Not every day do you hear a story where you are not just left puzzled but also get you all too excited to read more about – and even write about. While working on a project about Members of Parliament, I encountered someone called Shanti Devi.
The story of Shanti Devi is both fascinating and very well-documented. For years, her case garnered significant interest among political leaders, freedom fighters (even Mahatma Gandhi) and scholars.
Early Years of Shanti Devi
Shanti Devi was born on December 11, 1926, in a not-so-well-known place near Delhi. Like other kids of her age, she only began to speak at the age of 4. But here is the puzzle.
As soon as she could speak, the little girl began to claim that her parents were not real ones and her current home was not her real home. The girl soon began to claim that she vividly remembers her past life.
When discouraged by her parents, she even ran away from home at the age of 6, trying to reach Mathura. Back home, she claimed herself to be a certain Lugdi Devi – and that she lived in a village called Muttra (present-day Mathura).
She even provided certain details about her previous life – like what her family was like, who her husband was (she claimed that he would be a fair-skinned man who wore reading glasses and had a wart on his left cheek), and even some of the circumstances of her death during childbirth in her previous life.
Meeting Family Members of Previous Life
Hold still; there is more. When asked what her husband’s name was, she refused to reveal it until she was about nine. Initially, her parents did not take her seriously – I mean, who would take a 6-year-old talk about her past life? Eventually, upon her insistence and the accurate descriptions she provided, they decided to look into the matter seriously.
Her teacher and the headmaster of the school interviewed her. To which she responds with words in the Mathura dialect. Very soon, the headmaster takes a keen interest and decides to travel to Mathura and find out whether there really exists someone who fits this description.
He locates a merchant by the name of Kedar Nath Chaubey, who had lost his wife, Lugdi Devi, nine years earlier, about ten days after her childbirth.
Kedar Nath, in his reply, sends out a certain someone called Pandit Kanjimal, one of the relatives living in Delhi, to meet Shanti Devi. Pandit Kanjimal meets Shanti Devi was even surprised to find similarities in the details she gave about Kedar.
He writes: “After this conversation, I was convinced that the girl was really my own relation, now personating in another body.” Therefore, Kanjimal arranged a meeting between Shanti Devi and Kedar Nath.
Meeting Kedar Nath
A few days later, Kedar Nath visits Shanti Devi, along with his and Lugdi’s son and his third wife. However, to test her, Kedar Nath claims that he is the elder brother of Kedar Nath. However, to Kedar’s surprise, Shanti Devi instantly recognises Kedar Nath – and his son Navneet Lal.
She burst into tears and sobbed for over an hour. And even points to her mother, saying that Kedar was fair-skinned and had a wart on his left cheek. She was also overwhelmed at seeing her son (from a previous life) Navneet. Kedar found her behaviour somewhat matched that of Lugdi Devi.
Investigations in the Story of Shanti Devi
Very soon, the news about Shanti Devi, a reincarnation of Lugdi Devi, spread like wildfire. The case garnered significant attention. It was soon brought to the notice of Mahatma Gandhi, who set up a committee to investigate and publish a report in 1936. He even meets her personally and reportedly remarks: “I cannot but regard her present state as the result of a series of reincarnations”.
The commission (consisting of prominent lawyers, parliamentarians, and national leaders) travelled with Shanti Devi to Mathura in November 1935 and was kept under close observation and noted all her movements and remarks. Shanti Devi recognised a number of people—and claims to have answered all the queries put to her. Therefore, the committee concluded that Shanti Devi was indeed Lugdi Devi.
In February 1936, another researcher, Bal Chand Nahata, interrogated Shanti Devi and provided a conflicting conclusion to the belief. In his published book Punarjanma Ki Paryyalochana, Nahata notes: “Whatever material that has come before us, does not warrant us to conclude that Shanti Devi has former life recollections or that this case proves reincarnation”.
The curious case of Shanti Devi has been extensively studied by scholars and researchers across the world. They seek to find logical rationalist explanations to her previous knowledge—and those somewhat accurate claims. However, Shanti Devi’s case has remained a curious subject of fascination for many.
Interpretations and Counterarguments
For proponents of reincarnation, Shanti Devi’s story gives a strong explanation of reincarnation phenomena. At that time, the whole case was keenly taken up and pushed forth by Arya Samajists. For them, reincarnation allowed them to push forth the notion that Hinduism is spiritually superior to the Abrahamic religions.
However, for sceptics, there may be another explanation for all this. They point to subconscious knowledge gathering and the possibility of a story emerging as a result of one telling it. Another researcher is Dr. Ian Stevenson, who was purely interested in the research about children claiming reincarnation. He writes:
I also interviewed Shanti Devi, her father, and other pertinent witnesses, including Kedarnath, the husband claimed in her previous life. My research indicates that she made at least 24 statements of her memories that matched with the verified facts.
Shanti Devi, a small girl who claimed to remember her past life as Lugdi Devi in remarkable detail, is worth reading about. Her ability to recall specific people, facts, and events in her previous life caused intense interest among people living at the time—and later.
This case provoke both mystery and a sense of awe at how the girl could remember or form such intricately complex stories in her head. Whether one believes her story or not, Shanti Devi’s story is both captivating and an enduring enigma.
To read more about this interesting report, read The Life Beyond: Through the Eyes of Children Who Claim to Remember Previous Lives by Dr. Kirti Swaroop Rawat and Titus Rivas.
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