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Why Bengal’s Kayasthyas worship Chitragupta on Bhai Phonta?

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Every year, a day after the festival of lights Diwali, Kayasthas celebrate Chitragupta puja or Kalam-Dawaat puja. Devotees believe this puja will help them to reach heaven after death as Chitragupta Maharaj keeps a record of all good and evil deeds of humans and by praying to him on this day they get absolution from all sins. 

It is believed Chitragupta decides who will go to heaven and who to hell, depending on their good or bad deeds on earth. Since Hindu mythology is based on philosophy of ‘karma,’ this festival holds special significance. The Kayastha community of Bengal believes they are descendants of Chitragupta Maharaj, the book-keeper of Yamraj and are descended from his twelve sons. The festival is also marked on Hindu calendar as Yama Dwitiya. 

Chitragupta is seen holding a quill and a book in his hands and flanked by his twelve sons and two wives. According to legends, Lord Brahma gave the land of the dead to Yama, however, he often used to get confused when dead souls came to him and he would often send the wrong souls to either heaven or hell. Lord Brahma ordered him to keep better track of everyone to which he replied that it is near impossible for him to keep track of eighty-four hundred thousand different life forms on Earth. Lord Brahma was plagued by this problem and sat meditating to find a solution. When he opened his eyes, he found a man standing in front of him with a pen and paper. As Chitragupta was born out of Lord Brahma’s body or ‘kaya’ and then headed to secrecy or ‘gupta,’ he was named Chitragupta and his descendants were called Kayasthas.