The Mysterious Burari Deaths
In July 2018, a small town in New Delhi, India was shocked to its core when an entire family perished under peculiar circumstances. This is a case which is still heavily under investigation. In this post we question, what were the events that led up to the Mysterious Burari deaths.
It was surprisingly cloudy for a midsummer's day as Gurcharan Singh slowly paced back and forth at the edge of Jagatpur Park. He'd been waiting half an hour longer than anticipated and now, a light rain was beginning to fall. Showers had been forecast for the whole day, but he had expected them to start later, not that a little drizzle would have discouraged him from taking his walk, it was a ritual of sorts. Every day before work, a morning stroll through the park with his old friend of many years, Lalit Chundawat. It was a way of cleansing the soul before the burdens of the day took hold and he and his friend always took it together almost religiously.
He looked at his watch again for what felt like the hundredth time that morning. It was 6:57 a.m. and still Lalit was nowhere to be seen. It was unusual for him to be late. Gurcharan resolved to wait until exactly 7 a.m. and if his friend hadn't arrived by then, he would make his way back home. Of course, he waited until 7:05. The rain was beginning to fall heavier and showed no signs of slowing, so he decided to walk back into the streets of Burari towards his modest home.
He reasoned that Lalit must have been taken ill or had an errand to run which had prevented him from meeting. He was in the middle of considering whether to make a visit to his old friend's house later that evening, when something gave him pause. Across from where he was standing, he saw Lalit's grocery store. There was nothing special about it. It was just a standard shop, the same as any other you would find on any street in Burari. But what stopped him in his tracks was that, for as long as he had known Lalit, his shop had always been open promptly at 6:00 a.m. every morning without fail. But today, it was closed.
It was unusual for his friend to have missed the morning walk. But it was near impossible for his shop not to be open. Without even thinking about it, Gurcharan began heading towards the Chundawat home. He had to make sure that everything was okay. But something in the pit of his stomach said otherwise and he had no idea why.
Arriving at his friends house, he knocked at the front door, but there was no response. After a second knock went unanswered, he tried the door handle and, to his surprise, found that it was unlocked. With 11 people living under one roof, the Chundawat household was obviously a lively one, always filled with the sounds of activity, conversation and laughter. But on this day, in those brief seconds as the door hung ajar, the only thing that slipped through the small crack was an eerie silence, which sent a cold shiver running down Gurcharan's spine. As a middle-aged man, he'd experienced a lot throughout his life, endured many challenges, lost people, seen things he couldn't un-see, but nothing could have prepared him for what he found on the other side of that doorway.
The Shocking Moment of Gurcharan's Life
As the heavy panel swung inwards, he was greeted with a sight that left him standing mouth agape. After what felt like an eternity, he fell to his knees and let out a shout of horror and pain. In the hallway in front of him, ten members of the Chundawat family were hanging from the ceiling by their necks, close together in a circular formation, their bodies now lifeless and silent. His cries alerted the neighbors and when police arrived just after 7:30, a.m., the street in front of the house was filled with curious bystanders. The area was cordoned off as investigators began to examine the scene and what they found left them at a loss as to explain exactly what had happened.
The Investigation Of The Scene
The first thought on everyone's minds was that the family had been murdered and then robbed, but this was quickly dismissed when all of their cash and valuables were found not only throughout the house, but even on the victims' bodies. As the morning gave way to afternoon, police began to believe that they were instead dealing with a mass suicide. But even then, foul play could not be ruled out for a number of reasons. First of all, the way in which the family members were found seem to suggest that the third party had been present at the time of death. Each of them had their hands tied behind their backs and their heads wrapped in material cut from the same sheet of cloth. They were also blindfolded, with their mouths taped shut and their ears plugged with cotton wool. Besides the ten bodies in the hallway, officers also discovered the body of the grandmother in an adjacent room, although she had been strangled rather than hanged. So there was at least one instance of murder.
Secondly, the kitchen was found in such a way that seemed to suggest that the family had been preparing for breakfast. Ingredients and recipes were already laid out and places were set. Why would they have done this if they were planning to commit suicide? Friends and relatives also insisted that suicide was impossible, because the Chundawats were such a happy and well off family and never seemed outwardly troubled. They questioned how 11 people could-as one-simply decide to end their lives. But then all of this was contradicted when police reviewed CCTV footage captured by security cameras near the residence.
Videos clearly showed the family taking ropes and stools into their home on the night before their deaths, seemingly indicating that they were the only ones who are responsible for their demise. Suffice to say that nothing seemed to make any sense. Further investigation revealed 11 diaries, which had been kept by family members over the course of many years. These notebooks would prove to be invaluable in understanding what had happened, especially the diary of one family member in particular, the one that belonged to Lalit Chundawat.
The notes contained within each one of them would detail a dark and secretive side to what the rest of the community viewed as an otherwise normal household, ultimately painting a picture of an entire family's descent into madness. Or at least that is what has been assumed. But before we get into the 'hows' and 'whys' of this case, allow us to introduce you to the Chundawat family.
The Chundawat family
The Chundawats' moved from Rajasthan to Delhi in 1989. Bhopal Singh, a family man with a large plot of land in grazing cattle, sold his assets to invest in a new home in a small town of Burari. He and his wife, Narayani had five children, three of whom were sons: Bhuvnesh, Dinesh and Lalit, and two daughters named Pratibha Sujata. Bhopal took Narayani and Lalit with him to Burari, and with his remaining capital, set up a small business selling plywood.
The other four children, who weren't really children at all, as they were now in their early to late 20s-remained in Rajasthan to concentrate on their careers. By 1993, however, both Bhuvnesh and Pratibha had also moved into the family home in Burari, bringing their own families along with them. Over the next 10 years, there would be as many as 12 people living under the same roof and the Chundawat family would go from strength to strength, both financially and socially. Although Bhopal was a good man, he ruled over his family with an almost dictatorial control. His word was law and he demanded absolute adherence to his wishes and instructions. His family regarded him with the utmost respect and never questioned or threatened his authority.
He used to say that their success depended upon him and in many ways that was true! This would be demonstrated in mid 2007 when Bhopal unexpectedly passed away due to a respiratory illness. The family's fortunes soon went into decline and they found themselves struggling in the aftermath of such an upheaval. Lalit, Bhopal's youngest son was hit the hardest by the tragedy. Aside from his father's death, he also had personal issues which had had a negative effect on his quality of life.
In 2004, whilst he was working alone in his father's plywood shop, he found himself on the receiving end of a robbery. The thieves not only stole all of the money from the till, they also buried Lalit under a pile of plywood panels and set fire to him. Although he managed to escape the attack relatively unscathed, he became extremely introverted and even lost his voice as a result. He never spoke a single word for many years afterwards. All this would change shortly after Bhopal's death, however, when the family took part in a traditional 10 day long prayer, known as Garuda purana. Lalit was said to have suddenly burst out chanting along with everyone else. It was the first time he had spoken in over three years. This shocked the other members of his family, who began chanting in reply "Father has returned!"
They believed that the spirit of Bhopal had come forth and was channeling himself through Lalit. Little did they know at the time just how significant this moment would be. People in the local community would later speak in hindsight of the changes seemed within the family dynamic after this event, especially in the mental and psychological state of those in the household.
Lalit began brazenly telling customers in his shop how his father had appeared in a dream and asked him to perform a puja. A Puja is an act of worship, showing reverence to a God, Spirit or another aspect of the divine through invocations, prayers, songs and rituals. Lalit also began praying in front of trees and offering food to animals. Whilst the local community saw very little of what went on inside their home, the Chundawat household became a platform for the family's spiritual development. They would gather and pray for 30 minutes every morning and evening.
Lalit soon became the leader of the household and began to convince himself along with the rest of the family that he was the reincarnation of his father who would ultimately lead them to salvation. He even began to take on some of his father's traits, controlling the family and declaring that his authority must never be questioned.
They were ordered to keep their practices secret from everyone else, including extended family. As this was happening, friends and relatives did notice some strange behavior. The family became increasingly introverted and withdrawn. Despite this, their financial situation was reinvigorated and eventually their sources of income expanded. The number of businesses they owned increased from one to three, consisting of the plywood shop, a grocery store, and a third commercial business, which was in the process of being set up.
The overall success of the family according to Lalit, was due to help from his father, who was passing instructions to him spiritually. One of these supposed instructions, however, would turn out to be fatal for him and his loved ones. As mentioned previously, certain members of the family had kept diaries, each with extensive notes, which had been made over many years. Older sets of notes spoke of the family's financial difficulties, but how Lalit had become their "savior"? The first mention of Bhopal Singh in Lalit's diaries was made on the 7th of September 2007, wherein he asks the family to keep his father's black and white photo in front of them and remember him.
Many of Lalit's thereafter are full of strict instructions for the rest of the family, written in a harsh and authoritative tone. Eating habits, financial activities and day-to-day chores were all detailed and dictated throughout his diary. Police discovered entries relating to a ritual, which was to be performed on the 30th of June 2018, almost 11 years to the day after Bhopal Singh had passed away. Lalit speaks of how the human body is temporary and one can overcome fear by covering the eyes and mouth. Another excerpt described our hands and legs were to be tied, and how Bebbe (grandmother) could not stand, so she could lie down in a separate room. These details seemed hauntingly similar to the manner in which the family was found. On the surface, at least, it looked as if the Chundawats had, indeed, committed mass suicide, with Lalit placed firmly at the center of it all.
Shared Psychotic Disorder
At the time of the deaths, there were 11 people in the household including Bhopal's widow Narayani Devi, Bhuvnesh, his wife Savita and their three children, Neetu, Meenu and Dhruv. Then there was Lalit, his wife Teena, and their son Shivam, and finally, Pratibha and her daughter Priyanka. How could one man have convinced all these people to resort to such drastic action? There is a condition known as shared psychotic disorder, whereby an individual suffering from delusions can pass those delusions onto other people. This has been seen throughout history with many infamous cults, most notable of which was the Jonestown Massacre of 1978.
If the individual is charismatic and convincing enough in his or her beliefs, they can condition a large number of followers to place absolute trust in them. So was the Chundawat family suffering from SPD? Were they so utterly convinced by Lalit's assertions that he was possessed by the spirit of their father and did they blindly accept that the only way to achieve true salvation was through sacrificing themselves? Or was there something more creepy afoot? Further scrutiny of the diaries revealed notes from other family members, which explicitly mentioned future events, talking about what they needed to do the next day or the day after, sometimes even weeks in advance.
Pratibha's daughter Priyanka was even engaged to be married at the end of the year and she spoke of this in her own diary. Curiously, those who knew the Chundawats still feel that the family looked forward to a tomorrow, which is backed up by their behavior leading up to their deaths.
One day prior to the incident, Priyanka had invited a friend to her wedding and had given her clothes to be washed. The teenagers had planned a cricket match for the following day and several of the adults had arranged meetings and made other plans over the phone. We've already mentioned how the kitchen was readily prepared for a meal.
With this in mind, we have to ask, did the rest of the family know they were going to die? It is possible that the apparent suicide could have been a spiritual or religious ritual that had gone horribly wrong. But if that was the case, why was Narayani found strangled in another room? Police also found that the feet of both Dhruv and Shivam were touching the floor, suggesting that the two youngest members of the family did not die from the hanging, but were possibly killed or even tranquilized beforehand, with their bodies being hanged afterwards.
So whilst the rest of the family may have been expecting to live through the ritual, one amongst them, or possibly even two or three must have fully intended for all of them to end their lives. Rather than being a mass suicide, this case could well be classed as a mass murder, with Lalit being front and center as the prime suspect. Of course, we cannot rule out the possibility that third parties were involved. Lalit had obviously learned of this ritual from somewhere and many people wonder whether he had contacted and been influenced by some form of cult.
One of the instructions in this ritual was to leave the front door unlocked. Could this have been so that another cult member could have visited the house after the family had died and set about taking all of their cash and valuables unopposed? Despite being a possibility, Police have so far found no connection to another group.
Finally, we would be remiss if we were to exclude the many paranormal theories out there. There are those who truly believe that Lalit was indeed possessed by the spirit of his dead father, who wanted the rest of his family to join him in the afterlife. Others have pointed to the possibility of an evil, or demonic entity, which manipulated Lalit into believing that he was communing with Bhopal and blindly following its instructions.
There is, of course, a great deal of superstition surrounding this case and its connections to the number '11'. They were 11 family members, who kept 11 diaries, for 11 years after the death of their father. They performed a ritual which, as one would expect, resulted in 11 deaths. Even the house itself had links to the number 11. There were 11 iron bars above the front door, and on the side of the house, there were eleven pipes which didn't seem to serve any purpose. They were not connected to any water source or ventilation ducts, but they were arranged in a curiously similar fashion to how the 11 bodies were found.
There were seven bent pipes and four straight pipes. One of the bent pipes was placed much further away from all the others. People have speculated how the seven bent pipes represented the seven women, the four straight pipes represented the four men and the pipe that was furthest away represented the grandmother Narayani who died in another part of the house. Lalit had them installed a few months prior to the incident and he told the person who installed them that they were for ventilation purposes. When the installer suggested having windows put in instead, Lalit refused. This would seem to be a very personal touch and only serves to further suggest that Lalit acted alone and knew full well what the outcome of his ritual would be.
The real mystery here is just what was going on inside his head to warrant an inexplicable desire to kill himself and the rest of his family? In his final notes, he wrote the following passage: "At the last moment and during the fulfillment of the last wish, the sky will move and the Earth will tremble. Do not panic at that moment. Chant more vigorously. I will come and bring you down. I will also help bring down the others." It seems he did not keep his word in this regard. Perhaps he was so inwardly damaged that he wanted to end his life, but did not want to go alone.
In the end, no matter which way you look at it, it is a tragic waste of 11 lives. Our hearts go out to the rest of their loved ones. We can only hope that the Chundawat family found the salvation they were promised.