While Halloween is about vampires & werewolves, Bhoot Chaturdashi is about different types of Bengali ghosts —Renes’s inquisitive mind delves into a discussion with her father on Bhoot Chaturdashi, which makes her equally curious as to the origin of the name of our country India.
By Somashis Gupta
“Papa – Rene Series”
Starring: Triparni Das as Rene and Chayanchit Das as Papa
“Leaders blasted by activists for the lack of progress in climate change. It is eminent that environmental degradation in the name of development has led to Global Warming…”—-
I was reading this report on the G20 summit when Rene comes in and shoots her question … “Papa, where did the name of our country come from?”
Rene’s question pleased me as I always wanted her to know about our history. “We have two names. Do you know what they are?” I asked
“Yes, Papa, one is India, and the other is Bharath,” Rene replied promptly.
“Yes, The first name India comes from the Greek word Indika.”
“Greek? How?” Asked Rene
“It so happened that Darius I, the third Persian Emperor conquered the Sindh province sometime in 516 BCE from the Suvira Kingdom.”
“Okay, this Suvira kingdom is the one where Jaydrath was the king?” asked Rene
“Yes, glad that you remember the Mahabaratha.” I was impressed with Rene’s retention capacity.
“Yes, Papa. How can I forget.” Rene looked proud
“So after conquering Sindh, Emperor Darius appointed a Greek Explorer by the name Scylax who may have pronounced Sindh as Hindi or Indh later got modified to Indica, and with Latin influence became India.”
“Oh!! I see” Rene absorbed the information.
“Now Bharath..” I started
“Yes, I know Papa it was the name of Dushyanta’s son Bharata” Rene interrupted.
“Yes, that is the popular belief. But perhaps the name Bharat comes from much earlier times.”
I continued, “During ancient times, this land was very popular with its opera, which were performed during festivals. These operas had three major aspects, Bhava meaning expressions, Raga meaning tune and Tala meaning rhythm” As I said this, the doorbell rang.
I wondered if it was what I was expecting it to be when Rene’s mother came in with a package that said Best compliments from Makaibari.
“It’s the second flush. Would you like some?” She asked.
“You stole my words, my love” we shared a romantic look which was interrupted by Rene’s next question.
“But Papa rhythm, tune all this is related with music so how is it a name?”
“You see, this art form was so popular amongst the visiting merchants that they became frequenters to these festivals. Words spread all across, and they started calling it Bharata to identify it and over a period of time this land was known as Bharat.” I informed
“This is interesting,” Rene remarked. “Papa talking of festivals what is Bhoot Chotur which was celebrated last month? Is it intelligent ghosts?”
I laughed and said, “It’s Bhoot Chaturdashi.”
Rene’s expressions changed, and she asked, “So what exactly is this?”
“Well, it is a fascinating event on the 14th day of Krishna pokhho, just the day before Kali Puja; you can say it is our version of Halloween.”
“So we adopted it from Halloween?” Rene asked
“No, on the contrary, this used to be celebrated much earlier than Halloween became fashionable in the west.”
“Oh!! I see”
“It is believed that the veil between our world and the afterlife is thin on this day, so Bengalis light 14 earthen lamps to guide the spirits of choddo purush which is 14 generations of their forefathers. Besides with these 14 lamps, every dark corner of the house is illuminated to ward off evil spirits.”
“So it is somewhat like pre-Dipaboli,” Rene remarked
“Yes, you may say so.”I continued, “By the way do you know the different types of Bengali ghosts?”
“One was not enough? We have different types?” Rene expressed with an angry look.
I laughed. “You will find it interesting. There are Petnis, the female ghosts, Doittyo appear human-like but are gigantic in comparison, Nishis the night spirits, Brahmodaittyo the Brahmin ghost, Gechho bhoot the tree ghosts, Mamdo bhoot the spirits of Muslims and finally the true Bengali ghost the Mechho Bhoot who loves to eat fish.
“So Papa, I am Mecho Bhoot as I love eating fish” Rene giggled and started singing as she ran to her mother “I am a mecho bhoot , La Rey La, I am the cutest of the cute, La Rey La, give me my fish or I shall shoot”
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A devoted foodie with keen interest in wild life, music, cinema and travel Somashis has evolved over time . Being an enthusiastic reader he has recently started making occasional contribution to write-ups.