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Charak (Wheel) Puja 2012 date

Last Updated: 9/4/2011 10:28:31 AM

Charak (Wheel) Puja 2012

"It is said that an ancient king, by reason of his great austerities, obtained an interview with Siva, in commemoration of which this festival is held. The peculiarity of the worship consists in the fact that the devotees of Shiva belonging to the lower castes assume the profession and dress of Sannyasis for a week or ten days, and march about the streets soliciting alms from people."

It is held on the 28th, 29th, 30th, and 31st days-of Chaitra, but, those persons who wish to be very meritorious on this occasion, prepare themselves, during the whole month of Chaitra by performing various ceremonies, and abstaining from different kinds of food, from spices, common salt, oil, and other gratifications, and by sleeping on coarse blankets, or on rushes.

Journey of the celebration

On the first day of the festival, the Sanyasis keep a partial fast, which consists in their eating only such food as has been cooked in one pot at the same time.

On the second day, which is called the fruit day, Phalerdin, the Sanyasis assemble in great numbers, and wander from village to village, begging from the inhabitants whatever fruits may be in season ; and when they have gathered a great quantity, they deposit them in the temple of Siva. In the afternoon, they go about in the same manner, begging fire-wood, and collect it in an immense heap opposite to Siva's temple. They then assemble on that spot, and regale themselves with the fruits that were presented to them in the morning; but perfect silence is required to reign at this meal, and if any human voice is heard, all eating-must directly cease. In order therefore to avoid such a disastrous consequence, they take care to continue striking a gong, whose sound is sure to drown any voice that perchance might be uttered among them, or in the neighbourhood. Bundles of thorns are subsequently placed before the temple, and the Sannyasis cast themselves on them; and to bring the matter to a close, fire is put to the pile, which soon blazes briskly, after which the Sannyasis scatter the embers about, dance over them, and throw them in the air, or at each other.

The third day, early, the work of piercing the tongues and sides commences. At Calcutta, this is done at the celebrated temple of Kalighat, to which immense crowds resort, having with them drums and other instruments of music, and also spits, canes, ramrods, and different other articles, to pass through their tongues or sides. Some, with tinkling rings on their ankles, are dancing in a most frantic way, and exhibiting the most indecent.

On the fourth day, in the afternoon, the Charak or swinging-takes place. Iron hooks are fastened in the backs of the Sannyasis ; after which they are suspended on a crossbeam placed on the top of a high post, which tarns on a pivot, and is whirled round by means of ropes, with great rapidity. These swinging posts are generally erected in the most conspicuous places of the towns and villages, and often from 5 to 10 men swing, the one after the other, on one post. It is not very uncommon for the flesh of their back to tear, and then these poor deluded victims of superstition fall on the crowd below and either are killed themselves, or kill those upon whom they fall. An awful instance of this happened at Chinsurah some years ago.

On this day, some Sanyasis cast themselves also from a bamboo stage on iron spikes or knives stuck in bags of straw. These instruments, however, are generally laid in a reclining posture; so that when the person falls, they almost constantly are pressed down by his weight, and fall horizontally, instead of entering his body.

The deluded votaries of Shiva inflict many other kinds of cruelties on themselves at this period: one only, as it is rather singular, will be mentioned. Some Sannyasis bedaub their lips with mud, and on this they scatter some mustard, or any other kind of small seed. They then lie down on their backs near Shiva's temple, and do not move, nor eat, nor drink, until the seed has commenced germinating, which seldom happens before the third or fourth day.

On the following day, the 1st of Baisak, (the Hindu New-year's day,) some cooked rice, with broiled fish, is taken by a Brahman, accompanied by the Sanyasis, to the place where the dead bodies are burnt, and there offered to departed spirits; after which, the Sanyasis shave, bathe and relinquish their paita, and the festival is at an end.

More from the section: Dharm
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