Tripura: Nationwide Lockdown Dampens Traditional “Charak Puja” Fervor

Tripura: Nationwide Lockdown Dampens Traditional “Charak Puja” Fervor

Charak Charak

Agartala, April 12, 2020:

86-year-old Hemanta Hrishi Das, a veteran “Sanyasi” in Tripura broke into tears when he was denied permission to perform the traditional Charak Puja this year. Hemanta, who was instrumental in organizing one of the biggest of Charak Pujas at Pratapgarh Hrishi Colony, located in the city peripheries of Agartala since last 30 years, was disappointed after the police reaction.

He had to finally retreat and resolved to seize the whole arrangement into a courtyard affair. In his own words, “For the first time in last 60 years, the Puja is being organized with such a minimal arrangement”.

Similar was the experience at Camperbazar, another locality adjacent to Agartala city where Charak Puja was being observed with pomp and gaiety from the year 1954.

Speaking to this reporter, Raj Kumar Das, head of the family that was performing the Puja as per their ancestral order, said, “The social distancing protocols and the nationwide lockdown, do not permit us to perform the Puja as it is performed usually. We seek pardon to lord Shiva for not being able to perform the Puja as per the standard scale”. This family also resolved to perform the Puja in their courtyard only.

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Notably, in Tripura, the last day of the month of Chaitra (the last month of the Hindu calendar), every year, has been dedicated to the Lord Shiva—the incarnation of Ardhanarishvar. In almost every nook and corner of the state, this day is observed as “Charak Puja”—a folk ritual performed by a section of the Bengali community people since time immemorial.

Every year, this festival is organized in a gigantic manner with participation of people from almost every section of the society. This Puja is basically a dedicated worship to Lord Shiva in which the “Charikas”—the performers of the ritual, go through strict penance and physical stress.

The Charak, which comes from the word 'chakra' or the wheel, represents the movement of the Sun. It is symbolized by a high pole, from which a devotee is hung. The person then swings around the pole with the help of a strong rope. Charak Puja is performed by usually ten to twelve members, including both men and women.

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A huge number of people gather in a field where a tree is set for worship. The “Charikas” perform some impossible tasks such as walking over the heated coal surface, burying alive and edged weapons being used on various body parts to please the lord Shiva, as the “Charikas” believe. The most exciting part of the Puja is hanging of Charikas to the almost 15 feet long Charak tree using hooks. Excitement of the devotees reaches apex when they come down without even having a mark of wound on their body.

Narayan Shil, a Charika taking part in this rituals since his young hood, said, “We have been taught by our spiritual masters to continue this practice. Every year, we come out of our houses collecting donations wearing attires of Hara (Lord Shiva) and Gouri (Parbati). But, this year, due to the lockdown, we cannot collect donations. In fact, we cannot cover all the houses of our locality. In order to maintain the ritual, we visited a couple of houses adjacent to our house”.

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Hemanta Hrishi Das however explained that this Puja was first started by Ram and Laxman and in the aftermath it continued to be followed by others. “It was Lord Shiva who directed Ram and Laxman to start worshipping him on earth. Since then, this Puja has been observed by a certain order of Sanyasis. The Charak Puja is far different from other Pujas and it has a greater impact on the human kind”, Das added.

Meanwhile, Raj Kumar Das said, the traditional Puja of his family originated from the ancestors born and brought up in Comilla, Bangladesh. When they shifted to Tripura in the year 1954, it continued to be observed here. “Though, this Puja belong to our family, everyone of our locality come forward in solemnizing this religious event. We have uniamously decided to maintain the strict restrictions imposed by the government. Thus, I have fenced the entrance of my house so that no one could enter during the Puja” Rajkumar added.

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