Kharchi Puja Festival
“The world is so empty if one thinks only of mountains, rivers and cities; but to know someone here and there who thinks and feels with us, and though distant, is close to us in spirit – this makes the earth for us an inhabited garden.” – This is perhaps the reason why the people of Tripura worships the Earth God, who is said to sustain the human beings who reside in it.
Kharchi Puja is one of the most renowned Pujas in Tripura. It involves the worship of the fourteen gods forming the dynasty deity of the Tripuri people. It’s a week-long royal Puja that falls in the month of July on the eighth day of the new moon and attracts thousands of people.
This festival is celebrated at Agartala (Puran Agartala) in the temple premises of fourteen gods. The fourteen gods are worshipped by the royal priest Chantai. They are all Tripuri by birth, and only members of Chantai family descendants are allowed to take the post of Chantai.
This is the only one puja which is exclusively performed by the pujari or the priests belonging to Tripuri people.
About Kharchi Puja:
The Kharchi Puja continues for seven days and the people of Tripura offer worship to the Fourteen Deities with full dedication. All around the week, offerings are done to the deity with an ardent hope of the people to make her happy and get her blessings to carry on.
It is a splendid scene; people dance and Tribal and Non-Tribal fasten together to shell out honor to the great Mother Goddess Earth.
Agartala is the place of worship where people from all parts of the country gather and pay due homage to the Deity. The earth is supposed to sustain its children with fruits, water, and minerals.
Without all these animal lives would not survive. Thus the people of Tripura worship her with dedication and affection. To please the Mother Goddess, the people of Agartala offers sacrifices of Goats and Pigeons to the deity.
Kharchi Puja is usually celebrated in the month of July; it is said that the month of Shravana is the most auspicious time for the commencement of the Puja. So, Agartala witnesses a holy carnival with the advent of the July-the month of incessant rein when Mother Goddess is paid homage by the sacrifice of Goats and Pigeons.
Belief, Tradition, Ritual, and History behind Kharchi Puja
The belief behind this festival – The word Kharchi is derived from two Tripuri words “khar” or kharta meaning sin, “chi” or “si” meaning “cleaning”. Final meaning is cleaning of the sins of the people of the kingdom. The Kharchi puja is performed after 15 days of Ama pechi or Ambu bachi.
According to Tripuri legends, Ama Pechi is menstruation of mother goddess or earth mother. So the soil is not ploughed in Tripura on this day.
So after the menstruation of mother earth during Ama pechi, the earth is considered to become unholy. The Kharchi puja is performed to wash out the sins, to clean up the postmenstrual uncleanliness of the mother earth’s menstruation. This is why it is performed for seven consecutive days.
The history behind Kharchi Puja
Legend says that there was a cruel King named Tripur who gave the name “Tripura” to his Kingdom. Having being exasperated with the atrocities of Tripur, his subjects prayed to Lord Shiva to bring them peace. Lord Shiva then descended and killed Tripur with his ‘Trishul’.
After Tripur’s death, his wife queen Hirabati started ruling the kingdom. However, the question raised that who will rule Tripura after Hirabati. The queen prayed to Lord Shiva for a descendant and she was blessed with a son named Trilochan. The name “Trilochan” was given to the prince since he was bearing three eyes.
Trilochan was the king who first established the fourteen Gods and started the Kharchi Puja festival as a royal celebration of Tripura.
The Kharchi Puja deities do not have a full body; they have only heads which are worshipped. ‘Haro’ or Mahadev is the first, Kartikeya, Har, Samudra, Ganesh, Hari, Uma, Brahma, Agni, Prithibi, Ganga, Kamadev and Himadri are also there. Only the three Gods – Har, Uma and Hari are worshipped daily. But on the auspicious occasion of ‘Shukla Ashtami’ all the Gods are worshipped.
Rituals of Kharchi Puja
On the day of the puja, the fourteen Gods are taken from the temple to the river Saidra by the Chantai members and given a bath with the holy river water, then carried back to the temple. The deities are decorated with various flowers in the temple and vermilion is put on their foreheads.
Only the Chantai and the Royal family are allowed to be present during the puja ceremony. The complete puja rituals are kept as a Religious secret.
On all days of the puja, people visit the temple for worshipping the deities. A big fair is organized in the evening time for all seven days. Many cultural programs are conducted during the fair along with kid’s joy rides, sugar candies, toys, household items, kitchen utensils, snacks, etc.
The Kharchi festival solemnizes with the prayers for the well-being of the land and its people, especially for happiness, prosperity, bumper crops and safety from death and diseases.
Conclusion of Kharchi Puja
Kharchi puja like any festival brings joy and happiness among the peoples. It also represents the cultural identity of Tripura. But the most beautiful thing about this festival is the message conveyed by it, paying tribute to mother earth every year for everything that it gives to us.
This festival is also a lesson for all modern society peoples who take this beautiful nature for granted. This is the message to the entire whole world in times of global warming, climate change, and all man-made disasters. Every person should visit this festival once in their lifetime to experience this beautiful tribal culture, to enjoy Kharchi puja, and to pay tribute to the mother earth.