Indian goddesses have long been associated with the act of possession. Temples, large devotional gatherings, jagrans—these are spaces where the goddess has been seen to manifest herself through her devotees. While many may see these as psychological disorders or acts of fraud, the phenomenon of possession, which involves a woman dancing or chanting or spinning with her hair flying loose, is common to nearly all parts of the country and in evidence even today. It also has a large set of believers.
The goddess is also believed to make an appearance in other forms, not always through a human vehicle, to answer her devotees’ prayers. In North India, Devi Seranvali is among the major goddesses known to possess her devotees and appear on their behalf when the situation so demands. Her story is told at many jagrans (all night prayers for the mother goddess) that take place across the country. The following is one of the many oral tales collected by Kathleen Erndl in her essay titled Seranvali in the book Devi.