In 1930, aged 4, Shanti Deva from Delhi, India, told her parents that she had once lived in a place called Muttra (now known as Mathura), that she had been a mother of three, who died in childbirth, and that her previous name was Ludgi. Because the girl continually related the story, her parents investigated. It turned out there was a village called Muttra, and that a woman named Ludgi had recently died there. They took Shanti to the village where she began to speak the local dialect and recognized her previous-life husband and children. She even gave twenty four accurate statements matching confirmed facts about Ludgi’s life. An impressive feat for a four year old.
One of the earliest and best-known documented cases of children who claim to recall a past life, that of Shanti Devi (studied by K.S. Rawat), also includes statements about her experiences after death and before her reincarnation.
In the 1930s when the idea of successive lives was not shared by the educated elite, the case of a 9-year-old girl Shanti Devi of Delhi attracted much public attention throughout India and soon its reports travelled far and wide in the entire world (Rawat, 1997). For the first time in history, a committee of fifteen persons, including journalists, was constituted to investigate the veracity of the statements made by the girl, claiming to be a Chouban (member of the Choubey family) of Mathura in her past life. Mathura, a town 145 kilometers from Delhi, never visited by the girl or her parents. Spiritualists and rationalists, scientists and laymen visited Delhi and Mathura either to investigate dispassionately or to support their religious beliefs or to entirely expose what they saw as a hoax. One such critic, Sture Lönnerstrand, came all the way down from Sweden to expose the ‘fake’ case. After completing his investigations he issued the statement: ‘This is the only fully explained and proven case of reincarnation there has ever been.” (Hunt, 1971.)
Shanti Devi was born in a middle class family of Delhi on December 11, 1926. She was just like any other ordinary girl, excepting that till the age of four she did not speak much. From the age of four, when she started speaking, she ceased to be an ordinary girl and her behaviour changed a lot. She started talking about her ‘husband’ and ‘children’. She would repeatedly describe her home and her husband’s shop at Mathura. She said she was a Chouban (member of the Choubey family) of Mathura and her name was Lugdi.
She would talk of the food and clothing she enjoyed in a former life. Her parents ignored her, but she persisted. Her parents got puzzled but she insisted on a visit to Mathura. For five years her parents tried to distract her mind but to no avail. At last, a sympathetic granduncle came to her aid. He asked her to give him the name and address of her ‘husband’ at Mathura. A friend, Lala Kishan Chand, wrote a letter to the address given by the girl. Soon a reply came, attesting that the statements of the girl were substantially correct. It was suggested that a relation of Choube Kedar Nath, Pt. (Pundit) Kanji Mal of Delhi might be allowed to interview the girl.
An interview was accordingly arranged. Shanti Devi is reported to have correctly recognized Pt. Kanji Mal as the younger cousin of her alleged husband. She gave convincing answers to the questions put to her by Pt. Kanji Mal. “After this conversation”, he wrote, “I was convinced that the girl was really my own relation, now personating in another body.” On November 13, 1935, Kedar Nath Choubey, along with his third wife (he had one prior to Lugdi) went to Shanti Devi’s house in Delhi.
Shanti Devi recognized her husband and expressed motherly affection towards her son Nitlal who was now her elder. She burst into tears and sobbed for about an hour. Late at night Kedar Nath Choubey took Shanti Devi in a separate room, and put her some intimate questions. He was satisfied by her answers and moved to tears.
Shanti Devi continued insisting on a visit to Mathura. She added many more details about her house and other events related to her former life. On November 24, 1935, she was taken to Mathura by the committee of fifteen eminent persons appointed on the advice of Mahatma Gandhi to investigate the veracity of the claim made by the girl.
She was: “kept under close observation and all her movements and remarks were carefully noted” by the committee. Shanti Devi is reported to have recognized a number of persons, answered all the queries put to her and spotted out the significant places connected with her past life.
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