A Tradition of Recalling Ancestors


Courtesy: Google Image


Every year

we light fourteen lamps

in honor

of our departed souls

and to ward off

evil spirits, as the custom

tells us to do

on the day of Bhoot-Chaturdashi*.

One has to consume

14 leafy vegetables

at lunch.

This year too

I lighted the lamps

but skipped that veg-lunch

and sighed,

for I know

this is how traditions die.

*Bhoot-Chaturdashi (‘bhoot’ means ‘ghost’ and ‘chaturdashi’ is the 14th night of the moon’s waning phase before New-moon) is observed on the night before Kali Puja, held in Oct or Nov. This year it was on 28th Oct.  It is said that on this night the dead walk among the living. The evil spiritual powers are seemingly heightened on this night. In order to keep the evil spirits at bay, people ritualistically observe Bhoot-Chaturdashi every year. Bhoot Chaturdashi is known for the famous choddo shaak, or fourteen types of green leafy vegetables, compulsorily eaten for lunch. At dusk, earthen lamps or diyas are lit in the fourteen darkest corners of the household. This is done to ward off evil spirits as well as prevent them from entering the house. Folklore says that the spirits of forefathers come back to the household on this night. Hence, these lamps also serve to guide the spirits of forefathers.

There are many fables around this day. According to one, Bhoot Chaturdashi started with slacker Brahmin many, many years ago. He and his wife never cleaned and tidied their house, and so, in the garbage spill all over the place, ghosts had started living.

One day, when he got the shock of his life upon seeing a spectre rise from a pile of trash in his house, he and his wife learned a lesson. On that day, they cleaned their home, and purified it by sprinkling clean water off 14 kinds of leafy greens around the house. Source.


Posted for Susan’s Midweek Motif ~ The Day of the Dead @ Poets United