There is some research that suggests ancient India was the original source of the vampire legends. Stories of undead, bloodsucking creatures may have traveled from India to places like Romania, Russia, and other lands, to form what our ideas of the vampire are today.
Earliest myths of vampire-like creatures seem to come from India, and other places in the East like Tibet and China. The “Gypsies” or the Roma people, actually began as nomadic tribes in northern India, taking stories of vampire legends with them as they traveled westward.
They traveled to places like Turkey and Romania, Hungary, the Slavic lands, and soon all across Europe. The vampire legend traveled with them. The ancient India beliefs about the vampire creatures still exist in Indian culture today. Since this was all oral tradition, it’s easy to understand how the vampire legend changed over time from its original source in India.
In India, the vampires were generally viewed as demonic beings that could reanimate the corpse of a human. It would use the body of the human to destroy others and drink their blood. Typically this was a human who was buried improperly or not given the proper funeral rites. These ideas persisted about vampires as the Gypsies spread the legends throughout Europe.
The Gypsy vampires changed to be more like revenants; humans who come back from the dead. These versions of vampires usually come back and destroy their families and friends first. This idea was very common among the earliest vampire myths of Europe.
A common theme in these early vampire legends were that any living thing could become a vampire. This included dogs, cats, and farm animals. Even plants! There was, of course, the myth of the vampire pumpkin! These myths had changed a whole lot from the original India legends.
The Gypsies also had some interesting ideas about protecting against vampire attacks. They would drive steel or iron through the corpse, or put steel in the mouth or over the eyes of the corpse of a suspected vampire. They would place hawthorn in the socks of the corpse or drive a hawthorn stake through the body. They would also pour boiling water over the grave or the corpse. If all else failed, they would decapitate the corpse and burn it. This is more similar to the Western idea of vampires we have today. And to think, it all began in ancient India!