History of Wicca in Modern India

(Year-wise press archived articles are given at the end of the page)

When Ipsita started her wiccan work in India in the 1960s , it was an unfamiliar word in this part of the world. Through her writings, her talks, therapy and art, Ipsita showed the country what the true face of Wicca was. In the eastern civilization of yore, wicca had been revered as dakinividya, the presiding deities of which were the goddesses Kali and Durga. Centuries of patriarchy and chauvinism had reduced this beautiful esoteric practice - for gaining exceptional mental, intellectual and spiritual powers --- to the worst form of social abuse that could be hurled at a woman. If you were vulnerable and others stood to profit from your troubles, you would be held responsible for any misfortune that befell your community, branded a 'daayan' or 'daini' and hunted to death Thus it came about that modern India's most unfortunate introduction to wicca came through the witch-hunts which still seemed to rear their head even in the midst of so called civilized society. In the midst of a culture which worshipped the mother goddess, newspapers reported brutal witch-hunts, most intense around the states of West Bengal, Orissa and Bihar. The most common misconception about wicca which prevailed was that it was a negative art and kaala jaadu, or black magic. The truth and the beauty behind this ancient branch of learning seemed to have been erased from modern memory. Thus it came about that modern India's most unfortunate introduction to wicca came through the witch-hunts which still seemed to rear their head even in the midst of so called civilized society. In the midst of a culture which worshipped the mother goddess, newspapers reported brutal witch-hunts, most intense around the states of West Bengal, Orissa and Bihar. The most common misconception about wicca which prevailed was that it was a negative art and kaala jaadu, or black magic. The truth and the beauty behind this ancient branch of learning seemed to have been erased from modern memory.

As reports of women branded witches and beaten for it abounded and a callous society seemed content to sit back and do nothing and to actually believe the misconceptions being spread about wicca, Ipsita came forth and for the first time in the country, revealed the true nature of a much maligned craft. Ipsita spoke out as a witch and stood in support of the women battered and branded dayans all across the country. Through many years in the 1980s, Ipsita would meet the people who came in droves from all parts of the country. She would talk to them about and give them wiccan healing. People came to the witch when there was no hope from orthodox sides, and when they had been forsaken by society. Ipsita used old wiccan techniques, working with quartz and sound to help and bring comfort - it was a completely non-invasive way of healing.

One of the first rural movements Ipsita led was in the early 1980s and it took her into the hotbed of witch-hunts in rural Bengal in the Purulia district, where women were easy victims of manipulation and exploitation. As part of a social welfare organization probing witch-hunts, Ipsita was there as an investigator and counsellor. Much against the wishes of the local panchayat, she led a drive to empower the village women with vocational training in knitting, sewing and embroidery,while clearing misconceptions about daayans and dakinividya.

There was initial shock and disbelief amongst many in orthodox milieus. Their misguided notions of what a witch should look like and be did not fit in with this intelligent, beautiful and articulate aristocrat from the royal house of Mayurbhanj and Coochbehar. As Ipsita spoke out about wicca, and about all the beauty, healing powers and history of this ancient way of life, the people flocked to her. They came for understanding, for knowledge and for help. It is in a witch that the downtrodden found compassion and the eager student found wisdom. This was the beginning of wicca in modern India.

Then in 1998, wicca took another step. At the time of the Indian Parliamentary Elections that year, the high command of the Indian National Congress asked Ipsita to contest from Hooghly parliamentary constituency in West Bengal and she accepted. Wicca had come a long way in the country - from being a dirty and misunderstood word, to now, something which the highest leaders in the country believed should be in the Parliament of the world's largest democracy. That was a year of major loss for the Congress in West Bengal. But a larger purpose was served. Wicca was before the people in yet another form - of administrative and political authority, and had gained a place there too. When simple village women came out of their huts in the February dusk, they carried plates of flowers and blew conch shells as Ipsita alighted from her campaign trail jeep. The dayini or witch of old had gained another milestone in her battle for empowerment and justice.

Later In 1998, Ipsita set up the National Youth Brigade to intensify her work against witch-hunts and continued documenting cases.

In 2000, the publication of 'Beloved Witch' ( Harper Collins India ), Ipsita's autobiography was a path breaker. This was the first time in India that wicca had been documented. The reaction was immediate and invitations poured in the hundreds and thousands for Ipsita to speak at various forums and let the country know about wicca and her work over the decades. From foreign organizations, to industry bodies, to universities- the interest grew in waves. There was an unending stream of people wanting to learn and know more. Where there had earlier been doubts and misconceptions, today there was a passionate desire to be a part of this ancient way.

Six years later, in 2006,the Wiccan Brigade was formed by Ipsita to teach a select few the ancient way of wicca --- a group of individuals (women and men) from various walks of life who would carry on the mission and walk the path. As time went by and the Wiccan Brigade grew, the learning embraced more than just Wicca and included subjects like comparative religions, philosophy and psychology. Thus, in 2013, an umbrella organization was formed with Ipsita as chairperson – The Young Bengal Brigade. It was under the banner of the YBB that the various divisions and activities now functioned, including the Wiccan Brigade. Wicca was now in the mainstream of academic learning.

Wicca has since grown and spread and gone amongst people and organizations of all kinds. Many milestones have passed. One such was in 2007 when the Government of India's National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions nominated Ipsita to head a committee for education of the girl child.

Today, what Ipsita revealed to India many decades ago has become almost a popular word amongst the intelligentsia and the youth. People from all over the country write in aspiring to be wiccans and to have qualities like them, just like they have read about and seen in Ipsita. Television and film media have taken to the subject in a big way, and have brought Ipsita's wiccan experiences to life onscreen. When Ipsita brought wicca to India, it was a bad word. Today, it holds a pride of place alongside any other ancient and highly regarded systems of learning.

Year wise Press Articles

2013 2012 2011 2010 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 1998 1997 1996 1995 1994 1991 1988 1980 1977 1969