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Friday, September 22, 2023

Night of the Holy Ghost: Bhoot Chaturdashi a.k.a Bengali ‘Halloween Day’

Bhoot Chaturdashi falls on the same day as Kali Puja, on 24 October 2022

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INDIA: Bengalis celebrate the day before Kali Puja by observing Bhoot Chaturdashi as an Indian version of Halloween. The celebration of Diwali is a lavish affair in many households, with many decking up their newly-cleaned halls and homes with lights, lamps, and other furnishings just a few days before the actual day by celebrating it as Choti Diwali.

The smell of festivities and wick lamps continues to waft in the air as India decks up finely to celebrate one of its major festivals, Diwali, with great passion and fanfare. The beauty of Indian diversity is such that the festival is celebrated in different forms across cultures in different parts of India.

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While North Indian states celebrate Diwali by worshipping Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Kuber, people in West Bengal celebrate the day by worshipping Goddess Kali on the evening of Diwali, thus naming it Kali Puja in the state.

This year Bhoot Chaturdashi falls on the same day as Kali Puja, on 24 October 2022, Monday. The Hindu calendar dictates that the day is commemorated on the Chaturdashi Tithi of Krishna Paksha in the Kartik month of the Bengali calendar and is observed to ward off evil spirits or ghosts from homes by lighting lights and lamps. 

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Bengali households are sure to mark the auspicious day of Bhoot Chaturdashi by illuminating their homes with brightness and warmth, lighting up 14 earthen lamps or ‘diyas’ and placing them in several corners of the home- at the doors, outside the windows, near the Tulsi plant or on the veranda, to cast a protective shield around the family.

The streets of old Calcutta, centered around the nostalgic shacks of ancient Kumartuli, the oldest haven for idol-makers, were brimming with mud and colors on the eve of Kali Puja as artists were sculpting the mud idols and painting them beautifully.

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The streets were laden with countless rows of Kali idols painted in black or blue, garbed in the traditional attire of white saree with red borders or the modern attires of sparkling sarees.

Amid the Kali idols, one can find the equally countless rows of grotesque and black-faced ghost-like figures with scary protruding teeth and spiky, long fingernails. These are the ghosts of the past, for whom the lights are lit to protect the home.

As the streets of old Calcutta gear up for the long night in remembrance of spooky stories of supernatural beings on the eve of Kali Puja, here is everything you need to know about the folklore associated with Bhoot Chaturdashi and how it is celebrated in Bengal.

People in Bengal arise early at the break of dawn and freshen up after a bath to begin their celebration of Bhoot Chaturdashi. Later in the evening, special pujas are carried out where idols of Lord Yamraj, Maa Kali, Lord Krishna, Lord Shiva, Lord Hanuman, and Lord Vishnu are worshipped in the house.

As per Bengali legend and folklore, the night of the Bhoot Chaturdashi marks the opening of an inter-celestial portal between the world of the living and the world of the dead. In order to thwart the evil eye or bad luck projected onto humans on this gloomy day, it is crucial to light the 14 earthen lamps at critical spots in the home in such a way that no corner is left in the darkness. 

The 14 lamps that are lit during Bhoot Chaturdashi are also meant to illuminate the path of our 14 forefathers (known as Choddo Prodeep in Bengali) to ensure their safe passage back to their families.

The number 14 bears a significant charm throughout the day as Bengali households begin the long night with a scrumptious dinner of 14 different types of leafy green vegetables, or ‘Choddo Shaak,’ and serve them as prasad or bhog as part of the festivities.

Following the routine rituals, Goddess Kali is then worshipped after dusk, and devotees pray for their safety and well-being for the rest of the year.

Also Read: Raksha Bandhan : A Pious Festival Of India


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