Taka'rai, the most feared condition of the Zhilé, is the parasitic infection of a sentient host by a chromaphage--one who is perceived to consume colour. Because the Zhilé consider themselves to be beloved of colour, and indeed flaunt the pearlescent skin patterns their species exhibit, the loss of colour in one of their species is something to be greatly feared.
Transmission & Vectors
Taka'rai is only transmitted by the movement of the chromaphage itself from one host to another. Because the creature composed of mental energy with no physical form, this transmission can occur regardless of contact or proximity, and the chromaphage tends to target new hosts who had a strong mental resonance or connection with the old host. This generally follows the order of precedence of host's children > mate > parents > closest friends > siblings > remaining acquaintances in decreasing order of familiarity. As soon as the chromaphage has connected with the new host, it remains with that host until the host dies at which point it continues as before.
When new chromaphages come into existence, any nearby sentient beings are at risk of infection. This particular form of spread avoids mental resonance wherever possible to allow for increased future transmission possibilities, but will still prioritise higher levels of sapience to lower levels of familiarity. For example, if a family group containing a host is in the middle of the woods and the host's chromaphage has a reproductive event, the new chromaphages will preferentially choose the host's family over nearby birds and deer.
The host individual only experiences a physical change in the case that it utilises infrared radiation (IR) in some form, such as pearlescent skin patterns or IR photosynthesis. The other major symptoms are a constant mid-level empathetic sense toward those around them, and in high levels of IR, surface thought receptive telepathy of sentient beings nearby. This telepathy is usually only useful around sapient beings, but a host will be able to comprehend the immediate needs of lower level animals as well as some plants.
As mentioned above, the condition is lifelong once initiated, unless the host is placed into a situation where the chromaphage is starved of infrared input, at which point it will generally leave to find another host until its primary host is again receiving infrared.
For the most part, the host does not experience detrimental side effects from the chromaphage itself, and indeed the condition was understood to be symbiotic in the past. Its current feared nature is due solely to the negative perception of the condition, and the severe consequences of discovery (usually death). This is mostly with respect to the Zhilé, but religious outreach and fear had found its way through most of the major cultures of the subcontinent.
All sentient species regardless of sapience may be affected, though the chromaphage generally prefers sapient hosts.