The Indian Halloween- Bhoot Chaturdashi

The Indian Halloween- Bhoot Chaturdashi

The Indian Halloween- Bhoot Chaturdashi

                                                                                                                           -By Sonam Desai

Born and brought up in India is no joke- the multitude of festivals we have can easily put up with all the celebrations in the Western World combined. One of the very interesting amongst them is the Bhoot Chaturdashi, which is mainly observed among the Bengalis. While the Devi paksha starts with paying respect to the previous fourteen generations through the act of Tarpan on the day of Mahalaya, the end of Devi Paksha with Lakshmi Puja marks the beginning of Krishna Paksha which ends on Kali Puja. The Bhoot Chaturdashi, also known as the Naraka Chaturdashi, falls on the fourteenth day of Krishna Paksha which is usually the day before Kali Puja. It is the day when fourteen lamps are lit at various corners of the house to wish peace in the afterlife of the previous fourteen generations.

There are various legends that surround the importance of this day. Popular among them is the slaying of Narakasura at the hands of Krishna. According to the lore, Naraka was a pious king who, in association with Banasura, became intoxicated in power and assumed the name Narakasura. In the glory of his prowess, he subjugated all kingdoms on Earth and even usurped Indra from swargaloka, stole mother goddess Aditi's earrings and incarcerated 16000 women.

Vishnu, in his Krishna avatar, fought and Narakasura as well as married the 16000 incarcerated women who were ostracized in society for being kidnapped by an Asura. Narakasura, in his final moments before death, requested a boon from his mother Satyabhama that his death should be celebrated with colorful lights. 

Another lore popular in Bengal is the story of Maa Chamunda who wrecked havoc with fourteen
of her minions, of whom Dakini and Jogini got special mentions. It is in this respect too that fourteen diyas are lit to ward off the unholy spirits. In many Bengali homes, it is associated with olokkhi bidaye , which is the process to cast out the evil twin of goddess Lakshmi to welcome goddess Laksmi into the house.

But what festival, especially Bengali, is observed without having a dedicated menu of its own? The Bhoot Chaturdashi is no exception, with a specific of choddo shaak , or the fourteen herbs along with ghee-bhaat which is rice with clarified butter.

Therefore there is no need to feel left out when the Westerners boast about their innovation of
celebration, if they have one uniform version of 'Halloween', we have multiple versions of the
same concept present in almost every part of the Indian society.