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The looks And The Hooks Festival “Charak Puja”

Charak Puja holds a unique position in West Bengal, the state of festivities. It is a distinctive folk festival observed to bid farewell to the departing year. It is believed that the celebration ushers in prosperity in the upcoming year, wiping away all the sufferings and pains of the present year. This festival is celebrated on the midnight of Chaitra Sankranti, the end day of Chaitra month in the Bengali calendar, typically falling around between the months of  April 14 and 15. 

The day of Charak Puja, also known as Nil Puja, Hajrha Puja, and Batri Charak, is dedicated to the worship of Lord Shiva and Goddess Shakti.The team responsible for its arrangement travels from village to village and gathers the required items, such as paddy, oil, sugar, salt, honey, and money, along with the arranged and ornamented Shiva, called "Nil Pagol" or "Jal Katha'' Parvati and Narad. 

What Is Charak Puja ? 

Charak Puja is a significant festival of the Hindu religion in West Bengal and Bangladesh. It is an age-old Hindu custom of self-immolation. This puja takes place on the final day of Chaitra, which is the last month of the Bangla calendar. Although this ceremony is not very ancient among the upper class, it has been a part of the community since ancient times.

The worship of Charak Puja was started by the Sundernand Tagore family in 1485, but it was never practised by the kings. It was a folk culture of the Hindu society and mostly practised by the lower class Hindus. Hence, there is no requirement of a Brahman in this worship.

All the devotees have faith in ghosts and reincarnation. Various events are similar to the earliest known languages of the Old Age. Several types of physical torture are considered a religious ritual in the festival of worship. Devotees chase a sannyasin or a devotee with an iron latch, and wheels are rotated at high speed. Arrows are pierced on the back, hands, legs, tongue, and other body parts. Sometimes, a burning iron shank is blown on the body. In 1865, the British government banned this practice by law, but it is still prevalent among the common people of the village. 

The Purpose Of Charak Puja  

The villagers celebrate Charak Puja with great enthusiasm. During midnight, the devotees gather to offer their prayers to the deity. The rituals of Charak Puja are unique and sometimes risky, as they aim to showcase the miracles of God. The devotees create a human Charak to please Lord Shiva by tying a Borshi, a type of hook, at the back and moving it around a bar with a long rope. Usually, 10-12 members perform this ritual together, with the main performer known as Doujinshi.

Many devotees observe a fast on the day of Charak Puja until the midnight puja takes place. On this day, bamboo stages with an average height of 10 to 15 feet are erected, and their ground is filled with knives, glass, and thorns. At midnight, when the puja and fasting session are over, all the devotees get on the stage and start moving forward on the dangerous ground. It is believed that the Lord blesses and protects the devotees, and they do not get hurt on the stage.  

The most astonishing aspect of this puja is when the ascetic priest inserts a pointed hook into the bodies of participating ascetics with almost no cutting or injury. The bloodless insertion of sharp metals into the human body by the practitioner priest appears to be a magical performance. 

The hooked person is then propelled in a circular path by ropes tied to the charak tree on one end and to the hook on the other. Some have their tongue pierced with multiple needles and move around the charak tree. The charak puja commences with a month-long fast during which devotees strictly adhere to a fruit-only diet. The devotees have faith that the charak puja aids in achieving salvation.  

The Unique Practises of Charak Puja  

On the propitious occasion of 'Gajan' or 'Charak', elevated bamboo platforms are erected using bamboo poles, with a height ranging from ten to fifteen feet, followed by an enthralling event. The worshippers, also known as 'Charak,' endure hardships to appease Lord Shiva. After a month-long period of fasting and contemplation, they ascend the high bamboo platform and leap or throw themselves forward. They fall onto the ground covered with thorns, glass, knives, and other treacherous weapons.

Surprisingly, they remain unscathed. It is believed that the divine blessings of God protect them from harm in such challenging situations. The devotees also exhibit other ways in which they demonstrate God's blessings upon them, such as piercing their body parts without feeling any pain. Charak Puja is a testament to the unwavering faith of the devotees and their strong determination to cheerfully accept penance to attain salvation.

These Charak also undertake other perilous tasks, such as being tied to a hook on their back and being spun around a bar with a long rope. Moreover, some hurt themselves to display the miracle of God. Through this process, they express their deep faith in their Gods and Goddesses. Usually, ten to twelve members participate in this ritual together, and the chief performer is called the Deoboinshi. Charak is of two types; Chak Charak and Chila Charak. Charak Puja is, therefore, celebrated with great difficulty.  


This puja looks painful for common people but not for the devotees. That's why the puja has been conducted since ancient times and the practice still endures. It entails the adoration of Shiva and Durga. Charak, derived from the word chakra, symbolises the movement of the sun.

The worshipers witness several rituals that are thought to be the outcome of tantra mantra. The most astounding aspect of this puja occurs when a sanyasi priest punctures a sharp hook into the bodies of participating sanyasi with almost no cuts or injuries. The piercing of sharp metals into the human body by the practitioner priest without causing any bleeding appears to be a magical performance. The hooked individual is then propelled in a circular path by ropes attached to the charak tree at one end and the hook at the other.   


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