Popularly known as the Indian Halloween, Bhoot Chaturdashi (‘bhoot’ means ‘ghost’ and ‘chaturdashi’ is the 14th night of the moon’s cycle) is observed on the night before Kali Puja.
The Bhoot Chaturdashi rituals coincide with Yama Chaturdashi and Naraka Chaturdashi (as celebrated in other parts of India). Observed primarily in the eastern parts of India, it is said that on this night the dead walk among the living. The evil spiritual powers are seemingly heightened on this night. In order to keep the evil spirits at bay, people ritualistically observe Bhoot Chaturdashi every year.
Bhoot Chaturdashi is known for the famous chauda shaak, or fourteen types of greens, where the shaak are cooked together. It is compulsorily eaten for lunch. Before being cooked, the fourteen are soaked in water and that water is sprinkled across the household. For chauda shaak, the fourteen can be any fourteen, and neither is there any specific method of cooking.
At dusk, earthen lamps or diyas are lit in the fourteen darkest corners of the household. This is done to ward off evil spirits as well as prevent them from entering the house. Folklore says that the spirits of forefathers come back to the household on this night. Hence, these lamps also serve to guide the spirits of forefathers.
Food for thought
Like many traditions, Bhoot Chaturdashi is also dying a slow death. The fast-paced urban life and a cosmopolitan outlook has helped the city-bred Bengali to adopt Dhanteras and other rituals (no harm in that, absolutely) but then we also moving away from our roots.
Two varieties of chauda shaak
Written by: Agnivo Niyogi for Team M3.tv