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A vetala is a vampire-like being from Hindu mythology. Vetalas differ from vampires in that they exist as wraithly beings who reside by day in the corpses of others.

Main Belief

In Indian lore, vetala is a type of Ghoul or Vampire haunting cemeteries and reanimating the dead. Corpses may be used as vehicles for movement, as they no longer decay while so inhabited, though at night vetala may also leave the body in order to feed.

Vetala are hostile spirits of the dead whose offspring did not perform funerary rites in their memory. As a result they are trapped in the twilight zone between life and after-life. These creatures can be appeased with gifts or frightened away with spells. Performing properly the funerary rites mean getting rid of those evil spirits.


The vetala has a demonic appearance.

Victims reanimated by vetala have their hands and feet pointed backwards.


Being spirits, unfettered by the laws of space and time, they have an uncanny knowledge about the past, present and future and a deep insight into human nature. Hence, many sorcerers seek to capture them and turn them into slaves. They make their displeasure known by troubling humans by:

  • causing madness;
  • causing miscarriages
  • killing children:

They are also said the guard their villages.


The vetala lives in stones scattered around hills inside and/or surrounding cemeteries.

In Decca it supposedly guards villages and inhabits red-painted stones.

Vetala in Lore

A sorcerer once asked King Vikramaditya to capture a vetala who lived in a tree that stood in the middle of a crematorium. The only way to do that was by keeping silent. However, every time Vikramaditya caught the ghost, the ghost would enchant the king with a story that would end with a question. No matter how hard he tried, Vikramaditya would not be able to resist answering the question. This would enable the vetala to escape and return to his tree. The stories of the vetala have been listed in the book Vetala-pachisi.

See Also


Part of this article consists of modified text from Wikipedia, and the article is therefore licensed under GFDL.