Charak Puja: A traditional Bengali festival celebrated in the rural Bengal

Posted on April 14, 2011

0


Charak puja is a traditional Bengali festival celebrated mainly in the rural areas. A festival dedicated strictly to penance, Charak puja stands unique in the scenario of Bengali festivals.

Gajan is a Hindu festival celebrated mostly in the Indian state of West Bengal. It is associated with such deities as Shiva, Neel and Dharmathakur.

The word gajan in Bengali comes from the word garjan or roar that sannyasis (hermits) emit during the festivities. Alternatively, the word gajan is considered a combination of parts of two words – ga is from the word gram meaning village and jan is from the word janasadharan meaning folk. In this sense gajan is a festival of village folk.

In Shiva’s gajan Shiva is married to Harakali on this day. The sannyasis form the barjatri (bridegroom’s party). In Dharma’s gajan Dharmathakur is married to Mukti.

The groups of men and women, who take up this ‘Brata’ or the time bound ritual, have to go through a month long fasting from sunrise to sunset, live strictly on fruits & perform the daily worship in order to get the blessings of the lord. On the day of the ‘Charak’ or the ‘Gajan’, as it is also called, bamboo stages are made on bamboo poles, the height ranging from 10 to 15 feet. What follows is a macabre yet fascinating.

After the month long penance the devotees step up the high bamboo stage & hurl themselves forward. The ground on which they fall is embedded with glass, thorns, knives & other devious weapons. But lo! The devotee escapes unhurt! The blessing of the god keeps him safe from all the possible harms. The devotees have other ways to show the god’s blessings. They impale their body parts without feeling the pain. The festival not only reflects the blind faith but also the eagerness to accept penance on the road to achieve salvation.

Baruipur has a famous gajan utsab, which starts with the exposition of a lock of hair of one Bhriguram. The story of Bhriguram is interesting. It is said that there was once a severely contested lathi fight between the lathials of the Sabarna Choudhurys of Barisa and the Roy Choudhurys of Baruipur over the boundary dispute of their respective Zamindars. The Sardar of the lathials of the Sabarna Choudhurys was Bhriguram. The lathials of Baruipur managed to cut off the head of Bhriguram with a sword and won the fight. But Bhriguram was so much respected in the area that a lock of his hair was preserved. Bhriguram is still publicly honoured by the exposition of lock on the gajan mela at Baruipur.

Source: Bengalinet and Wikipedia

Advertisements