Charak Puja-A Celebration of Faith and Tradition in Bengal

Charak Puja is a traditional Hindu festival that is celebrated with great pomp and show in Bangladesh and Indian state of West Bengal particularly in the districts of Hooghly, Howrah, and Medinipur. The festival is dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva and is usually held in the month of Chaitra, which falls in the months of March or April.

Charak Puja is also known as Neel Puja or Jhaap Puja and is celebrated by people from all walks of life, irrespective of caste or religion. The festival is believed to have originated in ancient times when people used to worship the god of agriculture, Indra, to pray for a bountiful harvest. With time, the festival evolved, and the focus shifted to Lord Shiva.

The festival of Charak Puja is celebrated in a unique way. A tall wooden pole, known as the Charak, is erected in the center of the village or town. The Charak is decorated with colorful cloths, flowers, and leaves, and at the top of the pole, a pot of water is placed. The pot symbolizes the life-giving force of nature, and the Charak represents the cosmic tree of life.

The highlight of the festival is the Charak Puja ceremony, which is performed by a group of young men known as Charak Sanyasis. The Charak Sanyasis are usually selected from so called lower castes of the society and are considered to be the representatives of Lord Shiva. They wear saffron-colored clothes and carry a bell in one hand and a stick in the other.

The Charak Sanyasis perform several acts of penance and self-flagellation, such as piercing their skin with hooks or needles, or walking on burning coals. These acts are performed to purify their souls and seek the blessings of Lord Shiva. The Charak Sanyasis move around the village or town, dancing to the beat of the drums and ringing their bells. People shower them with flowers and money as a sign of respect and reverence.

Another unique aspect of the festival is the Jhaap or Neel dance. The Jhaap dance is performed by a group of women who dress in traditional attire and dance around the Charak. The women sing songs that praise Lord Shiva and his consort, Goddess Parvati, and pray for the well-being of their families and loved ones.

Khejur Bhanga is a unique ritual that is an integral part of the Charak Puja festival performed only in the southwest region of Bangladesh. This primarily celebrated in the districts of Khulna and Jessore, and it is believed to have originated in the ancient Hindu tradition.

Charak Puja is a festival that celebrates the oneness of all beings and the power of nature. It is a time when people come together to offer their prayers and seek the blessings of the divine. The festival also serves as a reminder of the need to respect and honor the environment and the natural resources that sustain us.

In conclusion, Charak Puja is a festival that is steeped in tradition and symbolism. The festival represents the cycle of life, death, and rebirth and the eternal power of nature. The Charak Sanyasis and the Jhaap dancers are a testament to the devotion and faith that people have in Lord Shiva. As we celebrate Charak Puja this year, let us remember the significance of the festival and strive to emulate the values of love, compassion, and respect that it represents.

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Krishna Das is an experienced article writer. He writes about Hinduism in his spare time.

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