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Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Not Halloween, Bhoot Chaturdashi is when Hindus remember their departed ancestors

Self-loathe runs so deep that we are shunning our festivals like Diwali, Karwachauth, Chatt, and Holi in the name of pollution or superstition and replacing them with festivities such as Halloween, Christmas, etc. from the west no matter how out of place and delusional they may appear in the Bharatiya soil. One such ludicrous illustration of the western influence is the pomp and show with which Halloween is celebrated by Bharatiyas on October 31 every year. 

Halloween also referred to as All Saints’ Day is observed to pay tribute to the departed souls in western societies. The rituals include visiting the church and lighting candles on the graves of the departed relatives, ancestors, or martyrs, followed by costume parties, and children decked up as ghosts going around the neighborhood asking “trick-o-treating”. 

The trend started in Bharat a couple of years back when mostly NRIs residing in the west would post pictures of themselves dressed as various creatures from the dark world on social media and has been picking intensity annually with more and more Bharatiyas competing to participate in Halloween to appear ‘westernized’ and ‘modern’. 

In the haste for imitating the west, Hindus have forgotten that the Sanatan dharma has a festival known as Bhoot Chaturdashi which is dedicated to the ancestors and relatives who have passed away. Also known as Narak Chaturdashi, the fourteenth day of Krishna Paksha in the month of Kartik is believed to be the darkest night of the year and as per Hindu belief is observed as the night of the ghosts. It is also believed that Goddess Kali appears as Maa Chamunda, her fieriest manifestation, to ward off all the evil energies in the world on this night. It mostly falls on the eve of Diwali, celebrated as Kali Puja among Bengali Hindus. 

It is believed that evil spirits are very active on this night and the fourteen generations of ancestors descend on earth to meet their living kin. 14 lamps are lit around the various dark corners of the house to direct these souls and keep evil spirits away. For generations, Bhoot Chaturdashi had been observed ritualistically by the Bengali Hindus. There is also a tradition of eating fourteen varieties of leafy vegetables known as ‘Çhoddo Shak’ in Bangla.

But the tradition is on the verge of dying out as the present generation, disconnected from its cultural ethos, seldom observes this ritual. They find Halloween cooler as it gives more opportunities to click Instagram-worthy pictures. 

It was even shocking to read that mainstream media like India Today and Republic relegated the stature of Bhoot Chaturdashi as “India’s own Halloween” in their respective articles. Little do they fathom that Bhoot Chaturdashi predates not only the inception of Halloween but even the religion that the western celebration stems from and has been inherited through generations despite the absence of forced glamour, pomp, and show. 

Again, it is called ‘Naraka Chaturdashi’ as demon Narakasura was killed in a war with Sri Krishna on this tithi and after his death, Bhagwan Krishna liberated the six thousand women the demon had abducted. Later, to save the women from being outcasted by society, he married all of them and raised them to the stature of queens. 

We have rich reason and meaningful rituals upheld and passed on to us by our elders, yet, we choose to turn westward and revel in borrowed festivities. We are the chosen ones to have inherited one of the oldest surviving civilizations in the world, yet we reject such a rich inheritance to take momentary pleasure in emulating cultures that post-date ours by eons.  

Is this the influence of leftism, is it inferiority complex, or it is the lack of knowledge? About time, we pondered and questioned the need to blindly ape the West. 

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  1. I like the article bringing attention, however I don’t believe that Bhoot Chaturdashi is older but the coincidence is far too great. It’s likely to be another analogous celebration stemming from a shared history. The presence of the indo-European languages points to the spread of a dominant culture and religion which is common to anyone who speaks an indo European languages as their native tongue. Known archaeologically as the yamanaya culture we know so little about them but their impact cannot be underestimated.


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