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Amala (Bengali: অমলা; died 21 September 1921) and Kamala (Bengali: কমলা; died 14 November 1929) were two "feral girls" from Bengal, British India (now in Paschimbanga, India) who were alleged to have been raised by a wolf family.
Their story earned substantial mainstream attention and debate, particularly because the account was reported and promoted by only one source, the reverend who claimed to have discovered the girls. Most researchers argue the girls were autistic, and the reverend's story has come under criticism; French surgeon Serge Aroles concluded in his book L'Enigme des enfants-loup ("Enigma of the Wolf-Children," 2007) that the reverend's story was a hoax.
In 1926, The Reverend Joseph Amrito Lal Singh, rector of the local orphanage, published an account in the Calcutta Statesman saying that the two girls were given to him by a man who lived in the jungle near the village of Godamuri, in the district of Midnapore, west of Calcutta (now Kolkata), and that the girls, when he first saw them, lived in a sort of cage near the house. Later, he claimed that he himself rescued the girls from the wolves' den on October 9, 1920. He named the children and wrote his observations of them in a "diary" (consisting of loose sheets, some dated, some undated) for almost ten years — which, if accurate, would represent one of the best documented efforts to observe and rehabilitate feral children. The diary entry of October 17, 1920 states, "...the mother wolf, whose nature was so ferocious and affection so sublime. It struck me with wonder. I was simply amazed to think that an animal had such a noble feeling surpassing even that of mankind ... to bestow all the love and affection of a fond and ideal mother on these peculiar beings." Kamala was at the time about eight years old, Amala about 18 months.
Singh claims in his diary that, at the orphanage, the two girls showed wolf-like behaviour typical for feral children. They would not allow themselves to be dressed, scratched and bit people who tried to feed them, rejected cooked food and walked on all fours. Both girls had developed thick calluses on their palms and knees from having walked on all fours. The girls were mostly nocturnal, had an aversion to sunshine, and could see very well in the dark. They also exhibited an acute sense of smell and an enhanced ability to hear.
The girls enjoyed the taste of raw meat and would eat out of a bowl on the ground. They seemed to be insensitive to cold and heat and appeared to show no human emotions of any kind, apart from fear. At night they would howl like wolves, calling out to their "family". They did not speak.
Singh claims that he took on the difficult task of trying to teach them ordinary human behaviour. Amala died in 1921 of a kidney infection. Kamala showed signs of mourning at her death. After this, Kamala became more approachable. She was eventually partially house-trained and became used to the company of other human beings. After years of hard work, she was able to walk upright a little, although never proficiently and would often revert to all fours when she needed to go somewhere quickly, and learned to speak a few words. She died in 1929 of kidney failure.
Because of the many different versions, none of them substantiated by any witnesses other than the Reverend Singh himself, there persists considerable controversy as to the veracity of the account. Most scientists considered Amala and Kamala autistic children with congenital defects. The "myth" of having been raised by wolves is an ancient Indian conception to explain the animal-like behaviour of abandoned children with congenital defects.
According to the French surgeon Serge Aroles, the case of Amala and Kamala is the most scandalous swindle concerning feral children. In his book L'Enigme des enfants-loup ("Enigma of the Wolf-Children," 2007), Aroles describes his research of the case. He scrutinized archives and formerly unknown sources and concludes: