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Why is the day before Kali Puja celebrated as Bhoot Chaturdashi? - GetBengal story

11 November, 2023 17:53:19
Why is the day before Kali Puja celebrated as Bhoot Chaturdashi? - GetBengal story

Cutting across borders, Bengalis have a strange fascination for the paranormal world. Ghosts form an integral part of the folklore of the socio-cultural fabric of Bengal. Children of all ages are introduced to the fascinating world of fairy tales where ghosts often play the key role in the narrative. Literary works involving ghostly/demonic beings are one of the most popular genres in Bengali literature. Reverend Lal Behari Dey collected many folk tales of Bengal and translated them into English. His book called ‘Folk-Tales of Bengal’, first published in 1883, features many amazing folk-tales associated with ghostly and supernatural beings.

Dakshinaranjan Mitra Majumder compiled ‘Thakurmar Jhuli,’ a classic collection of Bengali children's folk tales and fairy tales, which was published in 1907. Encouraged by the immense popularity of this vernacular collection, Mitra Majumder published three more compilations of folk tales titled Thakurdadar Jhuli (1909), Thandidir Tholay (1909) and, Dadamoshayer Tholay (1913). Most of the ghosts in these stories are depicted as malevolent misanthropes. There are those good souls who also descend from the other world to rescue simple and honest people from tricky situations. 

Ghosts have been accorded a definite spot and are an inherent part of the social milieu. Even in this digital age, ghosts are aplenty in modern-day Bengali literature, cinema, radio, and television media. There are also alleged well-known haunted sites and paranormal investigators who take it upon themselves to probe into the spooky affairs of the phantom world. So, it should not come as a surprise that an entire day is reserved for ghosts. 

Yes! The 14th day of the Krishna Paksha (the waning phase of the moon, which is also the night before Kali Puja) is celebrated as Bhoot Chaturdashi by Bengali Hindus. On this night, 14 earthen lamps (choddo prodip) are lit at homes to appease the spirits of the past 14 generations of ancestors. It is believed that on the night before Kali Puja, the spirits of these ancestors descend upon the earth, and these lamps help them find their way home. Another popular belief is that Chamunda (a fearsome aspect of Kali) along with 14 other ghostly forms ward off the evil spirits from the house as 14 earthen lamps are lit at different entrances and in the dark corners of the rooms. 

Ghosts and other similar supernatural entities, as well as tales of paranormal powers (such as clairvoyance, psychic phenomenon, etc.), are plots for many short stories and novels in Bengali literature. Renowned authors including Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Upendrakishore Roychowdhury, Rabindranath Thakur, Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay, Tarashankar Bandopadhyay, Parashuram, Syed Mujtaba Ali, Humayun Ahmed, Manoj Basu, Syed Mustafa Siraj, Leela Majumdar, Satyajit Ray, Taradas Bandopadhyay, Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay and many more have explored the realm of the supernatural in their writings, while a few Bengali litterateurs like Rabindranath Thakur himself, actually participated in planchette, an umbrella term in Bengali for séance!

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