda tidak akan menikah lagi?” Kedarnath tidak punya jawaban.
Selama tinggal di Delhi, Kedarnath menemukan bahwa perilaku Shanti Devi mirip dengan Lugdi dalam banyak hal. Sebelum istirahat malam, dia meminta untuk diizinkan berbicara dengannya sendirian dan kemudian mengatakan bahwa dia sepenuhnya yakin bahwa Shanti Devi adalah istrinya Lugdi Bai karena ada banyak hal yang dia sebutkan yang tidak seorang pun kecuali Lugdi dapat mengetahuinya..
Shanti Devi kesal sebelum Kedarnath kembali ke Mathura pada November 15. Dia memohon agar diizinkan pergi ke Mathura bersamanya tetapi orang tuanya menolak.
Her story spread all over the country through the media and many intellectuals got interested in it. When Mahatma Gandhi heard about it, he called Shanti Devi, talked to her, and then requested her to stay in his ashram. (When I interviewed Shanti Devi in 1986, she still remembered the incident.)
Gandhi appointed a committee of 15 prominent people, including parliamentarians, national leaders, and members from the media, to study the case. The committee persuaded her parents to allow her to accompany them to Mathura. They left by rail with Shanti Devi on November 24, 1935.
The committee members took her in a tonga, instructing the driver to follow her directions. On the way she described the changes that had taken place since her time, which were all correct. She recognized some of the important landmarks which she had mentioned earlier without having been there.
As they neared the house, she got down from the tonga and noticed an elderly person in the crowd. She immediately bowed to him and told others that he was her father-in-law, and truly it was so. When she reached the front of her house, she went in without any hesitation and was able to locate her bedroom. She also recognized many items of hers. She was tested by being asked where the “jajroo” (lavatory) dulu, and she told where it was. She was asked what was meant by “katora.” She correctly said that it meant paratha (a type of fried pancake). Both words are prevalent only in the Chaubes of Mathura and no outsider would normally know of them.
Shanti then asked to be taken to her other house where she had lived with Kedarnath for several years. She guided the driver there without any difficulty. One of the committee members, Pandit Neki Ram Sharma, asked her about the well of which she had talked in Delhi. She ran in one direction; tapi, not finding a well there, she was confused. Even then she said with some conviction that there was a well there. Kedarnath removed a stone at that spot and, sure enough, they found a well. As for the buried money, Shanti Devi took the party to the second floor and showed them a spot where they found a flower pot but no money. The girl, namun, insisted that the money was there. Kedarnath later confessed that he had taken out the money after Lugdi’s death.
When she was taken to her parents’ rumah, where at first she identified her aunt as her mother, but soon corrected her mistake, she went to sit in her lap. She also recognized her father. The mother and daughter wept openly at their meeting. It was a scene which moved everybody there.
Shanti Devi was then taken to Dwarkadhish temple and to other places she had talked of earlier and almost all her statements were verified to be correct.
Many learned personalities, including saints, parapsychologists, and philosophers came to study the case, some in support and some as critics trying to prove it a hoax.
Shanti Devi’s case is also significant for the fact that it is one of the most thoroughly investigated cases, studied by hundreds of researchers, critics, scholars, saints, and eminent public figures from all parts of India and abroad from the mid-1930s on.