Burari Deaths

A family cult that ended with the mysterious ritual suicide of 11 people

In July 2018, the Burari deaths captivated and horrified India when eleven members of the Bhatia family were found dead in their home in Burari, Delhi. This incident was marked by a chilling tableau: ten of the family were discovered hanging from an iron grill with their eyes blindfolded and limbs bound, while the eldest member, Narayani Devi, was found strangled on the floor​​. The Delhi Police’s investigation unveiled a complex narrative that intertwined elements of spirituality, belief in the supernatural, and collective psychological disorders.

The investigation revealed that Lalit Bhatia, the youngest son of the family, became a central figure in this tragedy after he claimed that his deceased father’s spirit communicated with him. This purported spiritual communication was documented in 11 diaries found at their residence, containing instructions on leading their lives, which the family diligently followed. These diaries detailed not just daily activities and philosophical musings but also outlined a series of rituals purportedly aimed at attaining salvation. The diaries, filled over an 11-year period, hinted at a “five-year plan” involving “salvation rituals”​​​​.

One peculiar ritual, known as “badh tapasya,” believed to be performed by the family in the days leading up to their deaths, was intended to appease the gods. According to this ritual, participants would mimic the hanging roots of a banyan tree, which in this tragic instance, involved the family members hanging themselves. Instructions detailed in the diaries described the ritual’s execution, including preparations such as not cooking at home and keeping cellphones on silent, suggesting a complex belief system​​.

The psychological aspect of the Burari deaths points to a shared psychotic disorder, a condition where delusional beliefs are transmitted from one individual to others within a close group. Psychologists propose that Lalit suffered from a delusional disorder, leading the family to blindly trust his assertions and follow his directives without question. This collective adherence to Lalit’s delusions, spurred by the writings dictated by him in the diaries, laid the groundwork for the tragic outcome​​​​.

Further compounding the mystery were the physical arrangements found at the scene, such as 11 pipes protruding from a wall of their house and 11 iron rods in the main door, numbers mirroring the family members’ deaths. These arrangements, along with the diaries, suggest that the deaths were premeditated, aligning with the peculiar rituals described in the diary entries. Despite these findings, relatives of the deceased have refuted the notion of a collective suicide, insisting instead on foul play​​.

The Burari deaths remain a disturbing example of how deeply held beliefs, when intertwined with psychological disorders, can lead to tragic outcomes. It serves as a grim reminder of the potent influence of spiritual and superstitious convictions on human behavior, especially within familial settings where hierarchical dynamics and collective identity can significantly impact individual actions.

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