Kaftar (کفتار) is Persian for "hyena" and refers to a mystical race of shapeshifters sighted around India's capital of New Delhi.
"In 1334 AD, a tiger was terrorizing local folk in the town of Barwan (modern: Narwar, Gwalior, India near Lake Barwa Sagar). Nobody was safe. The beast was prowling into the gated town mysteriously every night and silently dragging its victims into the town square, killing them but not eating them... Rumors abounded that this was no tiger, but a “jugi” (yogi) shapeshifter disguising himself as one and drinking the victims’ blood... Female yogis, called 'kaftars' (which translated into Persian means 'hyenas'), could steal the heart of man with invisible magic, killing them without a single touch. In fact, when Ibn Battuta was acting as the mayor of a village outside of Delhi around 1334 AD, the villagers brought to him an alleged kaftar. They said that she had been standing beside a young boy when the lad simply fell dead beside her. They examined the boy’s body afterward and discovered his heart was missing from his body. Ibn Battuta, not knowing how to handle this case, brought it to the attention of one of his sultan’s lieutenants who ordered a witch trial (tldrhistory.com)."
A medical treatise written in Persian around AD 1376 in Delhi gives detailed prescriptions of a magical nature on how to deal with a man who can transform himself into a striped hyena. This demoniacal being, “half-man, half-hyena,” is called kaftar and has the habit of attacking and killing children (FREMBGEN 334).
- Main article: Monkey Man of New Delhi
In 2001, stories began to circulate in New Delhi of a strange, nocturnal, monkey-like creature that was attacking people. The creature was believed by some to be a shapeshifter. Like the Kaftar shapeshifter sightings of the 14th century, a yogi sadhu was blamed and killed for the attacks.
It is possible that the stories reflected a population of hyenas in the South Asian sub-continent, with the were-beast elements were largely mythologized.
- "The Magicality of the Hyena: Beliefs and Practices in West and South Asia" (PDF). Asian Folklore Studies, Volume 57, 1998: 331–344. June 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-06-25. Retrieved 23.