HOPE FOR EVER

 

"Baba Taraknath er chorone seva lage.....Mahadevvvvvvvvvv! Bom! Bom!"

   

Seemed like a war cry, but it was a loud chant by ill clad godmen from the backward classes draped in red cloth and garlands seeking alms during the last month of the Bengali calendar, "Chaitra" which is almosthat concludes with the festivities of "Gajan".

Amongst various folk festivals of the Bengali Hindu's, "Gajan " occupies a very special place primarily for the various rituals involved with it. The name might have originated from the bengali word "garjan" meaning a load roar, or may be from combining the words Ga (meaning village) and Jon (meaning people) which indicates the festival of the village people. Started centuries ago, it can briefly be stated that this involves worshiping either Dharmathakur, resembled by a stone and believed to have originated from Buddhism (Dharmer Gajan) or Lord Shiva at places (Shiv er Gajan).
Though beliefs and sources differ, the root remains common. It is celebrated by people from the Bauri, Bagdi, Dom, Hari and other backward communities who are directly or indirectly related to agriculture and cultivation. They seek blessings from the Almighty for sufficient rain, restoring the fertility of soil and eventually a good harvest. It might be noted in this regard that Dharmathakur is considered to be the God of fertility.

There are several phases of this month long festival -

  • Some selected men from backward communities choose to become "Gajan sanyasi's" who live a life of penance and sacrifice, staying away from all worldly pleasures for a month, only to please the Gods.
  • Two days before the month of Chaitra (mid of April), "Neel Shasti" is celebrated by married women who fast the entire day for the well being of their husband and children. It is believed that Lord Shiva got married to Goddess Parvati on this auspicious day. The name Neel might be derived from "Neelkanth", another popular name of Lord Shiva.
  • People from mainly the "Rajvanshi" community undergoes face painting and dress themselves up as popular Gods and Goddesses and are known as "Shong's of Gajan" (jester). They enact several mythological events in form of street plays at night.
  • The most interesting part of this festival is the conclusion where the sanyasi's perform extreme acts of penance and human sufferings at a "Charak" only to testify their faith and devotion. Men get themselves pierced and hooked by experts who do these impossible feats and who believe that The Almighty will not allow any bloodshed to his worshippers. A Charak as mentioned earlier is a long vertical tree bark with horizontal poles attached to it at a perfectly balanced position. It is believed that the tree is a form of "Ardhnarishwar" (half man-half woman), that symbolizes the co-existence of man with nature. After the tree bark is worshiped, the hook held sanyasis who are by then in a deep trance, hang themselves from the Charak and fly in circular motion. It is often noted that mothers seek blessings and offer their infant children to be a part of this hanging ritual.

Times and customs have changed, some festivals are long gone, but this is one festival that is still popular in the rural belts of Bengal and hopefully, will be forever.

Devotees of Neel Puja

Face painting ritual

Shiva in making

A girl's face painted as Krishna

Let the power of Goddesses Kali evolve

Goddesses Kali in Making

Playful child sanyasi

Dance of fire with the beats

Act of a boy standing on a sharp object

Fire Play

Fight between the evil Mahishasur and the Vahana of Durga Lion

Worshipping The Holy tree bark

Washing The Holy tree bark with holy water

The act of piercing by matured hands

Pierced Faces

Fear of the hook

Ritual of Piercing

Pierced through the flesh

On the hold of Gajan Sanyasi

Raising a child to seek the blessings of a devine power

 

 

Nivedita Dutta

 

Nivedita Dutta is born in Kolkata, West Bengal India in 1981. The urge to see, learn, explore and appreciate life motivated her to hit the streets with her camera sometime in 2010. She entered the world of professional photography slowly, starting off with wedding and table-top assignments. Now, proficient with various advanced gadgets and related software's, she has a keen interest for both custom and creative photography. Added to this is her high energy level, the determination to conquer the unconquered peaks and an undaunting attitude. She has won several national and international accolades, not to forget, she is also a certified AFIAP from FEDERATION INTERNATIONALE DE L’ART PHOTOGRAPHIQUE. She is associated with several reputed brands in the industry and also a part of many photography forums of high repute. With the camera as her companion, she thoroughly cherishes the never ending journey of life, never missing a chance to reach far off places to document the rare and unseen human activities or events. All say, she doesn't do different things, she does things differently, One can still hear her hum this line - "Many miles to go before I sleep."

 

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