Shanti Devi

When I was a kid, I saw an episode of Sightings, that old Fox show from the 90s, about past lives. They interviewed a dude who claimed that he had been killed in the Civil War. He was shot with a cannon or something insane like that, but the part that I found most compelling was that he claimed that this seemed to explain his fear of fireworks and loud noises in his current lifetime.

I won’t lie, I was a nervous sort of kid. I didn’t like fireworks, I didn’t like swimming, and so on. Point is, I was scared of several things, so I started thinking. Maybe all these things I was afraid of were things I had experienced in a negative way in some previous light. As I got older, I realized that I didn’t like fireworks because my brothers would play with bottle rockets and I got hit by one by accident. Whoops. I didn’t like swimming because I jumped in the wrong end of a pool and had to have a lifeguard drag my ass out. I wasn’t scared because of past life experiences, but because of bad experiences in my current life. I pushed those things out of my head, though, until I was old enough to acknowledge that I was just being stupid and eventually quit bothering with the past life nonsense.

Except when I pretend I’m a French Duchess… but everyone does that, right?

But the idea has stuck with me, and I suppose that’s why the story of Shanti Devi interested me. It’s a compelling tale, and some researchers have even called it the best existing evidence for past lives and reincarnation.

Keanu Reeves is the second best evidence.

Shanti Devi was born in 1926 in Dehli, India. Shanti was a normal little girl, and her parents reported nothing strange about her upbringing. She learned to talk fairly quickly and seemed quite intelligent. When she turned four years old, though, things started to get a little weird. One day, out of the blue according to her parents, Shanti told them that she was not from Dehli, but a place called Mathura, about 90 miles away. Not only that, but she also claimed to be married, which is definitely not something you want to hear from your young kid.

“I need a carton of Virginia Slims if you’re headed out to the store, too.”

Shockingly, her parents weren’t receptive to her claims and just assumed she was being fanciful. When she ran away from home at the age of six, trying to hitch a ride to Mathura, they got a little more concerned. Shanti even made the claims to her school teacher, adding that she had a child, as well, but that she had died ten days after its birth. Her teacher, unimpressed, took her to the school’s headmaster, presumably for disciplinary action.

“School is for learning how to perform better on standardized tests, nothing else!”

The headmaster, however, became interested in Shanti’s story after she began using words in the Mathura dialect (which he felt she could not have possibly known) and told him the name of her husband, a merchant named Kedar Nath.

That’s a Jedi name if I ever heard one.

The headmaster, who must have been a pretty gullible dude to buy into a school girl’s weird stories, looked into Shanti’s story and found that there really was a Kedar Nath in the Mathura area. He contacted Nath, who confirmed that he had indeed had a wife, Lugdi Devi, who had given birth to a son nine years ago, but died ten days after childbirth. The headmaster told Nath the story Shanti had told him, and Nath was dumbstruck by the news.

A few weeks later, he travelled to Dehli and visited Shanti, claiming to be Kedar Nath’s brother. However, Shanti immediately knew who he was and began recounting stories and incidents from Lugdi Devi’s life that Nath claimed Shanti could not possibly have known, and he quickly came to believe that Shanti was the reincarnation of his dead wife.

The tale eventually came to the attention of none other than Ghandi himself, who commissioned an investigation into the story.

“Go to Delhi, and bring me back a sandwich. HAHAHAHAH! It’s funny on so many levels.”

The investigative crew brought Shanti to visit Lugdi Devi’s family in Mathura, and were astonished when she knew several members of Lugdi’s family without having to be introduced to them, and apparently also knew stories about their individual lives, some of which could presumably only be known by Lugdi Devi herself. The investigative team eventually felt it was conclusive that Shanti Devi was the reincarnated soul of Lugdi Devi.

Shanti has repeated her story on many occasions, and has remained consistent on all fronts. It’s possible that some of the details of her story have been fudged, as the only records are written, and not always from extremely reliable sources. (Ghandi’s investigation, for example, was intended to prove that reincarnation is possible, since it’s a key belief in the Hindu religion. This, obviously, introduces a large potential for bias.) It’s also possible that she was simply an imaginative little girl whose fantasy happened to share many lucky coincidences with another woman’s life. Perhaps, even, it’s some combination of both.

But the story is intriguing because of the detail, and the lack of repressed memories (which are extremely easy to plant, even unintentionally) and all that stuff that’s common in more modern past life stories. It’s a simple story, but with appealing implications for the woman’s family, and for the families of anyone who’s lost a loved one. After all, who wouldn’t want to believe that there’s some little kid out there who remembers everything about your dead relative’s life?

Except, you know, if it’s your creepy uncle.